Murder of Anne Barber Dunlap

Anne L. Barber Dunlap (June 12, 1964 - ca. December 30, 1995)[1] was the victim of an unsolved murder in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


On December 30, 1995, she was last seen at her parents' home (where she and her husband were living temporarily) by her husband Brad Dunlap, whom she married in 1987. According to Brad Dunlap, she returned from a noon lunch with friends and then left at 2:30 p.m. for shopping at Mall of America. Police could not verify that Anne had been at the mall, and Bloomington, Minnesota police chief Bob Lutz declared, "we have not found any evidence that the Mall of America or the city of Bloomington played any part in this homicide."[2] (A private investigator working for Brad Dunlap claimed to have located "more than two" eyewitnesses who would testify that Anne was at Mall of America on the afternoon of December 30.[3]) She did not return home around 4:30 p.m. as agreed. At about 8:00 a.m. on January 1, 1996, a group of Anne's friends found her maroon 1987 Toyota Celica in the parking lot of the KMart store at 10 West Lake Street in Minneapolis, unlocked with the keys inside.[4] A bloodhound followed Anne's scent to the back of the store, where the trail ended.[5] The car was towed and police investigators found her body in the trunk. Anne had repeatedly been stabbed in the throat and neck.[6] The police officer who opened the trunk said there was "a lot of blood."[7] Media reports indicated that Anne's wedding ring was missing and that she had not been sexually assaulted.[8]

Police conjectured that Anne had been stunned and placed in the trunk of her car before being murdered there.[9] They searched the home three times, and they found blood in the garage and the police confiscated the door to the garage, which had a blood spot. Each of Anne's parents claimed that the blood was theirs,[10] but Sgt. Don Smulski said tests by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension specifically excluded the parents as sources.[9] Forensic examiners fixed the time of death between 3:00 and 3:15 p.m. on December 30,[11] however, shortly after the homicide, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported, "The medical examiner said no attempt was made to pin down a precise time of death because it is an inexact science."[12] According to FBI agent Coleen Rowley, Minneapolis police asked for the bureau's assistance on the case.[9]

During a five-hour police interview, Brad Dunlap "adamantly denied he killed his wife," according to his attorney, Paul Engh. Since that initial interview, Dunlap has refused to talk to the police, according to Lt. Mark Ellenberg, head of the homicide unit.[13] Police say he refused to provide "an hour-by-hour breakdown of his whereabouts on the day Anne disappeared."[14] Following his interview, Dunlap returned home, and according to Anne's mother Louise Barber, "he collapsed into uncontrollable sobbing. When he finally spoke after 20 minutes, he said, 'She's dead, and they say I did it,' "[10] Louise and her husband Donn Barber (Anne's father) have steadfastly maintained that Brad is innocent, with the newspaper reporting they say "he never would have harmed their daughter."[15]

Brad Dunlap's alibi was that he was running errands from 2:30 to 4:30, when he was supposed to meet Anne, including a stop at a tropical fish store in Plymouth, Minnesota which he claimed was closed when he got there. However, the owner claimed the store closed at 5:00 p.m. that day and that Brad Dunlap had never shopped without Anne.[13] Police also learned that Dunlap had shopped at Big Top Liquors in Plymouth at about 5:30 p.m.[16]

One key piece of evidence from the car was a bottle of Chippewa Springs water. The bottle was unusual because it possessed a pricetag with a unique pricing that omitted the decimal point ($169 instead of $1.69). Also, due to supermarket scanners, most items sold in Minneapolis in 1996 no longer had pricetags; and the existence of the tag further indicated that the bottle was sold individually instead of as part of a larger package. Police were able to identify the convenience store in Plymouth that sold the bottle. Police also obtained a statement from the clerk at the convenience store that sold the water that Brad Dunlap was the customer, and that he bought it after 6:00 p.m. Police subsequently led Dunlap through the store in order to match his physique to the store's grainy surveillance camera footage.[16]

On February 4, 1996, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that an unnamed detective on the investigation stated that the case would never be solved. The article attributed the failure of the investigation to "a lack of evidence concretely establishing the crime scene or linking Dunlap to the slaying." [17] However, at the end of the year, the newspaper reported that the lead detective vowed the case would be solved. "Brad remains a suspect. I can't comment on what degree he's a suspect or anyone else is," said Sgt. David Voss.[11] In an affidavit filed in connection with Brad Dunlap's lawsuit against the insurance company (see below), Voss said, "there is no plausible alternative explanation to Anne Dunlap's death other than the conclusion that Bradley Dunlap is the murderer."[18]

In July 1997, Dunlap quit his job as a sales manager at Environmental Graphics in Hopkins, Minnesota and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona.[19] He has since remarried.[6] "I just wish that media coverage would go away," he told WCCO-TV in January 2005.[6]

Anne Dunlap's brother, Paul Barber, who has run a web site about the case since the murder, posits that the killer or killers could have been someone Anne knew who appeared unexpectedly: "Anne had a personality that seemed to attract oddball types who'd try to be her friend all the time. I don't know why, and I don't have any examples, but there are a few [of these people] out there. There were people from high school who would maybe call five years out."[20]

