fbpx
Published May 26, 2022

Killer Classmate or Friend

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan
A roadside billboard on U.S. Highway 83 south of Minot asks for help in identifying the killer of Anita Knutson. Following a 15-year investigation her roommate was arrested for the crime and is awaiting trial. [Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan]
A roadside billboard on U.S. Highway 83 south of Minot asks for help in identifying the killer of Anita Knutson. Following a 15-year investigation her roommate was arrested for the crime and is awaiting trial. [Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan]

MINOT — They were both graduates of Velva High School. The following year they shared a northwest Minot apartment. Today one is a grave and the other, charged with murder, is out on bond.

Killer classmate or friend? That is the question that may be put to a jury sometime in the future.

Nichole Rice has been charged with the murder of Anita Knutson, a conclusion reached 15 years after the Minot State University freshman’s lifeless body was discovered in a northwest Minot apartment shared by the two young women who also shared September birthdays. Nichole Thomas, later Rice, was born in 1987. Knutson in 1988.

Rice was arrested by Minot Police on March 16, 2022 on the AA felony charge and taken to Ward County Jail. She made her initial appearance at 2 p.m. the following day in front of Judge Richard Hager. Bail was set at $120,000, an amount that was paid within the hour and Rice walked out of jail.

Nichole Rice, Velva, was arrested earlier this year and charged with the murder of roommate Anita Knutson. [Photo: submitted]

A preliminary hearing in the case was scheduled to be held Thursday, May 26 but postponed until August 4. It is the second postponement of the hearing which was initially set for April 21, 2022. A pretrial conference is now scheduled for October 12, 2022.

The case has captured the attention of many in the Minot area with speculation of “who done it” spanning 15 years. Police say that Rice was never cleared as a suspect in the murder, but what evidence led her Rice’s arrest isn’t entirely known.

What is known is that two people who committed suicide in the aftermath of Knutson’s murder are said to have become emotionally distraught while Knutson’s killer remained at large. Marty Lee Annell, a maintenance man at the apartment complex occupied by Thomas and Knutson, was found dead on January 1, 2009. In April of 2012 Knutson’s brother, Daniel, died at his own hand. It was said he was a “changed” person following the murder of his sister.

The date of death on Knutson’s gravestone in a cemetery near the tiny community of Butte, on the northern edge of McLain County, is June 4, 2007. It was on that Monday that her body was discovered by her father, Gordon Knutson. He had gone to his daughter’s apartment to check on her well-being after attempts to contact her failed.

The precise time of Knutson’s death is likely to be a point of contention if the matter reaches a jury. Knutson had failed to show up for a morning work shift at a Minot hotel on Saturday, June 2. It was unusual because Knutson was known as a reliable worker. Later that evening Rice was reportedly seen at a bar in Ruso, south of Velva near Rice Lake.

According to a declaration of facts filed with the court by Minot Police investigators, at 4:43 a.m. Sunday, June 3 a friend sent a text message to Knutson’s phone and received the reply “I don’t know what to say.” The following day she was discovered dead in her bed with the apparent murder weapon, a small knife, lying nearby.

Who sent Knutson the text message has not been revealed, nor who made the reply. The affidavit filed with the court contends Thomas told a “witness” in the Ruso bar late on Saturday night, June 2, 2007, that she had to go to her Minot apartment to get some clothes.

Rice and her father, Kevin Thomas, told investigators that Nichole was at her parents' home south of Velva from “approximately 7 p.m. Saturday, June 2, 2007, until the morning of June 4, 2007.”

However, note investigators, those statements “have changed several times and contradict each other.”

kim.fundingsland@mydakotan.com
Stay connected to the latest news
Subscription Form (#3)

About the Author

Trending Now
The Dakotan Newsletter
Subscribe to get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox
© AndMuse, LLC 2024 Login Email
LIVE: 2022 Minot Mayoral Forum
Click to Watch Live
cross
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram