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Mother suspects murder in death of NDSCS student

Tammy Sadek, the mother of a North Dakota State College of Science student who disappeared just before he was to graduate last spring, said Tuesday she believes her son was murdered. She's shown here in a file photo from a press conference in Wahpeton, N.D., four days after her son was last seen alive on May 1. Forum News Service

FARGO – The mother of a North Dakota State College of Science student who disappeared from the school’s Wahpeton campus just before he was to graduate last spring believes her son was murdered.

was thrown in the river,” Tammy Sadek said Tuesday of her 20-year-old son, Andrew Sadek.

His body was found in the Red River near Breckenridge, Minn., on June 27. An autopsy showed he died from a gunshot to the head, but whether his death was a homicide or suicide remains undetermined.

Tammy Sadek, who made her comments during an interview on KFGO radio, said there’s no evidence her son committed suicide and that with excellent grades and plans for the weekend, he had no reason to kill himself. She said that, according to information she received from investigators, he was found with a rock-filled backpack strapped to him.

Not wanting to jeopardize the ongoing investigation, Barbara Spaeth-Baum, a spokeswoman for the NDSCS campus police, could not confirm the detail about the backpack that contained rocks. She said investigators are still looking into whether the death was a homicide or suicide, and a search continues for the gun used.

“As of right now, we don’t believe there’s any threat to the campus or the community at large,” Spaeth-Baum said.

Tammy Sadek, of Rogers, N.D., said her son was shot with a .22-caliber bullet and that her family is missing a .22-caliber gun. However, she said that does not prove he killed himself, as his own gun could have been used against him.

Spaeth-Baum also declined to confirm the bullet’s caliber.

The autopsy report described the bullet as a small-caliber round that entered the right side of Andrew Sadek’s head; the distance at which the shot was fired was unknown. The report said a toxicology test revealed that he had no drugs in his system at the time of his death.

Andrew Sadek was last seen leaving his dormitory about 2 a.m. May 1. His disappearance spurred intensive air, ground and water searches. Days later, two felony counts of drug dealing and a misdemeanor drug paraphernalia charge were filed against him in Richland County District Court. And it came to light that he was under investigation for allegedly selling marijuana on campus twice in April 2013.

Tammy Sadek said Tuesday the agency that handled the drug investigation, the Southeast Multi-County Agency Narcotics Task Force, sought cooperation from her son in trying to catch whoever supplied him with marijuana.

She said she did not become aware of the drug investigation until after her son went missing. Had she known, she would have had her son face the charges and not succumb to pressure to work for the task force, she said.

Attempts to determine the extent of Andrew Sadek’s involvement with the task force were unsuccessful Tuesday.  Phone messages left for Jason Weber, the task force officer who led the drug investigation, were not returned.

Tammy Sadek accused the task force of bullying her son and called for the North Dakota attorney general to investigate the task force’s practices.

“We want justice for Andrew,” she said.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who’s in charge of the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said there are no BCI agents on that particular task force and that he does not have authority over the task force. But he said he would be looking into Tammy Sadek’s concerns.

“I think it will be helpful to facilitate a discussion with Mrs. Sadek to make sure that she’s satisfied,” Stenehjem said. “I sympathize with this mother who lost her son, and she’s seeking answers. Who can blame her?”

Wahpeton Police Chief Scott Thorsteinson said he sits on the board that oversees the task force, but does not manage its day-to-day operations and is not privy to the details of Andrew Sadek’s drug case.

But speaking generally, Thorsteinson said it’s standard practice for narcotics investigators around the country “to use a little fish to try to get a bigger fish.”

“If you didn’t use some technique like that, you’d never be able to get the kingpins,” he said.

Thorsteinson said in most cases, task force officers develop fair relationships with informants and with people they arrest. “We’re not going to put them in harm’s way,” he said.