Credit Forum News Service
Court denies killer’s appeal in Griggs County case
BISMARCK -- Daniel Wacht, convicted in the murder and beheading of Kurt Johnson in Griggs County, has lost his appeal before the North Dakota Supreme Court, according to a court opinion released Thursday.
Wacht, who is serving a life sentence at the state prison, argued that law enforcement officials did not have probable cause to search his van and his home, where they eventually found Johnson’s head and a couch cushion and pillow stained with Johnson’s blood.
The court said that in each case, there was enough information to establish probable cause even if, as Wacht claimed, individual pieces of information were insufficient. For example, Wacht said, the fact that Johnson was last seen alive with him in his van should not give police cause to search the van. Wacht said he dropped Johnson off at a bar.
But the court said other pieces of information that might be insufficient alone were sufficient when taken together.
Prosecutors said Wacht, now 32, shot Johnson after a night of drinking Dec. 31, 2010, then cut off his head. He was convicted Aug. 1 in state district court in Cooperstown.
Wacht’s court-appointed attorney, Steven Mottinger of Johnson, Ramstad & Mottinger in Fargo, appealed to the Supreme Court later that month. Mottinger could not be reached at his office late Thursday afternoon.
Johnson’s body still has not been found.
Valley City doctors rescind resignations
VALLEY CITY, N.D. -- Four Sanford doctors who gave up admitting privileges at Mercy Hospital in Valley City because of a dispute about doctor notification practices have rescinded their resignations.
Linda Lane, director of clinical operations for Sanford Health Valley City Clinic, and Keith Heuser, president of Mercy Hospital, met with the four physicians Thursday and came to an agreement, Lane said.
"The main difference will be that (the four doctors) will be called for their patients when they are admitted (to Mercy Hospital)," Lane said.
The dispute mainly focused on Mercy Hospital’s policy of having hospital physicians treat all patients admitted through the hospital's emergency room. If those patients had a Sanford doctor as their primary physician, the Sanford doctor was not notified.
The modified process, allowing the Sanford physicians to continue their patients' treatment at Mercy Hospital, will take effect in early to mid-October, Heuser said.
If the Sanford doctors are unable to care for their patients when the patients are admitted to the hospital, they can choose whether to turn patients over to another Sanford physician or the physicians under contract to Mercy Hospital, Lane said.
Had the resignations not been rescinded, they would have taken effect Aug. 1.
Second bird found with West Nile
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Grand Forks Public Health has found a second bird dead of West Nile virus, and several groups of mosquitoes have also tested positive, mosquito control supervisor Todd Hanson said Thursday.
He said he expects to find more in the days ahead.
Culex tarsalis, the most common kind of mosquito that harbors the disease and passes it on to humans, birds and other animals, usually stick to the same area where they hatch, he said, and birds often carry the disease to other culex populations.
The first dead bird to test positive was found Monday. The second bird was found Wednesday.
The Public Health Department also tests culex mosquitoes captured in traps. Several groups throughout the city have tested positive, with two that tested positive Thursday, Hanson said.
West Nile virus is generally harmless to most, and only 1 to 5 percent of those infected even show symptoms, such as fevers, headaches, joint pain and diarrhea. It can be deadly for less than 1 percent, leading to symptoms such as inflammation of the brain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Minnesota has also reported a case of West Nile virus infection in nonhumans, and South Dakota has reported a human infection as of Tuesday, the latest data available.
Sales figures show slower growth for N.D. economy
BISMARCK -- North Dakota’s tax commissioner said Thursday the growth rate of the state’s economy slowed during the first three months of 2013, including declines in areas such as mining and construction, when compared to 2012.
In a release, Cory Fong said taxable sales and purchases were up $86.3 million from the same time in 2012, calling it a modest increase of 1.6 percent that “reflects a leveling off to a more sustainable pace.”
Nine of 15 sectors reported growth during the first three months. The utilities sector had the largest percentage growth, with 58.3 percent compared to 2012.
The wholesale trade sector saw a $80.9 million increase in taxable sales, or 6.6 percent growth.
Six sectors were down, with a 39 percent decline in transportation and warehousing, 18.1 percent drop in construction, 7.3 percent drop in mining and oil extraction, and a 7 percent drop in arts, entertainment and recreation.
