For the second Friday in a row, St. Paul police announced they had found a missing woman dead — and they said one man may be linked to both homicides.

“Cases like this are extremely rare, but they are reminders to all of us that monsters can be real,” said St. Paul Police Chief Axel Henry.

Manijeh “Mani” Starren, 31, was last heard from April 21. Police identified Joseph Steven Jorgenson, 40, as a suspect.

During the investigation, police received a tip that Jorgenson was connected to Fanta Xayavong, 33, of Lakeville. She was last seen two years ago.

Both women had been in relationships with Jorgenson at some point, according to St. Paul police.

Police found Starren’s remains in a Woodbury storage facility last week and Xayavong’s in a Coon Rapids storage unit on Thursday. Both had been dismembered, and their deaths were ruled as homicides.

The Ramsey County attorney’s office last Friday charged Jorgenson, of Maplewood, with the murder of Starren, of St. Paul. St. Paul police said Friday that Jorgenson is a “person of interest” in Xayavong’s homicide. Police continue to investigate and charges have not been filed.

An attorney representing Jorgenson in the Starren case could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter commended officers’ work in investigating both cases and offered his condolences to the women’s families.

“In the face of evil, our officers have shown courage and dedication,” Carter said in a statement Friday. “… I pray for justice for Mani and Fanta, and for peace and closure for their families.” He urged anyone experiencing domestic violence to not “stay silent.”

Search warrants in Coon Rapids, Shoreview

Starren’s father reported her missing May 1. She lived on East Seventh Street near Johnson Parkway in St. Paul and an apartment manager told police that her boyfriend was “Joe,” who investigators identified as Jorgenson.

In the meantime, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension human trafficking task force received a tip from a man who reported he believed his friend, Xayavong, “was missing and a victim of sex trafficking and he believed the suspect to be Jorgenson,” according to search warrant affidavits filed in the Starren investigation.

Xayavong’s friend said he last saw her in July 2021 and hadn’t heard from her since. He said she struggled with drug addiction and he was trying to help get her into rehabilitation, but Jorgenson threatened to kill him, the affidavits said. The friend provided text messages of threats to law enforcement.

The man also said “Jorgenson was very abusing towards Xayavong,” the affidavits said.

Investigators spoke with Xayavong’s family, who confirmed no one had contact with her since July 2021.

“Our investigators received this tip and they were in the middle of another investigation where Joseph Jorgensen was a person of interest, so they immediately became concerned for her safety and opened a missing person’s case,” said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a St. Paul police spokesman.

The investigation into Xayavong’s disappearance led investigators to carry out a search warrant at a storage unit in the 9100 block of University Avenue Northwest in Coon Rapids on Thursday. They found human remains, which were brought to the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office, and confirmed Friday to be Xayavong.

Investigators served a search warrant on Friday at a Shoreview home that belonged to Jorgenson until last September.

“The search warrant was conducted with the hopes of finding any evidence in relation to the death investigation involving Fanta Xayavong,” Ernster said.

Asking for tips

Police asked on Friday that anyone who has information regarding Jorgenson and other people who may be missing to contact the BCA tipline at 877-996-6222 or It’s not known whether there could be other cases linked to him, Ernster said.

“We don’t know and I think that’s the part that we want to know,” Ernster said. “… This started as a simple tip, somebody that cared for somebody and made that phone call and it led to (Xayavong’s) discovery. Unfortunately, she was deceased. Hopefully, … somebody can call and we can get ahead of this curve.”

Law enforcement from various departments have been part of the investigations. “This case will likely span numerous cities and counties,” Chief Henry said.

When police identify a possible crime scene in Xayavong’s case, whether it’s in Ramsey or Anoka county or elsewhere, investigators will work with prosecutors, Ernster said.

Rocky Graziano Jr., who was married for a time to one of Xayavong’s older sisters, recalled her as a light spirit who loved to laugh and joke around with family. He first met her when she was about 14.

“She was a sweetheart. She was like my little sister,” he said Friday. “She had one of the greatest smiles.”

Her family, who was originally from Laos, lived in North Minneapolis before moving to a house in Apple Valley that he helped fix up for them. When Xayavong’s mother died in 2010, Graziano recalled her eldest sister stepping into the motherly role over the six children, of which Xavayong was the youngest daughter.

After his divorce in 2009, Graziano said he only ran into Xayavong once or twice in her adult life.

Suspect remains jailed

When police were investigating Starren’s disappearance, investigators learned on May 24 that apartment management found surveillance video of Starren and Jorgenson from a camera situated by her apartment.

Video showed Starren fleeing her apartment on April 21 and Jorgenson pushing her back inside, but police didn’t find video of her leaving again. The criminal complaint against him spelled out other evidence: Video of Jorgenson carrying bags from Starren’s apartment; a foul odor that people smelled coming from Jorgenson’s apartment; and Jorgenson’s cellphone location being tracked to the area of the Woodbury storage facility where Starren’s remains were found last week.

Starren’s father reported to police she struggled with drug addiction and was supposed to go into a treatment center, but hadn’t showed up. He “believed his daughter was afraid of a boyfriend,” the complaint said.

April 21, the day Starren was last heard from, “was the first day of the worst” months that her “family could be put through,” a friend of Starren’s wrote on GoFundMe. “… Her beautiful three kids have horrifically lost the most beautiful person in their lives.”

Jorgenson remains jailed. SWAT officers went to his Maplewood apartment with a search warrant on June 26, and he barricaded himself, set a fire and fought with officers, according to an arson charge filed against him.

For help and how to help

People experiencing domestic violence can call the Minnesota Day One Crisis Hotline 866-223-1111, which is available 24/7.

A fundraiser for Mani Starren’s funeral is online at

Frederick Melo contributed to this report.