Body Found Dismembered In Lake Superior “Full Story”

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The Superior man who was charged with murdering and dismembering another man was found guilty.

Jacob Johnson, 37, has been convicted of both second-degree intentional murder and second-degree unintentional murder of Ricky Balsimo.

The Jury made their decision on Wednesday after approximately two weeks on trial.

Robert West from South Range was found guilty in February on felony counts of interference with a dead body and aiding an offender.

Tommi Hintz of Duluth was convicted last year, after pleading guilty to aiding an offender.

Richard Balsimo, 34, was last seen in St. Paul on June 20, 2021.

Law enforcement learned that friends and relatives of Balsimo had received texts and voicemails from him from the evening of June 19, 2021, into the early morning hours of June 20, 2021, looking for a ride. It was believed he was in the St. Paul area.

In June, the St. Paul Police asked for the public’s help to find Balsimo but did not immediately share the circumstances around his disappearance. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was then contacted on July 13, 2021, by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for Balsimo’s disappearance.

However, dive teams located his remains on July 15 and July 16 in 2021 off the shore of Lake Superior in Grand Portage. Authorities then ruled Balsimo was likely murdered and dismembered on June 20, 2021. His body was later placed in five-gallon buckets in Lake Superior outside of Grand Portage. An investigation immediately turned into a homicide investigation.

After Balsimo’s remains were found, Robert West was charged on July 16, 2021, with one count of aiding an offender and one count of interference with a dead body for his role in the incident. At the time the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension anticipated more charges to be filed.

In August, Tommi Hintz and Jacob Johnson were charged in connection to Balsimo’s death. Hintz was arrested first and was charged for serving as an accomplice after the fact to murder and interfering with a dead body. About a week later, Johnson was charged with second-degree murder. 

Investigators were able to start piecing together a timeline of events when several people confessed with matching details.

A friend of Balsimo told investigators he observed him on the evening of June 19, 2021, in Minneapolis. Balsimo stated that he had come from Duluth that evening in an Audi Q5 he pointed out nearby.

Tommi Hintz came forward to authorities with information about Balsimo. She agreed to speak with the BCA on July 13, 2021. She knew both Johnson and West.

The first person who witnessed some of the events was interviewed by authorities. She stated on the afternoon of June 19, 2021, Balsimo and Johnson arrived at her house in Duluth in Johnson’s Audi. They had left to go to the Twin Cities, but Johnson planned to come back to Duluth for his daughter’s birthday party the next day. 

According to court documents, Hintz stated that on June 20, 2021, at approximately 4:30 a.m. she was contacted by Johnson, who wanted her to travel southbound from Duluth toward the Twin Cities and bring him gas since he “can’t run out of gas.” When she asked why Johnson said, “Please don’t make me tell you what I have on me.”

Court documents say Hintz never made contact with Johnson on the highway, so she went to West’s home in South Range. When she met with Johnson, he took the gas from her and put it in his Audi. Allegedly Johnson was weary about people going into his car.

Later on of June 20, 2021, Hintz went to the home of the first witness. When she arrived, Johnson was there and later passed a bag containing what was believed to be a gun to the witness.

The first witness later told authorities Johnson arrived at her home that day in a white Buick, gave her a drawstring bag, and told her, “It’s very important you don’t let anything happen to it.” She believed the bag contained a gun.

The criminal complaint states Hintz then met Johnson and West on June 20, 2021, at Johnson’s home. Johnson allegedly appeared nervous about something in his car being found. Hintz wasn’t sure why and asked Johnson. He stated, “Please don’t make me tell you what I have on me.”

On June 21, 2021, Hintz was given a ride by Johnson in his Audi. She observed what she believed to be two bullet holes in the front passenger seat. Hintz stated to investigators at this point she started to “piece things together.”

On June 25, 2021, Johnson told Hintz to pick up the bag he had given to the first witness and bring it to him. She then contacted the witness and picked up the “thing” Johnson gave her.

After the murder occurred, West and Johnson were allegedly trying to find someone with a boat.

