Charges filed in 1980 Duluth death

Sort of gets your mind to thinkin’, don’t it?

Pat Doyle,  Star Tribune

June 3, 2004

More than two decades after a Duluth woman disappeared, her ex-boyfriend was charged Wednesday with her murder. Authorities said Donald L. Bloomer described shooting Julie May Hill in his Duluth house in 1980 and then burying her body outside the city.

Meanwhile, investigators were digging at Bloomer’s Duluth property and trying to identify several other women whose pictures were found during a search of his house.

Asked if authorities were considering whether Bloomer had been involved with other missing women, Police Lt. Timothy Hanson said: “We’re looking at all of the property we came across in the house and keeping an open mind about anything that may have happened. We’re looking into other possibilities.

“Right now he is not a suspect in the disappearance of any other women,” Hanson said.

He said it was standard procedure “to wonder what else a person might have been involved in. And in this case we want to make sure we’re not missing anything.”

Bloomer, 57, was charged with second-degree intentional and third-degree unintentional murder in the death of Hill, who was 21 when she disappeared. St. Louis County District Judge Terry Hallenbeck set bail at $125,000.

Duluth police recently took up the Hill case after some of her relatives approached them with renewed suspicions about Bloomer. Although Hill’s family had contacted Duluth police periodically since 1980 to check on developments, “This is the first formal investigation,” Mark Rubin, assistant St. Louis County attorney, said Wednesday.

Bloomer, a contract newspaper carrier until he was fired this week, was led into court with his legs shackled. A criminal complaint said he called the shooting an accident.

In the complaint, Hill’s family members and a friend said Bloomer abused her during the three years before her disappearance. Duluth police records show reports of three domestic disturbances and an assault in the late 1970s.

Jacqueline Heikkila said Hill, her sister, talked about abuse and tried repeatedly to leave Bloomer.

“On one of these occasions, Jacqueline said Julie was crying and upset and telling her mom that Donald Bloomer was hitting her and she didn’t know what to do,” the complaint said.

Hill tried leaving Bloomer a couple of times, but told a friend, Kim Leach, “Donald would track me down and force me to come back.”

Heikkila told authorities that Bloomer was digging up his yard around the time Hill vanished.

“Jacqueline said she went to Donald Bloomer’s house with her mother a few days after Julie disappeared and the hole was filled in and there were no dirt piles in the yard,” the complaint said.

After Hill’s relatives appealed again this year to police for help, investigators interviewed Bloomer in late May. During the first two interviews, he said Hill had talked about leaving the area “and described her as a wanderer,” the complaint said.

He began a third interview by saying he shot Hill on the morning of July 4, 1980.

He said that they had been planning to go camping and that he put a loaded handgun into a backpack. He said he later removed the gun from the pack and was looking at it when Hill walked down the stairs, startling him, and he pulled the trigger. She was shot once in the head, the complaint said.

Bloomer told police he was haunted by what Hill had said to him just before he shot her.

“The defendant said that her expression changed from a smile to perhaps shock and she said to him, ‘You’re looking at me funny,’ ” according to the complaint.

Bloomer allegedly told police that he wrapped her body in carpet and drove on Hwy. 2 past Floodwood, about 40 miles from Duluth, where he buried her.

He recently spent two days trying without success to locate the place for investigators.

But investigators continued Wednesday to search the grounds of Bloomer’s Duluth house. Authorities obtained a court order to tear down his house and have been using digging equipment to excavate around it.

Before razing the house, investigators searched it and found a plastic bottle with hair similar in color to Hill’s, and pictures of Hill and of “several other women still yet to be identified,” according to the complaint.

“Right now we’re looking for one body,” Rubin said. “We’re still looking for Julie Hill’s body.”

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