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Crime News Dateline

Minnesota Mom Shot To Death in Her Bed and the Surprising Suspect Is Acquitted

Chris Kruse told authorities that he and wife Jan had fallen asleep and he woke up in the middle of the night to a loud bang, then got up and saw Jan sit up and say, “Oh my God,” before he realized she'd been shot.

By Jill Sederstrom
Was Chris Kruse Involved in the Murder of His Wife?

Jan Kruse was 40 when someone fired two shots into her bedroom in the small, sleepy town of Brewster, Minnesota, as her spouse says she slept, killing her and igniting a mystery that remains unsolved to this day.

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Her husband of nearly 20 years, Chris Kruse, quickly became law enforcement’s top suspect, but Jan’s family has stood staunchly by him and a jury acquitted him of the crime in 2020, according to the “Far From Spider Lake” episode of Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.

Suspicions have also swirled around the older boyfriend of Jan and Chris’ then-teenage daughter, Bailey. Although he was officially ruled out as a suspect by investigators, Jeremy Majerus, who was 19 when Jan was killed, had been forbidden to date 15-year-old Bailey at the time of the shooting.

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Now, nearly a decade after Jan's murder, her family still longs for answers about who could have wanted the vibrant, outgoing, friendly mom of two dead.

"What they had was, what I hope to have some day. I loved our family," Isaac Kruse, Jan and Chris' son, told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered of his parents' marriage. He was 20 at the time of his mom's murder.

Isaac Jans Son featured on Dateline Secrets Uncovered 1306

Who was Jan Kruse?

By all accounts, Jan had no known enemies and was a beloved fixture in the town of Brewster, Minnesota, which has a population of about 500 people.

“She was just a very true and very genuine person,” her sister Kay recalled. “She just enjoyed spending time with her family and her kids and her husband and when she interacted with people, it was real, like she cared and you wanted to spend time with her.”

Although she once ran a day care center from her home, at the time of her death, Jan was working in the front office of a local plant. 

But she and her husband Chris were dreaming of a much bigger future. The couple hoped to one day move to Spider Lake, a picturesque lake town in Minnesota where they loved to vacation as a family. It was a six-hour drive from their home in Brewster.

They even put an offer on a family resort they hoped to run in Spider Lake just days before Jan was killed.

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"It would have worked out good for Chris and Jan because Chris is a really good handyman, construction guy. He could’ve taken care of the resort and Jan’s pretty business smart,” Chris’ brother Josh Kruse said. “It would’ve fit them.” 

But, the money the couple was able to offer for the property fell short.

Kay, Jan Kruse's sister featured on Dateline Secrets Uncovered 1306

Jan Kruse is shot to death

In the early morning hours of August 19, 2015 — just two days after the crestfallen couple returned to Brewster after not getting the property they wanted in Spider Lake — Jan was fatally shot.

Chris told authorities that the two had fallen asleep just like any other night, with Chris curled up behind his wife and embracing her in bed. He said he woke up in the middle of the night to a loud bang, got up and saw Jan sit up and exclaim, “Oh my God.” He said raced to turn on their bedroom light and realized that Jan had been shot in the chest.

Chris told police he helped her lay back down in bed before calling 911 and rushing to check on their daughter Bailey. 

“Like, what the hell is the matter with people? He stood in the (expletive) doorway of my bedroom and shot my wife,” a visibly distraught Chris sobbed in a police interview. “What the (expletive) is a matter? I don’t understand it.” 

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What happened to Jan Kruse?

Jan was killed by a 12-gauge shotgun blast that entered her lower right shoulder and exited out of her back, according to Derek Woodford, a senior special agent with Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The medical examiner would later determine she likely lived for three to five minutes before dying. 

A second shot had also been fired at the bed. 

“It appeared one round had been fired and missed, it went through the headboard along the wall where their heads would have been laying and then it went out the wall of the house outside,” Woodford explained.

Although Chris only reported hearing one gunshot, his daughter Bailey — who was sleeping in a basement bedroom — reported clearly hearing two shots at “like 2:30 a.m.”

“I didn’t really know if I should get out of bed, or just stay in bed, so I kinda stayed in bed. And I texted my mom, like, question marks ‘cause I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do,” Bailey would later tell authorities, adding that she heard her dad scream, “What the hell?”

