The family of a missing Chisago woman is still praying for answers in her disappearance as the person of interest in her disappearance pled guilty to an unrelated crime.
On Tuesday, Aaron Schnagl pled guilty to having drugs at the home where Danielle Jelinek was last seen, and her family members were there in court as he did.
Schnagl has been locked up since Dec. 9 -- the day Jelinek was last seen at his house. When police came looking for her, she was nowhere to be found -- but her purse, cell phone and shoes, along with 12 pounds of marijuana, cocaine and pills, were inside.
A previous conviction for drug charges and a fresh probation violation has kept Schnagl inside the Anoka County Jail for the past two months. On Monday, he was ordered to serve out his seven-year sentence. On Tuesday, he took a plea deal in Chisago County allowing him to serve the sentence for the new drug charges at the same time. At a minimum, Schnagl will be in prison for four and a half years.
"I think his goal is to get this all behind him, go do his time and be able to get back out and be free," Schnagl's defense attorney, Rachael Goldberger, told FOX 9 News.
Goldberger insists the drug charges have nothing to do with the missing person case, but Jelinek's family disagrees. They believe Schnagl has answers to both.
Jelinek's father, mother, aunt and grandmother went to Schnagl's court appearance to remind him he is still the only person of interest in the search for their missing loved one.
"I just want him to see my face in there, but he is too chicken to turn his face around to look at us," said Ed Jelinek, Danielle's father.
Over the past two months, Chisago search teams have combed up to 8 miles around Schnagl home. Dive teams searched several frozen lakes, with the most recent search taking place just three days ago. Even so, Sheriff Rick Duncan told FOX 9 News he can't call Schnagl a suspect yet.
"I can tell you we don't believe his story, at least not all of it," says Sheriff Duncan. "We know something happened that night. We don't know exactly what. We don't think he's been forthcoming with giving us information regarding Danielle. That's the reason he's the person of interest. We don't think he's honestly telling us the truth of what happened that night."
Duncan said, for now, he finds comfort in sending a drug dealer to prison, and said that at the very least, he knows where Schnagl if he has more questions about Jelinek's disappearance.
"There are still gaps in the investigation regarding the timeline of all the events, and we are still trying to fine tune that timeline of how things occurred that night," Duncan explained.
Danielle's family is planning a fundraiser to increase the reward being offered. It will be held on March 23rd at The Dog House, located at 2029 Woodlynn Ave in Maplewood between 3-7 p.m.
205 N. Michigan Avenue
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