Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include information about Rice’s first court appearance.
Nearly 15 years after 18-year-old college student Anita Knutson was found murdered in her off-campus apartment in Minot, North Dakota police have made an arrest in her case.
At a press conference on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, Minot Police announced the arrest of 34-year-old Nichole Rice. Rice was Anita’s roommate at the time of her murder.
In making the announcement, Minot Police Chief John Klug said, “Although most of the detectives who worked the original scene and investigation have retired, we have not forgotten about this case.” The chief went on to say Rice was always considered a person of interest. He did not go into further details of the case or a motive.
Anita’s story was featured in Dateline’s Cold Case Spotlight digital series in 2015 and included an interview with her younger sister, Anna.
Anna Knutson told Dateline that even though Anita was then living away from home, she was close to their tightknit family. “For some reason, it always seemed like no matter who she was talking to,” Anna said, “she made them feel like the most important person in the world at that time.” Anna was only 15 years old when Anita was killed.
In June of 2007, after not hearing from Anita, Gordon Knutson grew worried about his oldest daughter. He went to her apartment on June 4. Anita’s car was parked outside and the apartment was locked. The apartment manager let him in the apartment where he discovered his daughter’s body in her bedroom. Anita had been stabbed multiple times. The murder weapon, a bloody knife, had been left behind in the sink. Nothing appeared to be missing from the apartment, but a slashed screen from Anita’s bedroom window was found on the ground outside.
A few years later, Anita’s death was followed by another tragedy in the Knutson family, Anna told Dateline in 2015. This time it was their brother Daniel. “What haunts me most about the death of my sister is that whoever killed her, also took the life of my brother that very day,” Anna said. “After she was killed, he was never the same.” Daniel died by suicide in 2013.
“My heart goes out to the family,” Chief Klug said at Wednesday’s press conference announcing the arrest. “I wish we could have solved this sooner, but at the same time, I’m glad to say that we have the person responsible for the murder of Anita Knutson in custody.”
Nichole Rice was charged with murder, which is a AA felony, and was taken to the Ward County Jail on Wednesday afternoon.
UPDATE: According to NBC affiliate KFYR, Rice made her initial appearance by video at the Ward County courthouse Thursday afternoon. The judge set Rice’s bond at $120,000 cash, or a $250,000 surety bond. Rice will be back in court April 21 for her preliminary hearing and arraignment.
According to the Ward County Sheriff’s Department, Rice posted bond on Thursday evening.
If you have any further information about Anita’s case, please call the Minot Police Department at (701) 852-0111.