Algene Vossen, suspect in 1974 Willmar homicide, committed as mentally ill
The ruling does not find theSioux Falls man mentally ill and dangerous, which would have resulted in placement in the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. Vossen was earlier found incompetent to stand trial on a murder charge in the 1974 homicide of Mabel Herman.
WILLMAR, Minn. — A Sioux Falls man charged with murder following the cold case investigation into the stabbing death of a Willmar, Minnesota, woman almost 49 years ago is now civilly committed as mentally ill.
Kandiyohi County District Judge Stephen Wentzell issued an order Feb. 2 finding Algene Leeland Vossen, 81, mentally ill and ordering his commitment to the Commissioner of the Department of Health for placement in a care facility. The judge did not find Vossen mentally ill and dangerous, which would have required his placement in the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.
Vossen’s commitment remains in effect for six months. A review hearing will be held in June.
In the order, the judge noted that placement is at the discretion of the commissioner, but he recommends that Vossen be placed in a locked mental care nursing home such as the forensic nursing home, which is also in St. Peter.
In July 2020, Vossen was arrested at his Sioux Falls home, and charged with second-degree intentional murder by the Kandiyohi County Attorney’s Office in the homicide of Mabel "Mae" Herman, 73, in her Willmar home in 1974.
The court in November 2021 found Vossen incompetent to stand trial on the charge. The Kandiyohi County Attorney’s Office filed a petition in August 2022 to have Vossen committed as mentally ill and dangerous.
Vossen has been a patient under 24-hour electronic monitoring at the Unity Point Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, since June of 2022.
Two psychiatrists who evaluated him testified at a civil commitment hearing Nov. 18, 2022, that he has an organic disorder of the brain. Both agreed that he was in need of civil commitment, the judge noted in the ruling.
The County Attorney’s Office argued at the hearing that “overt” acts of aggression by Vossen demonstrate that he is mentally ill and dangerous.
First Assistant County Attorney Kristen Pierce and Assistant County Attorney Rachel Molsberry cited the likelihood that Vossen had murdered Herman. They also pointed to relatively more recent acts in which he swung a cane at a niece caring for him, and used vulgar and abusive language and acted aggressively toward his caregivers at Unity Point Hospital.
In the ruling, the judge agrees that there is “clear and convincing evidence” that Vossen is responsible for the death of Herman. A small spot of blood on the woman's sweater led to a DNA match to Vossen as a result of the cold case investigation by the Willmar Police Department.
But the judge said it was not proven that Vossen had a substantial likelihood today of engaging in acts capable of inflicting serious harm on others. His more recent acts, such as swinging a cane at his niece or mistreating caregivers do not represent overt acts. The defendant is barely ambulatory, stated the judge in the ruling.
In a memorandum, the judge also noted that both professional examiners agreed that the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter was not an appropriate placement for him. They recommended full-time nursing care in a locked memory care unit.
The body of Mabel Herman had been found in her home on Jan. 27, 1974. It was during a period of time in which Vossen has admitted that he was window peeping in Willmar. He denies killing Herman and told investigators that he did not know her and was never in her home.
Her body was found lying on the floor, fully clothed and dressed in dark slacks and a white, long-sleeved sweater. She had 38 stab wounds to her neck, chest and left torso.
There was a lot of blood in the neck area of the sweater and also a small blood smear on the right forearm area of the sweater. DNA in the blood spot on the arm of the sweater ruled out two other suspects in Herman’s death, but matched that taken from Vossen by investigators as part of the cold case investigation, according to testimony at the November hearing.