Minnesota senator wanted late father's ashes when she broke into stepmother's home, charges say

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota state senator and former broadcast meteorologist told police that she broke into her stepmother’s home because her stepmother refused to give her items of sentimental value from her late father, including his ashes, according to burglary charges filed Tuesday.

Democratic Sen. Nicole Mitchell, 49, of Woodbury, was arrested early Monday at the home in the northwestern Minnesota city of Detroit Lakes. The arresting officer wrote in the complaint that he heard Mitchell tell her stepmother “something to the effect of, ’I was just trying to get a couple of my dad’s things because you wouldn’t talk to me anymore.'”

Mitchell was dressed all in black and wearing a black hat, the complaint said. The officer said he discovered a flashlight near her that was covered with a black sock, apparently modified to control the amount of light coming from it.

The complaint, filed in Becker County District Court in Detroit Lakes, charges Mitchell with one count of first-degree burglary, a felony. She remained jailed ahead of her first court appearance Tuesday. Court records do not list an attorney who could comment on her behalf, but show that she applied for a public defender. She did not return a call left on the jail’s voicemail system for inmates.

“I know I did something bad,” the complaint quoted Mitchell as saying after she was told of her right to remain silent.

Mitchell’s father, Rod Mitchell, died last month, according to an obituary posted by a Detroit Lakes funeral home. He had been married to Mitchell’s stepmother for 40 years, it said.

Nicole Mitchell told the officer she was after pictures, a flannel shirt, ashes and other items, but that her stepmother had ceased all contact with her and that they weren’t speaking, the complaint said. But it was the ashes that got her “to this stage,” it said.

The senator acknowledged that she had entered the house through a basement window that had been propped open with a black backpack, the complaint said. Officers found her Minnesota Senate ID inside it, along with her driver’s license, two laptop computers, a cellphone and Tupperware containers, the complaint said. She indicated that she got caught soon after entering.

“Clearly I’m not good at this,” it quoted her as saying.

The stepmother said in an interview that she’s afraid of her stepdaughter and applied for a restraining order against her. She also said that while most of her husband’s ashes were buried, she sent Mitchell a miniature container with some of them.

Mitchell was arrested while the Senate is on its Passover break. Her arrest comes at an awkward time for Senate Democrats, who hold just a one-seat majority with just under four weeks left in the legislative session. Her absence would make it difficult to pass any legislation that lacks bipartisan support.

Mitchell’s arrest took Senate leaders by surprise. The Senate Democratic Caucus said in a statement Monday that it’s “aware of the situation and has no comment pending further information.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Johnson, of East Grand Forks, said he was shocked but knew very few details.

“The public expects Legislators to meet a high standard of conduct,” Johnson said in a statement. “As information comes out, we expect the consequences to meet the actions, both in the court of law, and in her role at the legislature.”

Mitchell worked as a meteorologist with the U.S. military and for KSTP-TV and Minnesota Public Radio before she was elected to the Senate in 2022 from a suburban St. Paul district. She still serves as lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, commanding a weather unit, her official profile says. She worked for The Weather Channel earlier in her career, her profile says.

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