The grim discovery of a tote bag filled with human remains by a road crew led to a Minnesota couple's arrest last week, authorities said Tuesday.
Alexis Marion Elling, 21, and her boyfriend Bradley Allen Weyaus, 21, were arrested in connection with the murder of Rodney Pendegayosh last Tuesday. Weyaus was charged with second-degree murder, fleeing an officer, concealing a body and concealing evidence while Ellis is facing charges including aiding an offender and acting as an accomplice.
Pendegayosh Reportedly Dealt Elling's Brother Fatal Dose of Fentanyl
Investigators said the couple targeted Pendegayosh for allegedly selling Elling's brother a fatal mixture of fentanyl and meth on Jan. 10, Sheriff Kyle Burton said at a Tuesday press conference.
"We can't confirm that he was 100% involved in it, but his name was mentioned by witnesses," Burton said. "We believe, based on the evidence we've gathered so far and the interviews we have conducted, that that was the reason why he was targeted."
Elling, Weyaus and Pendegayosh were all present when Brandon Elling overdosed, according to a search warrant reviewed by KARE 11. A witness told detectives about an overheard conversation, in which Elling allegedly told another sibling that Pendegayosh had bragged about lacing the drugs that killed her brother. Therefore, Elling allegedly told the sibling, Weyaus killed him and "stuffed him in a trunk."
Public Works Crew Called Cops After Finding Severed Foot in Tote
A Mille Lacs County public works crew called police after finding a peculiarly heavy bag while cleaning debris along the shores of Mille Lacs Lake on March 21, according to local NBC affiliate KARE 11.
Curious about what was inside, the workers cut away bungee cords and black duct tape holding the bag together. Inside, Burton said, they found "what they believed to be a severed human foot."
That foot, along with other human remains found in the tote, belonged to 25-year-old Pendegayosh, according to the Mille Lacs County Sheriff's Department.
Weyaus Led Police on Chase After Being Identified as Suspect
A preliminary autopsy report said the victim died from a gunshot wound to the chest, believed to come from a shotgun. Officers quickly ascertained the victim's identity and identified Weyaus as a suspect after witnesses told police that he was seen in the days prior to the body's discovery carrying around a black tote similar to the one found.
During the investigation, an officer spotted Weyaus' white Saturn near the site where the remains were found. "As the investigator's squad began to overtake the vehicle, instead of pulling over due to the investigator's emergency lights, the white Saturn accelerated away at a high rate of speed," according to court records.
The pursuing officer lost track of the vehicle for a brief time, before he found it abandoned in a driveway on a rural property. The owners of the property led police to a camper trailer on the site they said a man had raced into carrying duffel bags.
Cops Found Victim's Bloody Clothing, Shotgun Shells Among Other Evidence
Inside, they found Weyaus crouched in a back corner and placed him under arrest. A hammer, a hacksaw, and industrial tape that police said matched the tape binding the remains found on the road were found on him, court documents said. A spent shotgun shell was recovered inside Weyaus' vehicle.
ID and credit cards belonging to Pendegayosh were recovered at a dumpster behind Elling's apartment in Isle, Burton said. Also in the dumpster were bloodied clothing, gloves, an empty box of shotgun shells, a hardware store receipt for some of the items confiscated in the trailer and swatches of rolled up, bloodied carpet. Investigators found matching sections of bare floor where carpet had been torn up in Elling's home, police said.
Surveillance Footage Showed Elling, Weyaus Placing Tote Bag in Car
Surveillance video from a business located across the street from Elling's apartment, where detectives believe Pendegayosh was killed, showed two people, believed to be Weyaus and Elling, carrying a tote out of the home on March 19 and putting it in a black Impala.
Before the body was discovered, Burton said, it had been "moved multiple places for a period of possibly up to a week before the discovery was made." Ultimately, Elling admitted to police she had helped Weyaus hide the man's body, but denied taking part in his killing.
"Elling admitted that she had helped remove the container from the residence on Main Street knowing that (Pendegayosh's) body was inside. She indicated that it was placed in [another woman's] vehicle and then driven to [that woman's] residence in Wahkon where it was unloaded," the court documents allege.
Police never recovered the gun used to shoot the victim. Elling allegedly told police she stashed it inside the other woman's car before unloading it and selling it to an unnamed man for drugs.
Weyaus Expressed Remorse, Sorrow for Causing Elling Trouble in Letter
A handwritten letter in which Weyaus told Elling he would be "leaving for a long time due to their mistake" was also recovered from Elling's apartment.
"The author of the note indicated remorse, sorrow for causing [Elling] trouble and stated that the author would be leaving for a long time due to their mistake," read court documents. "The author further stated that they would not allow themselves to be captured by law enforcement."