Just before midnight on June 24, a police officer in the tiny northern Minnesota town of Deer River spotted a car with an obstructed license plate. When the cop tried to pull the vehicle over, however, it only accelerated.
The fleeing car reached nearly 100 miles per hour as it sped along rural Minnesota roads. It flew into a ditch, then climbed out again, then crashed once more. Finally, it stopped for good.
The driver bolted into the woods. The passenger, a balding redhead named Joseph Christen Thoresen, was ordered onto the ground at gunpoint and placed in handcuffs.
Thoresen was then released.
It was a decision authorities would later regret.
After they found the driver hiding in a nearby house, the man told them a terrifying story.
Thoresen had forced him to drive at knife-point, he claimed, according to an Itasca County criminal complaint. Even worse, Thoresen had allegedly confessed to committing a horrific crime.
Several days earlier, Thoresen had killed the car’s owner, a friend of his named David Alexander Haiman, the driver said.
Thoresen had admitted to beating Haiman with a baseball bat before stabbing him in the lungs, the driver continued, according to the complaint.
Then Thoresen had cut off his friend’s head and left the body parts in the woods to rot, said the driver, who is identified in the complaint by his initials, T.M.C.
It would be two days before authorities would arrest Thoresen, who now faces a charge of second-degree murder.
Almost as shocking as the alleged crime was the way it supposedly came about.
It’s a dark story involving marijuana, methamphetamine, torture and murder.
And it began with an allegation of rape.
A rape allegation and an ambush
Joe Thoresen and David Haiman were friends, at least on Facebook. They made an odd pair.
Thoresen was a 35-year-old with a temper and a rap sheet. Standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 225 pounds, he had been convicted three times for disorderly conduct and spent time in jail, Minnesota criminal records show.
Haiman was a whippet-thin 20-year-old with a penchant for cars and a habit of making funny faces in photos.
It’s unclear how the two knew each other, but an old Facebook page under Thoresen’s name says he once was in a relationship with a Brittany Haiman. The same account suggests a “fast” and “rough” lifestyle.
By June 2015, Thoresen was seeing another woman, referred to in the complaint only by her initials. Facebook shows them in a relationship, and also shows her listing Haiman as a “friend.” The Washington Post generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.
When Thoresen told his girlfriend early last week that Haiman was coming over to their Grand Rapids, Minn., apartment, however, she was not having it.
“She was upset and told Thoresen that [Haiman] raped her in their bedroom,” according to the complaint.
When Haiman arrived, she confronted him, punching him repeatedly, she later told police.
Haiman “agreed to be tied up and beat up,” according to the complaint. “She tied up [Haiman] in the bedroom, she punched [him] in the face and broke his nose and kicked him in the gut.”
The girlfriend then untied Haiman before Thoresen joined in the beating, punching him and telling him that he “should not have raped ‘my girl,’ ” the complaint says.
A drug run and an argument in the woods
At first, it appeared as if that would be the end of the rape allegation. The three talked about “scoring some bud” before driving off in Haiman’s car in search of marijuana, according to the complaint. As they drove, Haiman sat in the back, untied, according to the complaint.
There was, however, a hint that all was not forgiven.
On the back seat next to Haiman lay a baseball bat and knife.
After a short drive, the three stopped in Deer River to smoke marijuana with friends.
Then they made another stop in the even smaller town of Ball Club, where they smoked some meth, according to the complaint.
Whether it was the drugs or his broken nose, Haiman began calling Thoresen and his girlfriend “worthless pieces of s—” and her a “slut,” she told police.
As they argued, the car began to have trouble. Still arguing, Thoresen and Haiman inspected the motor. The older man told the younger one to check the engine’s oil.
That’s when Thoresen hit him in the head with the bat, the girlfriend and driver both told police.
Thoresen then “stabbed him in the lungs with a black machete with holes in it,” according to the complaint.
Haiman “was on the ground groaning and asking for her,” the girlfriend said, when “Thoresen took a large knife from [Haiman]’s belt loop and cut off [his] head.”
This was “not my Joe,” she later told police, apparently blaming the killing on methamphetamine.
After cutting off his friend’s head, Thoresen “threw it in the woods,” according to the complaint. He then “dragged [Haiman’s] body in the woods,” leaving his pants “covered in blood from the knee down.”
After the killing, Thoresen and his girlfriend drove back to their apartment, where he cleaned up the blood, the complaint says.
A day or two later, Thoresen showed up at T.M.C.’s house in Haiman’s car, the driver told police. Thoresen allegedly told him everything, but T.M.C. “did not initially believe Thoresen.
After another day or two, Thoresen came back to T.M.C.’s house with a blood-covered bat, according to the complaint.
“T.M.C. stated that he got scared and burnt the bat in his fire pit on Friday morning,” the complaint says.
When he found a shoe in his yard, perhaps belonging to Haiman, T.M.C. also chucked it into the fire.
At one point, Thoresen allegedly brought Haiman’s belongings to T.M.C.’s house, including a laptop, phone and an empty brown wallet, which he tossed at T.M.C.
When Thoresen left T.M.C.’s house, he didn’t bother to take the wallet with him.
A bloody machete under the bed
It wasn’t until June 26, nearly a week after the killing and two days after letting Thoresen go following the high-speed chase, that investigators finally arrived at his door.
Thoresen told an investigator that he hadn’t talked to Haiman in two or three weeks, according to the complaint. But when the investigator asked to look at Thoresen’s phone, it showed a text conversation between the two men June 20.
He was arrested and taken to jail.
Investigators found Thoresen’s girlfriend sleeping in the bedroom. When they later questioned her, she told them about the rape, the torture, the killing and the dismemberment, according to the complaint.
She even told them that the machete was under her bed, covered in blood and her fingerprints “because she moved it,” the complaint says.
It didn’t take authorities long to find Haiman.
His “torso was located at 9:30 a.m. … in the vicinity identified” by the girlfriend, the complaint says. The torso “appeared to have been dragged to the location where [it] was found.”
His head, meanwhile, was found an hour later, along with bags containing Haiman’s clothing and identification.
A reported confession
Once in custody, Thoresen allegedly confessed to killing and dismembering his own friend, local TV station KBJR6 reported, citing Itasca County court documents.
Thoresen was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder. His bond is set at $2 million and he is due back in court July 5, according to KBJR6. His girlfriend has not been indicted at this time.
It’s unclear whether T.M.C., the driver during the chase, has been charged. Cops did not find a knife in the car to back up his claim that Thoresen had forced him to flee police, according to the complaint.
It’s also unclear from the complaint whether there was any truth to the rape accusation that allegedly triggered the gruesome slaying.
Haiman’s friends did not appear to give the rape allegation much credence as they mourned the young man online.
“That’s my bedroom,” Elizabeth Clark-Eliason wrote under Haiman’s Facebook profile picture. “I’m never gonna get over this.”
Others also reacted in disbelief at the 20-year-old’s brutal beheading.
“I miss you,” wrote Denice Sinner. “I wish this was a dream!”
“RIP David,” added Danielle Campbell. “[You] were a good guy and didn’t deserve any of this.”