Officials release details in Menominee Township body case

MENOMINEE — A South Dakota man is accused of killing and dismembering his “on-again, off-again” girlfriend, then transporting her body across several states before dumping it in a Menominee Township river near his hometown in Michigan.

Officials from the Menominee County Sheriff’s Department have officially identified the body found Saturday in the Menominee Township river as Tamara LaFramboise, 46, of Yankton County, South Dakota.

Stephen Falkenberg, 45, of Yankton, has been charged in the South Dakota county with second-degree murder, and is accused of killing LaFramboise in Yankton and then taking her body to Menominee Township, where he allegedly dumped it in a river near his brother’s house, according to The Associated Press.

LaFramboise’s body, which was found dismembered in the Little River and then recovered by the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, was identified by the tattoos on her body, the AP reported.

However, the victim’s head, hands and feet remain missing after authorities searched the river and surrounding areas, Menominee County Sheriff Kenny Marks said at a Wednesday press conference, a video of which was posted online by WFRV Local 5.

LaFramboise had last been seen March 1 at her apartment west of Yankton and was reported missing by her mother March 5, investigators said.

The date of LaFramboise’s death remains unknown and results of a forensic autopsy completed by the Fond du Lac County Medical Examiner’s Office in Wisconsin are still pending at this time, officials said at the news conference.

Falkenberg, who was originally from Menominee and was known to have recently traveled to the area, is being held on a $1 million cash bond at the Yankton County Jail, officials said at the press conference.

Falkenberg’s attorney, Clint Sargent said his client is expected to plead not guilty during a court appearance today, an AP story states.

A probable cause affidavit states LaFramboise’s mother told case investigators that her daughter had a turbulent, “on-again, off-again” relationship with Falkenberg, according to the AP. The document also indicated Falkenberg told his sister he had an argument with LaFramboise at her Yankton apartment, and that he pushed her, and she hit her head and died. Falkenberg said he dismembered the body to conceal her identity, according to the AP’s report of the document.

Jeffrey Rogg, chief assistant prosecuting attorney in Menominee County, said charges against Falkenberg have not been filed in Michigan.

“It’s believed that the murder occurred in South Dakota, so that’s where the prosecution for that crime will take place,” Rogg said at the news conference. “We’re still conducting a very thorough and elaborate investigation here, and if at some point additional charges are warranted here, those will be evaluated and pursued.”

LaFramboise’s body was initially found by two boys who were walking their dog on No. 5 road, just west of County Road 577 in Menominee Township, when they looked over a bridge and saw a dismembered body in the river, Marks said at the news conference.

A parent then made the call to police, and officials from multiple agencies responded, Marks said.

A Menominee Police Department officer at the scene recalled a recent missing person’s report from South Dakota about LaFramboise, Marks said, noting that that report “was significant in leading and linking this body to the missing woman in Yankton County, South Dakota.”

Police have executed numerous search warrants related to the case, officials said. They have also employed the use of a K-9 cadaver-sniffing dog from the Michigan State Police in an attempt to locate the missing body parts.

“We are still searching, and we’re encouraging other jurisdictions to be aware and vigilant as well that they have not been recovered at this time,” Marks said at the conference.

Officials also encouraged Menominee-area citizens to be on the lookout for anything suspicious and to report it to law enforcement.

Officials also asked the public to keep LaFramboise’s family and memory in mind going forward.

“There have been some frankly gory details that have been released in this case and I think it’s important to remember that there is a human aspect to this case too. And that is that Ms. LaFramboise was the daughter of a woman, her mother who still lives in New Mexico. She was the mother of two young adult children,” Rogg said at the news conference. “If you’re a praying person, I would urge you to consider keeping their family in mind during the next difficult days, weeks and months for them to come, as they not only deal with the loss of their loved one but the progress of this criminal case.”

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.