Posted at: 12/18/2012 9:47 PM
Updated at: 12/19/2012 8:00 AM
By: Mark Albert
Breaking their silence for the first time, the family of Aaron Schnagl, the only person of interest in the disappearance of an Oakdale woman, says he is "not capable" of hurting his on-again, off-again girlfriend, and that they "pray that she's safe," nine days after she went missing.
"They have made him look like a monster. And he is not a monster," Theresa Langevin said of her cousin, Aaron, in an exclusive interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
"He is probably one of the most caring, compassionate people you will ever meet in your life."
Search warrants filed by Chisago county investigators allege that Schnagl assaulted Danielle Jelinek several months prior to her Dec. 9 disappearance, and may have even "started strangling" her, while at another point giving her "two black eyes and fat lips." No police report was ever filed.
When asked Tuesday afternoon if Schnagl, the father of an eight year-old girl, could have harmed Jelinek, Langevin replied, "Absolutely not. Absolutely not. He's not capable of hurting somebody."
Attorney Rachael Goldberger represents Schnagl and said no evidence she has seen so far in the case links her client to a crime in Jelinek's disappearance. He has not been arrested or charged in the case.
"My client absolutely maintains his innocence, that he loved this woman, and he never would have harmed her," she said in her first interview about the case.
Goldberger says she met again with Schnagl Tuesday morning before he appeared in an Anoka County courtroom for a probation violation hearing. Schnagl is charged in Chisago county with allegedly having 12 pounds of marijuana at his home.
Goldberger says her client told her that he and Jelinek were a couple who had spent their last night together on a date, when he bought her presents at a Victoria's Secret store, ate sushi, and then went back to his Chisago City home where drugs and alcohol were present.
"He went to bed and when he woke up the next morning, she was gone," Goldberger said. "What he has expressed to me is that they will not find any blood of hers anywhere."
Authorities described in search warrants of finding a blood-like substance in Schnagl's home; test results are pending to determine whose blood it is.
Goldberger also contested authorities' claim that Schnagl has been "uncooperative" by stating that he has participated in two police interviews, the latter lasting two and a half hours.
Langevin says her family wanted to help the 300 volunteers looking for Jelinek, but did not so that they wouldn't upset the Jelinek family.
"Our prayers are with them also and that we hope she's found and that she's found safe."
With tears dripping down her cheeks, Langevin added, "We want them to find her so this can just be over with."