According to court documents, Hintz was asked by West on June 22, 2021, if she knew anyone with a boat because he wanted to go fishing. Hintz stated she knew someone in Grand Portage who was a commercial fisherman and owned a boat.

At approximately 7 p.m. that day West followed Hintz to Grand Portage. He was driving his extended cab pick-up truck and she was in her car. They stopped at a camping area about 15 minutes out of Grand Portage. At this time, Hintz allegedly asked West whether he was paranoid. He answered, “Ya with a dead body in the back.”

Court documents state West and Hintz met with the fisherman in Grand Portage around 11:30 p.m. on June 22, 2021. West told Hintz he had some of his grandmother’s valuables that he wanted to dump in the lake. Hintz told investigators she went to bed at that time.

On June 23, 2021, Hintz overheard a conversation West was having. He was allegedly talking about “three buckets.” West then told Hintz Balsimo’s remains were dismembered in a camper. He also said Johnson shot Balsimo in self-defense.

The criminal complaint states West and Hintz arrived back in Duluth on June 23, 2021. West allegedly told Hintz there was a bloody fingerprint on a lid and Hintz saw a green lid big enough to fit over a five-gallon bucket in the back of his truck. West then attempted to burn the lid with a torch. Hintz also noticed a residential door that was propped up in the back of West’s truck the day before was now laying flat.

On June 24, 2021, Johnson was arrested on unrelated charges. It was at this time he contacted Hintz to gather all of his property. She went to the first witness’s house and grabbed the bag which she believed had a gun and gave it to West.

During his arrest, police found clothing with possible blood stains including a license plate of Johnson’s Audi.

On June 26, 2021, a burned and unrecognizable Audi was found in Douglas County. The VIN number on the car showed Johnson was the owner. It appeared as if the driver’s side rear seat had been removed before the vehicle was burned. Hintz stated that West told her that he paid someone to burn the car and that he watched it go up in flames.

Hintz told authorities of a storage shed that West and Johnson owned together. She implied there was a gun in the shed.

With information from Hintz’s confession, authorities started executing search warrants and dove deeper into the investigation.

Investigators reached out to Johnson’s father who stated that Johnson had called him a couple of days before July 5, 2021. Johnson allegedly asked him to report the Audi stolen from St. Paul. His father did not, but stated he reported it stolen to both the Duluth and Superior Wisconsin Police Departments.

On July 14, 2021, law enforcement executed a search warrant on a storage unit in Superior that appeared to belong to Johnson. Inside, they found a loaded Glock firearm with an extended magazine, items that contained suspected blood, photos of Johnson, and a temporary license plate for an Audi Q5.

The following day, while being held on unrelated charges in Douglas County, West requested to speak with law enforcement. He then waived his Miranda Rights. West confessed to meeting with Johnson and coming up with a plan to dispose of Balsimo’s remains. He also stated he helped Johnson dismember him.

Investigators say West confirmed several details from Hintz’s and the first witness’s statements.

During his confession, West said that Johnson told him that he was traveling with Balsimo and another female down in the Twin Cities. He continued to say at some point Balsimo became angry and took out a knife and was threatening people. Johnson then allegedly took his gun and shot Balsimo numerous times. The woman driving and another woman in the car took off running.

West continued to tell investigators he took Johnson to a property in Douglas County with a mobile home and RV on it. Johnson and West took Balsimo’s body into the RV, where Johnson dismembered it and placed it in buckets.

West admitted to going to Menards and buying the tools used to dismember Balsimo and the cement used to fill the buckets. West allegedly told Johnson that he would take care of getting rid of the buckets and contacted Hintz, telling her he needed to go on a boat to get rid of items that could never be found.

West also stated that Hintz had given him the bag that contained the gun, which he later dismantled and discarded Lake Superior. Parts of the gun, which was a .40 caliber Glock, were later recovered by law enforcement in the location where West stated he discarded it.

On July 15, 2021, investigators met with the fisherman, who told the agent about being contacted by Hintz on approximately June 22, 2021, for help disposing of some personal belongings that had belonged to the family of an acquaintance.

