Man charged in death of missing Aitkin woman

Published: Nov. 8, 2019 at 10:23 AM CST
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A man was charged Thursday in relation to the death of a once-missing Aitkin woman.

Joshua Emil Karjala, 34, has been charged with one county of second-degree felony murder in the strangulation of Michell Mary Mae, whose body was discovered in a crawl space below the defendant's home..

Mae had been missing since Oct. 3, 2019. On Oct. 4, her vehicle was located with the keys in the ignition, and it was transported to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for testing, according to the criminal complaint.

Investigators were contacted by one of Mae's friends giving them a screenshot of a text conversation between an individual named "Joshua," who investigators determined to be Karjala, with a message stating the defendant's address.

The complaint states Karjala was arrested for probation violation on Oct. 5, during the investigation of Mae's disappearance.

Over the next 10 days, agencies conducted searches, issued search warrants for cellphone data, and executed a search warrant at a rural property near Swatara.

On Oct. 15, while executing a search warrant at Karjala's residence, Mae's body was located in a crawl space, the complaint reads.

A criminal complaint says Mae met 34-year-old Joshua Karjala online, and details evidence of clothing, bedding and electronics that were found in a fireplace, crawl space and in the basement of the residence. The autopsy performed by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner says Mae was strangled to death. It also noted a number of blunt force injuries to her head, face and body.

The complaint also alleges that Karjala told a nurse at the Aitkin County Jail that he had been using methamphetamine laced with ecstasy and that he "may have killed a girl." The nurse said Karjala described videotaping the sexual encounter between he and Mae, watching it later and seeing himself "choking her out" a few times.

Bail has been set for Karjala at $5 million without conditions or a $2 million bond and $500,000 cash with conditions.

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