Litigation over insurance proceeds

Chubb Insurance Co. of America refused to pay Brad Dunlap $1 million from Anne's policy, obtained on August 18, 1995, on the grounds that he intended to murder her when he took out the policy and then did so. Dunlap sued Chubb and Anne's estate. In the course of the proceedings, Chubb revealed that it relied on private information from the investigation by the Minneapolis Police Department. Dunlap subpoenaed these documents, and the police refused to turn it over to him. On September 30, 1997, Judge Raymond Erickson of the U.S. District Court for Minnesota ruled that police must turn the documents over to Dunlap's lawyers for inspection, and that Dunlap's lawyers be allowed to examine all physical evidence in the case.[19] The court held that the police could not claim confidentiality over material that they had shared with a third party. "In order to maintain a 'level playing field,'" Erickson ruled, "the materials disclosed to [Chubb] must be available to the representatives of [Dunlap] and, perhaps, to [Dunlap] himself."[21]

Dunlap claimed the insurance increases were reasonable (his policy had also been increased to $1 million at the same time) because the couple were building a new home in Medina, Minnesota worth over $300,000.[13]

In addition to the policy the Dunlaps had with Chubb, Anne was covered for $745,000 through her job with Pillsbury Co., where she was a marketing manager.[22]

On September 30, 1998, Dunlap's attorneys announced that they had settled with Chubb for an undisclosed amount.[22] Reports in the news media claimed that Dunlap recovered approximately $600,000 from Chubb.[23]


The murder led Pillsbury Co., Anne's employer, to announce that it would no longer advertise its products on violent television programs.[24]

The case was one of the first where a victim's family member used the Internet (in this case a web page and Usenet) to ferret out information from potential witnesses.[25]

Years after the murder, Anne's Toyota was returned to the family. "It will never get its day in court," noted journalist Paul Demko.[26]

External links


1.      ^ Her death certificate states she was found dead on January 1, 1996. Minnesota Death Certificates Index, Minnesota History Center,, certificate no. 1996-MN-000569.

2.      ^ Tatsha Robertson & Chris Graves, "Investigators ask 'who,' family asks 'why'", Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 3, 1996, p. 1A.

3.      ^ Charles Laszewski, "Dunlap was at the Megamall on day she disappeared, investigator says," St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 12, 1996, p. 1B.

4.      ^ Chris Ison & Paul McEnroe, "Dunlap sighting raises questions," Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 8, 1996, p. 1A.

5.      ^

6.      ^ a b c Caroline Lowe, "Cold case: Anne Barber Dunlap," WCCO-TV, February 2, 2006,

7.      ^ Paul Demko, "Blood and guts in garageland," City Pages (Minneapolis), January 15, 2003,

8.      ^ Nick Coleman, "Dunlap case brings out media's worst" (column), St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 16, 1996, p. 7A.

9.      ^ a b c Charles Laszewski, "Police search house again after victim's blood verified," St. Paul Pioneer Press, February 7, 1996, p. 1A.

10.  ^ a b Chris Graves & Josephine Marcotty, "Burying a daughter, defending a son-in-law," Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 14, 1996, p. 1A.

11.  ^ a b Chris Graves, "Unsolved murders: Dunlap story still missing a concluding installment," Minneapolis Star Tribune, December 31, 1996, p. 1A.

12.  ^ Charles Laszewski, "Police defend delay in opening trunk of car; body of woman found three hours after auto located," St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 4, 1996, p. 6B.

13.  ^ a b c Chris Ison & Paul McEnroe, "Police doubt that they'll solve Dunlap's slaying," Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 4, 1996, p. 1A.

14.  ^ Karin Winegar, "1200 women run in Anne's honor," Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 8, 1996, p. 1B.

15.  ^ Jim Adams, "Brad Dunlap, suspect in wife's slaying, is moving out of state," Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 24, 1997, p. 3B.

16.  ^ a b Chris Ison & Paul McEnroe, "Police tape Dunlap in store; His image will be compared with figure in video," Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 3, 1996, p. 1B.

17.  ^ Chris Ison & Paul McEnroe, "Police doubt they'll solve Dunlap's slaying," Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 4, 1996, p. 1A.

18.  ^ Order of Judge Erickson, Dunlap v. Chubb Life Insurance Co. of America, 981 F.Supp. 1201 (1997), footnote 2.

19.  ^ a b David Chanen, "Dunlap wins release of police documents," Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 1, 1997, p. 2B.

20.  ^ James Romenesko, "Dunlap's brother still collects clues on web page," St. Paul Pioneer Press, March 8, 1996, p. 3B.

21.  ^ Blake Morrison, "Judge might allow Dunlap to read data," St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 3, 1997, p. 3B.

22.  ^ a b Margaret Zack, "Dunlap, insurer settle lawsuit," Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 1, 1998, p. 1B.

23.  ^ Blake Morrison, "Insurance company, Dunlap settle suit; Widower will collect an undisclosed amount," St. Paul Pioneer Press, October 1, 1998, p. 1A.

24.  ^ Tracey Kaplan, "Run, services mark Dunlap's impact," St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 7, 1996, p. 1B.

25.  ^ James Romenesko, "Condolences exceed clues on web page to find Dunlap killer," St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 9, 1996, p. 3B.

26.  ^ Paul Demko, "Blood and guts in Garageland," City Pages (Minneapolis), January 15, 2003.