DULUTH – A manslaughter charge against a Hibbing man was upgraded to murder Thursday in the 2017 death of his former landlord.

Blake Andrew Stangel, 51, was charged in early June with second-degree manslaughter following a DNA match. The charge was changed to intentional second-degree murder after Stangel allegedly admitted to a woman in a phone call from jail to tying up Hibbing resident Courtney Fenske during a burglary, according to the criminal complaint.

Fenske, 71, died by asphyxiation, authorities have said.

According to the amended complaint: Stangel made a recorded call to a woman while in custody. He allegedly said that he went to a burglary with someone five years ago and " 'helped tied someone up.' " That person, who Stangel described as a former landlord " 'ended up dying from it … ,' " he said, " 'they couldn't get loose.' "

A November 2017 welfare check led to the discovery of Fenske after a mail carrier contacted authorities when Fenske hadn't picked up her mail for several days. Her death was ruled a homicide. DNA samples were taken from the scene but there was no initial match.

A May 20 tip to the Grand Rapids Police Department led the sheriff's office to Stangel, who was arrested by Hibbing police on outstanding warrants for unrelated charges.

He consented to a DNA sample that matched samples taken from the crime scene in 2017.

Stangel, who had been released on bail, was arrested Thursday, according to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office. He is at the St. Louis County jail in Virginia, Minn., awaiting arraignment on the new charge. No one else has been charged in connection with Fenske's death.

Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450