Of the state’s 50 largest cities, Northwood saw the largest taxable sales increase of 42 percent, with Grafton close behind with a 39 percent increase. Kenmare saw the largest drop with 44.7 percent, followed by Walhalla’s 31.6 percent, Park River’s 31 percent and Bowman with a 29.8 percent drop.
1-year-old killed after falling off tractor
CAYUGA, N.D. -- A 1-year-old boy died near here Wednesday evening after falling from a moving tractor.
Wesley Levi Manikowski fell from the cab of the tractor at 7:41 p.m. while out seeding cover crop with his 4-year-old brother and his father, Michael Mogren of Lidgerwood, according to a release from Sargent County Sheriff Travis Paeper.
Wesley, who would have turned 2 in August, was taken to Oakes Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the release said.
Paeper called the incident a “farming accident” but said it remains under investigation.
An autopsy was scheduled Thursday in Bismarck, the release said.
Sen. Ingebrigtsen weighs run for governor
ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, says he is contemplating a run for governor.
His name has been popping up in political circles as a possible contender for challenging DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014.
When contacted Tuesday, Ingebrigtsen said he’ll make a decision in the next four to six weeks whether to jump into the race. He plans to form a committee to explore the possibility.
“I think Minnesota needs a rural choice,” he said. “I believe my seven years in the Senate, including the two years when the Republicans were in control, makes me well-suited for the office of governor.”
Ingebrigtsen, a former Douglas County sheriff, said he’s “disgusted” by Dayton’s “tax the rich” policy, which Ingebrigtsen said will impact more than those with high incomes.
He said he’ll continue to fight against business restrictions, energy mandates and gun control measures such as universal background checks.
Republicans who have announced for governor so far are Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, a former state representative and Detroit Lakes native; former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, a Maple Grove resident who grew up in North Dakota; Scott Honour, a Twin Cities businessman; and Sen. Dave Thompson, a Lakeville resident and former talk radio show host.
Denver man charged in boat accident that injured girlfriend
BEMIDJI, Minn. -- A Denver man was charged Thursday after allegedly running over his girlfriend with a boat while intoxicated Tuesday afternoon.
Lee Pratt Zitzer, 22, was charged with one count of operating a motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. The charge stems from Zitzer's operation of a boat Tuesday on Movil Lake, which ended with his girlfriend, whose name, age and condition were not released, falling from the front of the vessel and eventually being struck by the propeller.
The criminal complaint filed by the Beltrami County Attorney's Office says Zitzer's girlfriend required surgery to repair a wound that was “approximately 12-inches long and (four to five) inches wide” extending from her “groin area down to her kneecap” on her right thigh.
Police were called just before 4 p.m. Tuesday to an address in Turtle Lake Township. They found Zitzer's girlfriend with the gash on her thigh and another “propeller wound” on her right shoulder. Several people were applying pressure to the wounds.
Police found alcohol bottles in the boat and said Zitzer was “speaking with a thick tongue.” Zitzer had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.099, police said. His is next scheduled to appear in court Monday. The charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in jail, a $10,000 fine or both.
October trial set for father charged in baby’s death
MOORHEAD, Minn. -- The father accused in the death of his 5-month-old baby girl is set to stand trial Oct. 8.
Andrew Sandstrom, 24, pleaded not guilty Thursday to the charge of second-degree manslaughter. He is accused of leaving his daughter Christiana Sandstrom in a hot car for hours, leading to her death.
Sandstrom’s attorney, Kenneth Kludt, entered the not guilty plea for the father at a hearing Thursday. Sandstrom was present, along with his wife, but he didn’t speak during the hearing.
According to court records, Sandstrom told police he was at times napping and “awake or dazed” during the estimated four hours he left Christiana in the family’s van while watching he and his wife’s six children.
The other five children – three boys ages 6, 5 and 1½, along with two girls ages 7 and 3 – are in foster care in Wahpeton, N.D., after being taken into custody by Clay County Social Services the night of Christiana’s death.
Sandstrom, who is out on bail, is barred from having a supervising responsibility over any children. He is allowed to travel to Wahpeton to have supervised contact with his children, according to court records.
More than 130 dogs discovered at Pine River residence
PINE RIVER, Minn. -- An investigation by the Cass County Sheriff's Office into animal cruelty resulted in the discovery of more than 130 dogs at a Pine River home.
