Mille Lacs Sheriff Kyle Burton: 'I've never seen something like this'
Workers found a body with a severed foot in a storage tote on March 21. Two suspects are now in custody.
MILACA — Authorities are calling the murder of a 25-year-old Isle man a possible revenge killing related to a fentanyl overdose in January.
Mille Lacs County Sheriff Kyle Burton provided details surrounding the human remains found in a storage tote Tuesday, March 21, on Twilight Road, which hugs Mille Lacs Lake between the lake and Highway 169, south of Vineland Bay.
“In 23 years of law enforcement, I've never seen something like this,” Burton said, standing in front of a projector during a media briefing on the homicide investigation Tuesday, March 28. “I've dealt with my fair share of homicides in my career, but I've never seen one like this.”
On Jan. 10, 2023, Brandon Elling, 23, brother of Alexis Elling, died from an overdose of fentanyl on the 37000 block of Stevens Road in Wahkon. During the investigation surrounding the death of Brandon Elling, Burton said law enforcement was told Rodney Pendegayosh Jr., 25, of Isle, may have been involved.
“The medical examiner confirmed it was an overdose involving fentanyl and a mixture of methamphetamine,” Burton said. “Rodney Pendegayosh Jr.’s name was mentioned to law enforcement as possibly having been involved with that. We can't confirm that he was 100% involved in it, but his name was mentioned by witnesses that were there.”
On Friday, March 24, the body found in the plastic storage container was officially identified as Pendegayosh.
Bradley Allen Weyaus was charged March 23 with second-degree murder, fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, interference with a dead body or scene of death-concealing a body and evidence.
The girlfriend of Weyaus, Alexis Marion Elling, 21, of Rochester, was arrested at a gas station in Onamia March 23 and charged with felony aiding an offender as an accomplice after the fact.
In an interview with the Dispatch, Burton said Pendegayosh was known to law enforcement as being associated with controlled substances in the area.
The investigation into the death of Brandon Elling is ongoing, Burton said. At the time of his death, Pendegayosh had an active warrant for second-degree assault and in 2019 he was convicted in Crow Wing County for narcotics possession.
More is known
Law enforcement received information around March 20 about Pendegayosh being missing from the area, though no missing person report was ever filed, Burton said.
Prior to a county maintenance crew discovering the body, Burton said his department received reports of Weyaus traveling in a white vehicle with a storage tote.
On March 21, Mille Lacs County highway maintenance workers were clearing an area on Twilight Road near Mille Lacs Lake. During this operation, the employees discovered a storage container abandoned off the side of Twilight Road.
The black storage container was bound with bungee cords as well as industrial tape. Maintenance workers hooked up a vehicle to the tote due to its immense weight and positioning on the side of the road. When they tried to pull the tote out, they broke a handle on the tote. It was then they decided to cut it open and see what was inside.
The workers opened the container and observed a severed human foot. The employees immediately contacted law enforcement.
A sheriff’s officer was responding to the scene when a white Saturn traveling in the same direction refused to pull to the side and let the officer pass. Instead, the driver of the Saturn began accelerating at a high rate of speed. The officer recognized the vehicle as being associated with Weyaus.
In pursuit of the white Saturn, the chase approached the location of the storage container on Twilight Road and the Saturn made a high‐speed turn away from the location and in the direction of Highway 169.
The officer continued to the location of the body and radioed for other officers to pursue the car, losing track of the vehicle in the meantime.
“Cooperation, collaboration, I think is the key,” Burton said as he talked about how law enforcement was able to locate Weyaus within two hours of the body being found.
Law enforcement located the Saturn on a rural property near Southport Road in Mille Lacs County. A resident of the property indicated the individual driving the Saturn was Weyaus and he was hiding in one of the buildings on the property. He was seen exiting the vehicle with one or more duffel bags.
Burton said the residents of the property were familiar with Weyaus and Weyaus was familiar with the property. Burton said he was on his way to the scene where the body was found when the tribal police chief called to ask what he needed and how they could assist.
In 23 years of law enforcement, I've never seen something like this
“The fact that we had so many law enforcement officers in that area, just made the odds a little bit better in our favor that we were going to find this white car as fast as we did,” Burton said. “Having the information ahead of time on the vehicle certainly helped.”
