Home Part of States Newsroom
Complaint: DFL senator broke into stepmother’s house seeking late father’s belongings


Complaint: DFL senator broke into stepmother’s house seeking late father’s belongings

Apr 23, 2024 | 10:30 am ET
By Michelle Griffith
Complaint: DFL senator broke into stepmother’s house seeking late father’s belongings
Co-chairs of the omnibus veterans and military affairs finance bill conference committee, Sen. Nicole Mitchell and Rep. Jerry Newton, listen to a public testifier May 1, 2023. Photo by Catherine Davis/Minnesota House Public Information Services.

Sen. Nicole Mitchell, DFL-Woodbury, allegedly broke into her stepmother’s house in Detroit Lakes on Monday morning to take several items belonging to her late father after her stepmom ceased contact with her and other family members, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.

Mitchell, a first-term senator, was arrested Monday morning after her stepmother called the police. Mitchell was charged with first-degree burglary, which comes with a mandatory 180-day jail sentence and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and $35,000 fine. Mitchell was still booked into Becker County Jail as of Tuesday morning, according to the jail’s roster.

At approximately 4:45 a.m., Detroit Lakes police officers arrived at Mitchell’s stepmother’s house, and the stepmother told them Mitchell ran into the basement. Officers searched the basement and found Mitchell dressed in black clothing and a black hat. Police ordered her to the ground and arrested her, the complaint reads.

According to the complaint, while being arrested Mitchell said something to the effect of “I was just trying to get a couple of my dad’s things because you wouldn’t talk to me anymore.” An officer found a flashlight near Mitchell that had a black sock covering over it, and the complaint states it “appeared to have been modified so as to control the amount of light emitting from the flashlight.”

An officer found Mitchell’s point of entry into the home — a window on the south wall of the basement. He found a black backpack stuck in a small sliding window. Officers searched the backpack and found two laptops, a cell phone, Mitchell’s ID, her Senate identification and some Tupperware.

Mitchell later said the laptops were both hers and she had “just gotten into the house,” and “clearly I’m not good at this.”

In a later interview with an officer, Mitchell said “I know I did something bad,” the complaint states. Mitchell told the officer that her father died and her stepmother had stopped all contact with her and other family. 

Mitchell allegedly wanted her father’s items, including pictures, a flannel shirt, his ashes and other sentimental items, the complaint states. 

The senator said she left her Woodbury home around 1 a.m. and broke into the Detroit Lakes house through the basement window. An officer asked her what got Mitchell “to this stage” and she said it was her father’s ashes, according to the complaint.

Officers asked Mitchell about one of the laptops found in her backpack. In front of an officer, Mitchell opened it, pressed a button and her stepmom’s name popped up. It was not password protected. Mitchell told officers her stepmom gave her the laptop “way back when,” but her stepmom later told officers she didn’t give Mitchell a laptop.

In a statement on Facebook, Mitchell denied stealing and said she went to the home to check on a family member. She said her family is “dealing with the pain of watching a loved one decline due to Alzheimer’s and associated paranoia.”

“I entered a home I have come and gone from countless times in the last 20 years, where my son even once had his own room. Unfortunately, I startled this close relative, exacerbating paranoia, and I was accused of stealing, which I absolutely deny.”

On Tuesday morning, Mitchell appeared virtually in her first court appearance wearing an orange jumpsuit. Becker County District Court Judge Gretchen Thilmony set Mitchell’s unconditional bail at $40,000 and said Mitchell could be released without posting any money as long as she remain law-abiding, makes future court appearances and has no future contact with her stepmother. Mitchell can travel out-of-state for official duties or to Cass County, North Dakota — which encompasses Fargo — to see family.

Thilmony said she signed a harassment restraining order against Mitchell filed on behalf of her stepmother.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said the allegations against Mitchell are “upsetting” and the behavior is outside the Mitchell’s character she established in the military and in the Senate.

“We believe in due process, and Senator Mitchell has the right to a full defense of her case in court,” Murphy said. “In the coming days and weeks, Senator Mitchell must also have serious and difficult conversations with her colleagues, constituents and family.”

Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, in a statement called for Mitchell’s immediate resignation from the Senate, calling Mitchell’s alleged actions “disturbing.”

“The complaint … lays out the case of a person who took extensive preparation to burglarize a family member’s home,” Johnson said. “This behavior is unbecoming of a member of the Legislature and she needs to resign from the Senate immediately.”

Mitchell was elected to the Senate in 2022. She’s vice chair of the Senate State and Local Government and Veterans Committee. Mitchell is a former TV meteorologist for KSTP and Minnesota Public Radio. She’s also a commander in the Air National Guard’s 126th Weather Flight.