By Shereen Siewert

A Minnesota man is accused of killing a Wisconsin woman reported missing in 2016 and will face homicide charges, officials announced this week.

The suspect, Randall Q. Merrick, of Rochester, was arrested Wednesday and charged with first degree intentional homicide, domestic abuse and hiding a corpse. The Wisconsin Dept. of Justice and Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department issued a joint statement announcing Merrick’s arrest, connected to the disappearance of Beth Johnson.

Johnson was last seen on Christmas Day in 2016 at her Nelson, Wis. trailer. Prosecutors say Johnson’s adult son became concerned after he didn’t hear from his mother on his birthday in February 2017, and eventually called police the next month. A coworker of Johnson’s also called police in March and said Johnson had not picked up her final paycheck from the cafe where she worked, a job she left in November 2016.

The same coworker told police Merrick was abusive to Johnson. The two lived together at Johnson’s Nelson trailer.

Johnson’s son told police that his mother lived with Merrick and was his caregiver.

Police interviewed Merrick, who said Johnson moved out of the trailer to be near her boyfriend in the twin cities, leaving her 1998 Cadillac De Ville behind.

The prosecution’s case relies in part on K9 evidence that pointed to human remains in and around the vehicle’s rear passenger seat and trunk. A witness also disclosed that Merrick said police would “never find (Johnson),” according to the criminal complaint.

Her body has not been found.

The investigation is being led by the DOJ Division of Criminal Investigation and the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department. The case is being prosecuted by the Buffalo County District Attorney’s Office with assistance from the DOJ Criminal Litigation Unit Assistant Attorney General Annie Jay. The Buffalo County District Attorney’s Office is providing victim services.