Shooting victims mourned
As questions linger, friends, family try to heal
January 19, 2024
The shock and mystery around the deadly shootings in Cloquet on Jan. 8 remain, but, this week, for friends and family of the two victims, there was time for reflection, thanks and celebration of the lives lost.
Tim Trettel, the father of 22-year-old Shellby Trettel, who was killed that evening as she worked at the Super 8 hotel, traveled to Grand Rapids with family members Tuesday. He was there to attend the funeral for Patrick Roers, the 35-year-old hotel guest who was also killed in the shooting. Police said both were shot by hotel guest Nicholas Lenius, who was found outside on the hotel property with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Tim Trettel was preparing on Tuesday for the celebration of life on Wednesday for Shellby, having just returned from the Roers service. "We paid our respects to Patrick today," Trettel said. "We share a burden with his parents. It was comforting to be with them."
Obituaries for Trettel and Roers can be found on Page 11 of today's Pine Knot News.
"Patrick would not want this time to be filled with tears and somber faces," his family wrote in the obituary. "Although there will be some of that, he'd also want us to laugh, smile, reminisce. Oh, and joke. He'd want us to tell jokes."
Trettel said that is what he was expecting at his daughter's services on late Wednesday afternoon, along with a continued celebration of her life at the River Inn in Scanlon into the evening.
He asked that those attending wear flannel over a band T-shirt or just a hooded sweatshirt to reflect Shellby's style in clothing.
They obliged on Wednesday, as Nelson Funeral Care was awash in flannel as hundreds of people gathered to hear stories about Shellby. There were hugs, tears and laughter.
The clothing request was important, Tim said, because his daughter lovingly emulated her father.
"She was a daddy's girl, from wearing our Dad jeans to flannel. She was proud to be like me."
The running thought for him in the past week was the simple joy in riding in a car with Shellby, who often volunteered to go with her dad on short and small errands. They'd listen to shared music.
They were both quiet studies, Tim said, and while they didn't always talk a lot on those trips, they loved listening to music together. "We just sang along," he said.
He thought about those trips as he drove to Grand Rapids Tuesday.
The Roers family also talked about music. Patrick had been working as a heavy equipment operator, on the road from his home in Deer River. The family said he had just finished a pizza in his room and was in his car listening to music when Lenius encountered him, shooting Roers twice and killing him instantly. Camera footage showed that Trettel was shot in the hotel lobby and that Lenius went outside and found Roers in his vehicle.
There has been little information released about the shooter, either from police or in news accounts. Cloquet police chief Derek Randall said late Tuesday that he had not even seen an official photo of the alleged shooter.
Randall said his department, along with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, continue to investigate what might have led to the shootings.
"Our detectives and the BCA are working to process the digital evidence at the scene," Randall said. "Working with the detectives and analysts, we'll extract and compile the information gained from the devices and look for any information of evidentiary value," he said. "It's a time-consuming task that requires skilled technicians and expensive tools, which we sometimes need to outsource, but can help shed some light on situations."
The chief said there is no time estimate on when some answers might come. He said final medical examiner's reports combined with the electronic information could help officials "better understand" the scenario. "It might not give us a definite answer," he said. "We'll be looking for anything that might shed light on a motive by the suspect and to see if there's anything that supports the victims and shooter knew each other to any extent."
At the Super 8 hotel this week, employees gathered and talked about how they are doing. They are thankful for the community support, hotel manager Gloria Witte said. "So many people checked in with us," she said Tuesday. "We have a close-knit staff and they are getting through."
Witte wrote a letter to thank the community for its support, which can be found on Page 6 of today's issue. "All that support and love was felt and appreciated," Witte wrote. "We will never ever be able to understand or stop evil," she wrote, but "we are stronger" when people pull together in times of crisis.
In an interview, Witte said that with those doing their part in a difficult time, "everybody made it easier" to get through the past week. "I think everyone will be OK."
Witte, like many, said there may never be any answers to why the shooting happened. She said it remains astounding that it happened at 6:30 in the evening, with activity at stores and eateries near the hotel bustling with people. "It just came out of nowhere," she said. "It could happen anywhere."
"It's going to be a mystery, just off the wall," said Witte's sister-in-law Brenda Tischer, who was at the hotel helping out on Tuesday.
The support following the shooting could be seen beyond words all week. Online fundraising for the victims, to pay for funeral costs, totaled more than $40,000 on the two GoFundMe pages for Roers and Trettel.
Remembering a daughter
Tim Tretell was somewhat resigned in not knowing why his daughter was shot. "I don't understand why, and maybe I never will," he said. "No one will know why."
Trettel said he holds no resentment toward the shooter's family. "He had a family, and they had nothing to do with it," he said. There is pain in not knowing, he said, and it created a "mix of emotions" leading up to the services for Shellby.
Being surrounded by family this week has been crucial, he said. "A house full of people is comforting," he said. "It's been nice to have everyone home, telling stories and, yes, laughing."
He said they are all just taking things "one minute at a time."
There were lots of those moments on Wednesday at the Nelson funeral home. During a "time of sharing," several of Shellby's friends told stories of the small things they remember: Her humor, her love of music that included a Fall Out Boy obsession.
A common thread among those who spoke Wednesday was how kind and thoughtful Shellby was, how she would go out of her way to help people both at work and at home.
Tim said he has learned a lot about Shellby through the stories. "I see her a bit different," he said. Yes, she was a spirited person, and perhaps outspoken with friends. To him, there was that quietness - a bit introverted, like her dad. But he knew what many talked about since her death, that she was "always willing to reach out and help."
"The community support means a lot," he said of the reactions following Shellby's death. He said it's been a wonder "how much she meant to people."
"She was open-minded on her issues," Tim said, "And I always supported her."
He said he will never stop talking about her, and welcomes people bringing her up. As it was written in her obituary: "Shellby's love for her family, her friends, and her community will forever be honored and remembered."
"She knew very much that I loved her," Tim Trettel said. "And I know she loved me."