In a news release issued Thursday, Sheriff Tom Burch said deputies executed a search warrant Monday, but he did not name the suspect of the investigation. The release also did not state the location where 102 dogs and 29 were puppies were found.
The Animal Humane Society and the Heartland Animal Rescue Team, along with the Pine River Police Department, assisted with the investigation.
Formal charges are pending, according to the release.
Body of 2-year-old found in car’s trunk
CENTURIA, Wis. -- A 2-year-old Wisconsin boy missing since Tuesday night has been found dead in the trunk of a car.
Polk County Sheriff Peter Johnson said a law enforcement officer found the body of Isaiah Theis shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday. The body was found in the trunk of a locked vehicle near the rural Centuria residence in northwest Wisconsin where the boy lived.
According to a news release from the Polk County Sheriff's office, the area around the vehicle had been searched several times, but searchers were advised that the vehicle had been locked prior to Isaiah's disappearance and it was “extremely unlikely” that the boy could be in the vehicle.
The discovery came about a half-hour after hundreds of volunteers were told to go home for the night, as authorities continued looking. About 10 p.m. the owner of the car arrived to remove it. Prior to the owner leaving with the car, a deputy opened the trunk and found the body.
Johnson said the death of an “otherwise healthy 2-year-old boy requires a complete and thorough investigation as to any possible cause, whether that cause is accidental or criminal.”
Johnson indicated that the investigation is in its early stages. A full autopsy has been requested.
Internet-famous dog Schoep dies at age 20
BAYFIELD, Wis. -- Schoep, the Bayfield dog who with his owner became Internet celebrities last year thanks to a tender photograph of the pair in the waters of Lake Superior, died Wednesday at age 20.
The news was announced Thursday on the Facebook page for Schoep and owner John Unger. Within 20 minutes, more than 5,900 comments had been made on that post. There was no immediate word on the circumstances of Schoep's death.
Unger and Schoep drew worldwide attention last summer because of Bayfield photographer Hannah Hudson's photograph of the pair at rest in Lake Superior. Hudson took the photo July 30 and posted it the next evening on her Facebook page. Within four days it had 1.8 million views.
Gifts and monetary support poured in for Unger. That enabled Unger to get the veterinary care needed for Schoep, who at the time was arthritic, blind and hard of hearing. Schoep celebrated his 20th birthday last month.
Superior man found guilty in fatal hit and run
SUPERIOR, Wis. -- A Superior man was found guilty this week in Douglas County Circuit Court of striking and killing a pedestrian last August, then driving off.
Jeffery Swager, 48, was charged with one count of felony hit and run resulting in death, stemming from the 2012 incident that left another Superior man, 61-year-old Eugene David Renko, dead.
Swager waived his right to a jury trial Monday. The trial in front of Judge George Glonek took a day and a half. Glonek found Swager guilty following closing arguments Wednesday and ordered a presentence investigation before his Sept. 19 sentencing.
The Class D felony carries a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000.
Because Swager has previous convictions for hit and run involving injury and two counts of felony bail jumping out of Walworth County, up to six more years imprisonment can be added to the sentence.
Renko, a U.S. Navy veteran, was a self-employed computer technician.
Bail denied for homicide suspect
SUPERIOR, Wis. -- The man accused in a 2012 shooting death in Superior is being held without bail in the Douglas County Jail.
Tiawain Albert Johnson, 21, of Chicago, made an initial appearance in Douglas County Circuit Court on Wednesday. He faces one count of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Toriano Dawen Cooper on Jan. 15, 2012.
Court Commissioner Rebecca Lovejoy denied bail, noting that the complaint alleges very serious conduct, including gun use, pre-planning and fleeing the area.
Chief Public Defender J. Patrick O'Neill represents Johnson and disagrees with the decision.
"I think every person is entitled to reasonable bail," he said outside the courtroom.
According to the criminal complaint, shooting was in retaliation for an armed robbery in which Johnson was the victim. Information gathered by police suggested Cooper either orchestrated or participated in the robbery that relieved Johnson of anywhere between $5,000 and $7,000 in cash and drugs, according to witness statements.
Johnson was arrested in June in Chicago, where he was already in jail on another charge.