The fisherman confirmed West was the man he met in a photo lineup. He told authorities he observed West drop two five-gallon buckets and one large tote, which he said contained the body of a dog, into the water.

Authorities say the fisherman was able to confirm the approximate date and time of night that West and Hintz met with him, he identified West’s truck as an extended cab pickup truck, and he said he had observed a door in the back of West’s truck covering everything in the bed.

In his interview with investigators, the fisherman stated he believed the buckets had green or black lids and noted they were likely heavy because West strained while lifting them, one at a time. He also provided law enforcement with the location where the items were dumped into the lake.

On July 16, 2021, law enforcement executed a search warrant on the property containing the mobile home and RV described by West. They found suspected cement on the grass, along with red stains on the interior of the RV door.

The owner of that property stated that on June 21, 2021, in the early morning hours, West showed up asking to stay in the RV, which he sometimes did. Later that day the owner said West’s truck was there, but also another small crossover-type vehicle was there. The owner also noticed that the security system had been removed from the property, and a blue tarp was also missing. On the property investigators also found white buckets with green lids, consistent with the buckets and tarp used when Balsimo’s body parts were found.

On July 19, 2021, law enforcement spoke to a woman who stated she was in St. Paul for a baby shower and was picked up by Johnson. She told investigators a woman was driving, Johnson was in the front passenger seat, and a male unknown to her, identified as Balsimo, in the rear driver’s side seat.

She stated Balsimo and Johnson were arguing with each other, and Balsimo had a knife and held it to her, and to the woman who was driving. She stated she heard a loud noise come from Johnson, at which time she and the driver jumped out of the car and took off running. She stated she separated from the driver and called for a ride.

On July 29, 2021, law enforcement contacted and spoke with the woman who was driving the car. She said that Johnson and Balsimo picked her up in Superior in Johnson’s Audi and drove to St. Paul.

She told investigators they drove around the cities to different locations and picked up the woman passenger. During that time Johnson and Balsimo were arguing. She said at some point she and Johnson switched positions so she would be driving. She said Balsimo was threatening everyone in the car with a knife, and when they were near Johnson’s father’s house in St. Paul, she heard a loud noise and a flash, at which time she threw the car in park, got out, and took off.

She told investigators this was in the early morning hours of June 20, 2021. She then went to Johnson’s father’s house with the woman passenger. Johnson showed up a couple of hours later stating that he couldn’t bring the car back, and he left.

She stated that she then went back up to Superior with the woman passenger later that day and no one discussed what had occurred. She said she did not see Johnson after that.

Authorities say with the assistance of the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office and with the fisherman’s help locating the area where West dumped the containers, BCA agents recovered human remains from the floor of Lake Superior in several separate containers.

There were three white five-gallon buckets and a tote, filled with cement. The tote also contained a blue tarp.

According to GPS coordinates, the containers were located within the territorial waters of Cook County. These items were then transported to the Anoka County Medical Examiner’s Office for examination and identified as Balsimo. Bullet wounds and three projectiles were discovered in the torso, which was consistent with .40 caliber rounds. This matched what authorities found.

Almost exactly a year after Balsimo was last seen Tommi Hintz pleaded guilty.

On June 28, 2022, Hintz pleaded guilty to being an accomplice after the fact to felony murder and interference with a dead body or scene of death.

In her plea agreement, her second count was dismissed. Also, under the terms of her agreement, Hintz is expected to receive a probationary sentence in exchange for truthful testimony in court and cooperation with law enforcement and prosecutors in the cases of Johnson and West.

Hintz’s sentencing is scheduled for August 18.

After almost two years of going through the legal process, Robert West was convicted.

On February 8, 2023, Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a Cook County jury found Robert West guilty of one count of being an accessory after the fact to murder and one count of interference with a deadly body.

Due to inadequate space at the Lake County Jail, West was committed to the Commissioner of Corrections temporarily.

West’s sentencing will be on August 29.

Now that he is found guilty, Jacob Colt Johnson is looking at up to 20 years in prison.

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