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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Arrest made in shooting death
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Texas man pleads guilty in rape case

WILLMAR, Minn. -- A Texas man pleaded guilty Thursday to an amended charge of second-degree criminal sexual conduct for sexually assaulting a teenage girl last summer in Willmar.


Sentencing for Esequiel Gomez Jr., 21, is set for July 24 in Kandiyohi County District Court.

Assistant County Attorney Dain Olson noted for District Judge Donald M. Spilseth that the charge against Gomez would be reduced from the first-degree level and that his 117-month sentence, nearly 10 years, would be an upward departure from state sentencing guidelines.

Gomez has been held in the Kandiyohi County Jail on $1 million bail since October, when he was extradited to Minnesota from Texas after DNA testing linked him to the July sexual assault.

Gomez is also charged with capital murder in the August 2011 killing of an elderly woman in Tulia, Texas. During Thursday's hearing, he told the judge he intends to fight extradition.

According to previous information from Kandiyohi County Attorney Jenna Fischer, the then 14-year-old victim identified Gomez as her attacker in a photo lineup prepared by Willmar police. The girl said she had been sexually assaulted around 2 a.m. July 29 near a footbridge over railroad tracks in Willmar.


Duluth Seaway Port Authority director to retire

DULUTH -- The Duluth Seaway Port Authority is beginning a search for a new executive director.

Adolph Ojard, who has filled the position for 10 years, plans to retire this year.

"I enjoy my job, but personally it's the right time," Ojard, who will turn 64 in June, said after Thursday's Port Authority meeting, at which board members voted to hire InPursuit of St. Paul to conduct a national search for Ojard's successor. "It's a good time for change. Anyone coming in will have new ideas is good. Change is good."

Ojard was appointed executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority in March 2003 to succeed Davis Helberg, who retired after 24 years.

Ojard, a Knife River native, worked 27 years in the transportation sector for U.S. Steel and the corporation's spinoff company, Transtar Inc.

In 1997, U.S. Steel transferred Ojard to Duluth, where he served as general manager of the USS Great Lakes Fleet, also assuming managerial duties for the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway Co. from 1999 to 2002.

Ojard was selected for the Port Authority position from among 45 candidates from throughout the United States and Canada.


Convicted child predator faces new charges

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- A former Dilworth man serving 12 years in prison on a previous child sex abuse conviction is facing new child sex abuse charges filed Wednesday in Clay County District Court.

Robert James Hersrud, 29, faces two counts of felony first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person under 13, a charge that can carry a 30-year prison term upon conviction, depending on criminal history.

A complaint says police conducted an interview in June 2010 with a then-3-year-old child who reported being inappropriately touched by Hersrud, but the child was unable to give further details.

On March 21, the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center contacted police after a 6-year-old reported to them having being raped by Hersrud, whom she identified as being now in jail.

Hersrud pleaded guilty last year to sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy while on probation for sexually assaulting an underage girl in 2005.

Prosecutors said at the time of his conviction that he is likely to be civilly committed for life.


Resorts, hotels expect solid summer season

DULUTH -- The majority of Minnesota resorts and campgrounds polled in a recent survey, 84 percent, expect their 2013 summer season to be as good as or better than last year, according to Explore Minnesota Tourism, the state-funded tourism promotional agency.

The poll was released Thursday ahead of Memorial Day weekend, traditionally the kickoff of the summer vacation season.

Explore Minnesota says higher gas prices aren't likely to waylay travel spending in the state.

Of the 240 hotels and motels, resorts, B&Bs, campgrounds and vacation home rentals polled, 38 percent expect a better year than 2012 and 46 percent expect as good a year as last. Nearly half predict higher revenues in 2013, the tourism agency said.

The news comes after a cold and snowy spring slowed travel in some areas, especially hitting sectors of the tourism industry that focus on outdoor recreation. Among responding hotels and motels whose business is much less weather-dependent, more than half reported higher occupancy this spring than last.


Two Becker deputies rescue dog from wildfire

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- Two Becker County sheriff's deputies helped save a scared family dog caught in the Green Valley wildfire last week near Menahga.

Deputy Todd Glander and Deputy Jon Peterson were helping with the evacuation of homes threatened by the fire, according to a news release from the Becker County Sheriff's Office.

After residents cleared the area, the deputies returned to double-check homes. In one house, the deputies discovered a dog in a kennel attached to one of the houses jumping up and down, obviously panicked, according to the release.

Flames upwards of 30 feet high were fast approaching, but the two deputies rushed to grab the dog and take it back to their squad car. They found a neighbor who reunited the dog with its family.

"It is this kind of devotion to duty and compassion that makes me appreciate working and living in this area of the country," County Administrator Jack Ingstad said in the release. "Thank you to those deputies and all the other individuals who assisted in the Green Valley fire. It is not said enough, but you are appreciated."


North Dakota

Broker accused of bilking clients will plead guilty

FARGO -- A former West Fargo securities broker charged with bilking investors out of more than $900,000 in a Ponzi-type scheme has agreed to plead guilty.

Robert Medhus, 65, was charged in Cass County District Court with 16 counts of securities fraud, theft and selling unregistered securities.

Assistant Cass County State's Attorney Cherie Clark said Thursday that Medhus has agreed to plead guilty, though she wouldn't disclose any other details.

His plea hearing is set for June 10.

Medhus is accused of taking investors' money for his own personal use instead of investing it in securities. Court documents allege he provided clients with faked or exaggerated account statements.


South Dakota

Small part of South Dakota out of drought

MITCHELL, S.D. -- Recent rains have bumped about 5 percent of South Dakota out of drought conditions.

While that may sound insignificant, it's the biggest portion of the state to be out of drought since the current dry spell took a turn for the worse at the end of last June.

The rest of the state remains at least abnormally dry, the lowest classification on the U.S. Drought Monitor Map, maintained by the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb. A new map is released every Thursday.

Other major movements in the South Dakota portion of the map include drops in extreme drought from 21 percent to 6 percent of the state, and a drop in severe drought from 65 percent to 39 percent of the state. The classifications, in order of severity, are abnormally dry, moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional. For the sixth week in a row, none of South Dakota is in exceptional drought.



Arrest made in shooting death

SUPERIOR, Wis. -- A man was arrested at a Duluth motel Thursday night after a deadly shooting in Superior.

The Superior Police Department earlier in the day called the midday death of a man found with a gunshot wound in a Superior manufacturer's parking lot "suspicious." The injury initially had been reported as a self-inflicted wound.

A man was arrested by a swarm of Duluth police officers at 5:55 p.m. at the Allyndale Motel in West Duluth. He was being held Thursday night in the St. Louis County Jail awaiting charges on what Superior police are calling a homicide.

Police responded at 12:20 p.m. to a 911 report of a person with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the parking lot of Genesis Attachments, 1000 Genesis Drive, on Connors Point.

Police found a man with at least one gunshot wound. He was taken by ambulance to Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth where he was pronounced dead a short time later, police said.

Superior police said the investigation is ongoing.