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Published January 07, 2011, 03:24 PM

Murder Charge Filed in Death of NDSU Researcher

A California man is charged with murder after the head of a missing NDSU researcher was found in a Cooperstown home. His body is still missing.

A California man is charged with murder after the head of a missing NDSU researcher was found in a Cooperstown home.

Authorities say the head of 54-year-old Kurt Johnson was found late Wednesday in a Cooperstown home.

His body is still missing.

Daniel Wacht is charged with Class A Double Felony Murder.

Johnson worked out of his Cooperstown home as an associate research fellow for the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at NDSU.

Institute Director Gene Griffin says Johnson did a lot of work with the state Transportation Department.

Sheriff Robert Hook says Johnson's head was found with a bullet hole in the center of his forehead.

Sheriff Hook says Johnson's head was found in Wacht's basement at 1407 Lenham Avenue. Johnson was last seen on December 31st at the Oasis bar in Cooperstown. According to the criminal complaint someone saw Wacht throw Johnson into the rear cargo area of a van around nine that night.

Officials say family and friends filed a missing person's report four days later.

"During the investigation it became evident that Mr. Kurt Johnson who we had been searching for was deceased. Based on that information we have a murder investigation in progress," Sheriff Hook said. "The community is safe and the citizens are safe. The investigation is on-going."

Authorities say Wacht had only lived in Cooperstown for four months and did not know Johnson.

Wacht is facing life in prison without parole.

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