- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota man is charged with murder in the death of his ex-girlfriend who went missing nearly two months ago, prompting extensive searches.

Marchello Anthony Cimmarusti, 40, of Bemidji, appeared in Beltrami County District Court on Friday to face second-degree murder charges in the death of Rose Downwind, who was the granddaughter of American Indian Movement co-founder Dennis Banks.

The charges come two days after Cimmarusti turned himself in to Bemidji police. Authorities say he led investigators to Downwind’s shallow grave northwest of Bemidji Wednesday night, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1QDma5I ) reported.

Another Bemidji man, Brandon Joseph Rossbach, 31, is charged with aiding an offender for his alleged role in disposing of Downwind’s body.

Many of Downwind’s family members gathered in the courtroom Friday to hear the charges read. After the 32-year-old Redby woman went missing, her face was printed on posters across Bemidji.



Cimmarusti told police he accidentally killed Downwind in an argument that got out of control, according to a criminal complaint.

It happened Oct. 20, when Downwind met Cimmarusti on the steps of his home in Bemidji, where they once raised five children, the complaint said. Cimmarusti said Downwind was angry and was taking video with her phone to prove he was violating a no-contact order Downwind had against Cimmarusti following a recent domestic assault charge. He tried to take the phone from her when they struggled and he pushed her down the stairs, the complaint said.

Downwind’s head hit the wooden landing at the bottom of the stairs, Cimmarusti said, and blood ran from the corner of her mouth. He checked for a pulse and found none. According to a statement Cimmarusti gave to the police, he then dragged the body to his basement and called a friend from St. Paul for help.

A warrant is out for the arrest of that man, but he is not in custody.

According to the complaint, Cimmarusti’s St. Paul friend used a phone to search “how hot does a fire have to be to burn through bone.” Gasoline and plastic foam can be mixed to make a flammable substance that sticks to skin. Cimmarusti, Rossbach and the other man brought a tank of gas with them and stopped to buy foam bowls, court documents said. Security footage from the night shows them leaving the Bemidji Wal-Mart.

Cimmarusti told police he loaded Downwind’s body into an SUV with Rossbach and the friend. They drove north together on Minnesota Highway 89, turning down a remote ATV trail.

Investigators say the men dug a grave, then poured gasoline over the body and the foam bowls, letting the fire burn for several hours before covering the grave. Investigators found the heat had charred the bark of nearby trees.

Cimmarusti’s bail has been set at $1 million. Rossbach is on probation for two felony convictions and is being held without bail. It was unclear Saturday whether the men have attorneys.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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