Details of Disappearance
Toni resided in White Bear Lake Township, Minnesota in 1997. She lived with her husband of ten years, Norman Allen Bachman Jr., and his three sons from a prior marriage, aged between ten and thirteen. Toni was employed in the human resources department at Hamline University at the time.
She was last seen at her family's residence in the 1700 block of Stillwater Street on Wednesday, April 25, 1997. At that time she sent messages to friends over the internet, saying her husband was threatening her. In the last message, she said he was looking over her shoulder as she typed and she had to go. No one besides Norman and his children reported seeing or hearing from her after that time.
Norman initially stated they had a fight and she locked herself in the bedroom and he didn't see her for the rest of the weekend. He said she had disappeared by the time he returned home from a trip to the store on Sunday.
Norman later changed his story slightly and said he and Toni had gone to the drugstore together on Sunday and after they got home, she told him to take his children to the grocery store. When he returned from that trip, she was gone, leaving a goodbye note. She called him from a blocked number on April 28, he said,
A week after he gave this version of events, Norman altered his story again and said Toni had disappeared over Sunday night and he assumed she'd gone to work on Monday and didn't find out otherwise until he called her workplace and learned she hadn't showed up. She was reported missing by coworkers on May 12; Norman said he hadn't done it himself because he assumed she'd left him.
Norman allegedly gave authorities contradictory statements regarding his wife's whereabouts prior to her disappearance. Toni was involved in a long-distance relationship with a man she had met online, and she told friends she wanted to leave her husband. She asked him for a divorce earlier in 1997; Norman was apparently not pleased by her request. Their relationship was troubled and in 1987, she claimed he had choked her.
When Norman's sons were interviewed by police, they reported their father and stepmother argued on Friday, April 27, and they didn't see her leave her room on Saturday or Sunday. They also reported hearing her scream.
Norman was charged with misdemeanor assault against a girlfriend in August 1997, four months after Toni disappeared. The victim told authorities that Norman poked her in the chest and grabbed her around her throat. His young son witnessed the incident and called 911.
Norman pleaded guilty to the charges in November. He was arrested again in September 1998 after another girlfriend claimed he sexually assaulted her at knifepoint and threatened to kill her and himself. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in connection with the incident and had to register as a sex offender.
The Bachmans' residence was searched by authorities in May 1997, shortly after Toni vanished. There was a bloody sheet hidden between the mattress and the bedframe in the master bedroom. Bloodstains, human tissue and human fat were discovered on a box inside their basement freezer; authorities stated the evidence was consistent with blunt force trauma. DNA analysis proved that the blood and tissue were Toni's in September 1997.
Norman filed for bankruptcy in the fall of 1997, listing Toni's address as "unknown" on his forms. In 2000, Toni's mother sued Norman for at least $50,000 in damages for "mental pain, discomfort and the loss of companionship" caused by Toni's wrongful death. Her mother died in 2008. The case had been reopened in 2012; police searched the backyard of the Bachmans' former home and found "significant information."
Norman's youngest son, Frederick, was interviewed by authorities at this time and told them his father had admitted to killing Toni, but said no one would ever be able to prove it.
Frederick recalled that his father cleaned the basement with bleach after Toni was last seen, and that there was a funny smell in Norman's car immediately after Toni's disappearance. As an adult, Frederick worked at a funeral home, and he claimed he now recognized the smell as being consistent with a corpse.
In April 2015, Norman was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in Toni's presumed death. A photo of him is posted with this case summary. In October 2015, he confessed to killing her.
Norman stated he and Toni got into an argument, she hit him in the chest and he strangled her to death. He wrapped her body in a plastic tarp, stored it in his cellar for several days, then dismembered it. The parts were still in the basement when the police came to the house to ask where Toni was. The following night, he buried Toni's dismembered remains in three holes at a site a two-hour drive from his home.
Authorities have searched the spot Norman indicated five times, but have found nothing. He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to thirteen and a half years in prison. If Toni's body is ever located, the sentence will be reduced to ten years.