Chris placed a call to 911 at 2:39 a.m., telling the dispatcher that after getting up to check on his daughter, he noticed the back door to the house was left “wide open.”

There was also evidence that a basement window had been broken and left open, although there were no footprints on the carpet despite the muddy outdoor conditions.

Inconsistencies in the Murder Case of Jan Kruse

Investigators suspect Chris Kruse in his wife's murder

From early on, investigators began to question Chris’ story. They believed that if Chris was asleep in bed with his wife when the shots were fired, he likely could have been struck by the first bullet that went through the headboard.

They questioned why he didn’t have any blood on his hands if he had really helped his wife lay back in bed. They also pointed to inconsistencies in his story, like initially claiming his wife had been laying down after he heard the shot. Yet as soon as an autopsy report found that Jan had actually been sitting up and holding out a hand to fend off her attacker, Chris insisted she had been sitting up by the time he woke up. 

They also questioned Chris about why he never tried to perform any life-saving efforts or comfort her in her final moments.

“I knew it wasn’t good,” he told investigators. “And then I was worried for Bailey, but someone just shot my wife, man.” 

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The morning of the fatal shooting, Bailey told investigators that her parents got “along good” and didn’t “ever yell at each other.”

Yet, Bailey’s boyfriend, 19-year-old Jeremy Majerus, would insist Bailey told him her parents were fighting a lot about the resort and even threw out the word “divorce” in one heated argument.

“She would Snap me a couple nights where she said they were in some pretty good arguments about this,” he said in one interview.

Bailey Kruse’s boyfriend is looked at by authorities 

Majerus would come under scrutiny himself after Bailey admitted to authorities that her parents forbid her from dating him. 

Although both insisted they had chosen to just remain friends and keep their relationship platonic in the aftermath, Bailey said that throughout the summer, Majerus snuck into her home to secretly spend time with her.

“They don't know that he comes over, actually,” she admitted. 

She also confessed that in the months leading up to the shooting, she was having a hard time with the possibility that her family could move to Spider Lake and leave their old life behind.

Initially, Majerus claimed to investigators that he had been home all night, but later admitted to driving to Brewster after getting a panicked text from Bailey at 2:48 a.m. that read simply, “Jeremy!!!!”

He said when he arrived at her house, he saw the emergency vehicles outside and just decided to drive home. His father backed up his claim that at the time of the shooting, he had been at home watching TV. 

Investigators would eventually rule Majerus out.

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With Majerus crossed off the list of potential suspects, investigators returned their focus to Chris. They found what a ballistics expert would later testify was the murder weapon, inside Chris’ shop, located just about a minute from his house. 

They also learned that just after their initial offer for the resort was turned down, Chris had submitted a second offer on his own that was $150,000 higher — the same amount his wife’s life insurance had been worth, according to Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.

Chris was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in his wife’s death after a grand jury indicted him in March of 2019. 

Jan Kruse's parents, Mary Jean and Terry Pigman, featured on Dateline Secrets Uncovered 1306

But Jan’s family continued to support him and insisted there was no way he could have killed his wife. 

“I mean, we’ve never felt that he was the one that did it,” Jan’s mom Mary Jean Pigman said. 

When the case went to trial in January of 2020, Jan’s family was there every day to support their son-in-law. 

While prosecutors laid out their case against him, Chris’ attorneys pointed out that the ballistics expert initially didn’t believe the shotgun found in his shop was the murder weapon, and they insisted that Chris would not have had time to rush the gun to his shop before calling 911. 

They also shot down the motive presented by prosecutors, arguing that Chris would have needed Jan to run the resort with him and wouldn’t have ever been able to do it on his own.

Was Chris Kruse convicted of killing his wife?

After two days of deliberations, Chris was found not guilty — much to the joy of Jan’s family.

“It was absolutely wonderful because they just — I mean we were all just cheering and hugging each other,” Pigman, Jan's mother, said. 

Chris told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered that he’s “frustrated” that investigators didn’t spend more time looking past him to find Jan’s killer. 

“I don’t feel they put any effort into this,” he said. 

Chris said he still longs for his wife of nearly two decades. 

“I miss everything,” he said through tears. “I miss watching her get ready for work in the morning, I miss my ‘have a good day’ kiss and ‘hey honey’ when I come home from work. I miss her smile and the sound of her voice. Jan was the best.”

Prosecutors have said they have no new leads or suspects in the case and still believe they found the man responsible.