Weyaus was arrested on warrants and for fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle. Officers recovered two duffel bags with a number of items, including a hammer, a hacksaw and industrial tape. The industrial tape appeared to match that located on the storage container.
In a search of the Saturn’s interior, a spent shotgun shell was found.
“Preliminary cause of death is going to be from a gunshot to the chest area,” Burton said. “The manner of death is going to be homicide, cause of death is from a gunshot to the chest. We believe that was a shotgun.”
Burton said his department was still going through a week's worth of video footage they received showing Weyaus and Alexis Elling carrying the tote out of the apartment on Main Street in Isle.
“We've got an entire week's worth of surveillance video to go through from that business across the street,” Burton said. “That's going to take somebody a lot of time to watch … to see who all’s coming in and out of that place.”
As his department processes the information, Burton said there might be others who are charged in connection to these crimes.
“We have a lot of warrants that we have done for cellphones involved in this case, including going back to the Jan. 10 incident with the overdose,” Burton said. “That takes a long time to process all of that data on those phones. We've got multiple warrants for Facebook accounts … and also DNA processing. BCA (the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) is gonna put a rush on that, given the nature of this case, but that does take time.”
Bradley Allen Weyaus
According to court documents, law enforcement determined Weyaus was seen recently staying at a residence on Main Street in Isle and he was seen with a storage container at that location. A search of the residence revealed there were several areas of carpet removed from the floor of the residence.
Inside the residence, law enforcement located a handwritten note to the apartment's owner, which indicated remorse and sorrow for causing them trouble, with the note’s author saying they would be leaving for a long time due to their mistake. The author of the note further said they would not allow themselves to be captured by law enforcement.
A search of the dumpster connected to the residence located several trash bags, which had several pieces of carpet with stains indicative of blood embedded within them. The carpet also appeared to match the carpet in the residence.
Law enforcement located an identification card, cut into two pieces, belonging to Pendegayosh. Also within the trash bags, law enforcement located a receipt from a local hardware store that recorded the purchase of items including tools such as a knife and tool sharpener as well as rubber gloves, a black mask, industrial tape and empty boxes for 12-gauge shotgun shells.
Around March 19, Weyaus requested a ride from the Main Street residence to purchase a white Saturn automobile. Before leaving the residence, he and another person removed a storage container wrapped with industrial tape and bungee cords from the residence. They carried the black storage container out of the residence and placed it inside the vehicle.
They drove Weyaus along with the storage container back to a residence in Wahkon — where the storage container was unloaded and left there — before driving Weyaus to purchase the white Saturn.
A preliminary examination of the storage container found near the lake determined it contained the body of a deceased male whose foot had been severed. Also inside the container were portions of carpet that matched the type observed in the Main Street residence and located in the nearby dumpster.
The container was wrapped with industrial tape that matched the item identified in the hardware store receipts. In addition, there were gloves appearing to match those identified in the receipt.
Alexis Marion Elling
According to court documents, law enforcement made contact March 23 with Elling and spoke to her regarding the homicide. She admitted to being in a relationship with Weyaus and had been involved with the events around the Pendegayosh murder.
Elling told investigators Weyaus told her he killed Pendegayosh and Pendegayosh’s body was in the storage container. However, she said she did not assist in placing the body in the container, which she said was already loaded and sealed when she was made aware of it. She did admit a fake fingernail found inside the storage container belonged to her.
Elling said she helped remove the container from a residence on Main Street in Isle knowing Pendegayosh’s body was inside, placing it in a vehicle and then driving it to a residence in Wahkon, where it was unloaded. She also said she took a long gun case with a shotgun inside, which was later sold for drugs, from the Isle residence.
The Mille Lacs County SWAT team executed a search warrant on Zhingwaak Court searching for the murder weapon. The shotgun has yet to be located.
The Minnesota BCA along with the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office, Mille Lacs Tribal Police, Isle Police and the Aitkin-Itasca-Mille Lacs Violent Offender Task Force are actively working on the investigation.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Weyaus and Elling remained in custody in the Mille Lacs County Jail. They are scheduled to make their initial appearance in Mille Lacs County District Court on April 4.
TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email email@example.com .