Minnesota senator wanted late father’s ashes when she broke into stepmother’s home, charges say

MINNEAPOLIS– A Minnesota state senator and former meteorologist told police she broke into her stepmother’s home because her stepmother refused to give her items of sentimental value belonging to her late father, including his ashes, according to burglary charges filed Tuesday.

Democratic Sen. Nicole Mitchell, 49, of Woodbury, was arrested early Monday at the home in the northwestern Minnesota city of Detroit Lakes. The arresting officer wrote in the complaint that he heard Mitchell tell her stepmother “something along the lines of, ‘I was just trying to get some of my dad’s stuff because you wouldn’t talk to me anymore.'”

Mitchell was dressed in all black and wore a black hat, the complaint said. The officer said he discovered a flashlight on her that was covered by a black sock, apparently modified to control the amount of light coming out.

The complaint, filed in Becker County District Court in Detroit Lakes, charges Mitchell with one count of first-degree burglary, a misdemeanor. She remained in jail ahead of her first appearance Tuesday. Court records do not indicate there was an attorney who could comment on her behalf, but records show she requested a public defender. She did not answer a phone call left on the jail’s inmate voicemail system.

“I know I did something bad,” the complaint quoted Mitchell as saying after she was told she had the right to remain silent.

Mitchell’s father, Rod Mitchell, died last month, according to an obituary posted by a Detroit Lakes funeral home. He was married to Mitchell’s stepmother for forty years.

Nicole Mitchell told the officer she was looking for photos, a flannel shirt, ashes and other items, but her stepmother had cut off all contact with her and they were not speaking, the complaint said. But it was the ashes that brought her ‘to this stage’, it said.

The senator acknowledged entering the home through a basement window that was left open while wearing a black backpack, the complaint said. Officers found her Minnesota Senate ID inside, along with her driver’s license, two laptops, a cellphone and Tupperware containers, the complaint said. She indicated that she was caught shortly after entering.

“Obviously I’m not good at this,” it quoted her as saying.

The stepmother said in an interview that she is afraid of her stepdaughter and has filed for a restraining order against her. She also said that while most of her husband’s ashes were buried, she sent Mitchell a miniature container containing some of them.

Mitchell was arrested while the Senate was on Easter break. Her arrest comes at a difficult time for Senate Democrats, who have just a one-seat majority with just under four weeks left in the legislative session. Her absence would make it difficult to pass legislation that lacks bipartisan support.

Mitchell’s arrest surprised Senate leaders. The Senate Democratic Caucus said in a statement Monday that it is “aware of the situation and has no comment pending further information.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Johnson, of East Grand Forks, said he was shocked but knew very few details.

“The public expects lawmakers to meet high standards of conduct,” Johnson said in a statement. “As information emerges, we expect to see consequences resulting from its actions, both in court and in its role in the Legislature.”

Mitchell worked as a meteorologist in the U.S. Army and for KSTP-TV and Minnesota Public Radio before being elected to the Senate in 2022 from suburban St. Paul. She is still a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard and heads a weather unit, her official profile says. She worked for The Weather Channel earlier in her career, her profile says.