REGIONAL BRIEFS: Dog attacked by wolvesSUPERIOR, Wis. -- A pet beagle was injured by wolves in the town of Dairyland on July 18, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
From Forum Communications News Bureau
Arraignment set for father accused of killing daughters (HSO)
HUDSON, Wis. -- A Minot, N.D., man accused in the murder of his three young daughters was bound over for trial in St. Croix County Circuit Court Tuesday morning.
Judge Scott Needham found probable cause that Aaron Schaffhausen committed a felony and set an arraignment hearing for Aug. 28, when he will enter a plea.
Schaffhausen, 35, is charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the July 10 deaths of daughters Amara, 11, Sophie, 8, and Cecelia, 5, at their River Falls residence. He appeared in an orange jail suit in handcuffs and showed no emotion through the hour and one half hearing.
One witness, investigator John Wilson of River Falls Police Department, testified that after arriving at the Schaffhausen home and about 4 p.m., he found a young child in a bedroom, “lifeless with a blanket pulled up to her neck, blood on her face and her eyes open.”
He testified to finding the two other children in similar condition in separate upstairs bedrooms and a large pool of blood and blood spatters in one of the rooms.
Wilson said he observed the autopsies on the three girls at the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s office in St. Paul. He said two of the girls had, “large gaping wounds across their necks,” and one child had “two gaping wounds across her neck.”
A specific murder weapon has not been identified.
2-year-old killed, three injured in crash (DNT)
WASHBURN, Wis -- A 2-year-old child from Bayfield was killed in a car accident where three others received life-threatening injuries.
Four people, including three children, were ejected from a vehicle Monday afternoon after the Chevy Blazer they were riding in left Wisconsin Highway 13 and rolled just north of Washburn, the Bayfield County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Mariah Gordon, 2, was killed; Carter Gordon, 6, and Myley Gordon, 4, both of Washburn, and Erica Gonzalez, 15, of Bayfield, received life-threatening injuries. The driver, Chelsea Cadotte, 23, of Bayfield, had non-life-threatening injuries. No one was wearing a seatbelt.
All four of those ejected later were flown to a Duluth hospital, Chief Deputy Dan Clark said. Cadotte, who was referred to as the mother of at least some of the victims, wasn’t ejected. She went to a hospital in Duluth by ambulance.
A driver came upon the scene about 1 p.m. and called 911, Clark said. The car had been traveling south toward Washburn and was found overturned in a field on the east side of the highway.
Minnesota man arrested after high-speed chase ends with a swim (ST)
SUPERIOR, Wis. -- A 27-year-old Minnesota man who tried to swim from police after a high-speed chase was arrested Monday evening, according to the Wisconsin State Patrol.
About 5:50 p.m., a state patrol trooper attempted to stop a vehicle driven by Christopher Lee Stensgard of Cottage Grove, Minn., for a traffic violation. According to a news release from the state patrol, Stensgard attempted to flee at a high rate of speed, then left his vehicle and four passengers. He then jumped into Clam Lake in an apparent attempt to swim across the lake.
Stensgard was charged with fleeing, possession of methamphetamines and possession of a stolen vehicle.
Dog attacked by wolves (ST)
SUPERIOR, Wis. -- A pet beagle was injured by wolves in the town of Dairyland on July 18, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The attack occurred on private land and is the second wolf attack on a dog in Douglas County so far this year. A bobcat hound was killed Jan. 18 by wolves in the town of Solon Springs. Six wolves were involved, according to information released by the DNR.
Additional Douglas County wolf-related incidents this year include the killing of two Holstein calves and a Hereford beef calf.
Ms. Wheelchair USA eager to inspire others (RE)
ELLSWORTH, Wis. – Ellsworth resident Tasha Schuh is eager to use her new title of Ms. Wheelchair USA to create more opportunities to inspire others.
“My passion is speaking,” Schuh said.
As an inspirational speaker, she devotes much of her time to visiting schools, churches, correctional facilities, hospitals and other locations where she can encourage and motivate others.
Schuh earned the title Saturday in Ohio in an event which featured nine participants from various states.
“It’s about what you’ve achieved while being in a wheelchair, and your philosophies and attitudes about your disability,” Schuh explained.
The organization promotes “glamour, self-confidence and community service.”
Schuh has been in a wheelchair since 1997, when as an Ellsworth High School student she took a single step during a scene change for a school musical performance in Red Wing, Minn., and dropped through an open trap door, falling 16 feet onto the cement below.
While she admits she was initially discouraged and angry, Schuh quickly changed her attitude and now tries to inspire others.
“That’s exactly what everybody needs in this world — hope to know that better days are ahead,” she said.
Citizen committee tackles flood claims (ST)
SUPERIOR, WIS. -- A panel of citizens that considers claims for legal damages against the city has considered about 35 claims — with more expected in August — after flooding and sewer backups left people with thousands of dollars in damages.
The storm of June 19-20 washed out roads, turned one city park into a swimming pool and turned basements into storm- and wastewater holding ponds.
“The claims volume for this committee is off the charts,” said City Attorney Frog Prell. He said Superior’s Liability Claims Committee was sympathetic to people’s losses but it’s their responsibility to determine if damage was the result of negligence by city staff.
In some cases, residents survived the initial flooding only to have their basements fill with rain and wastewater after a sanitary sewer cover was removed at 15th Avenue East and Bardon Avenue.
“It’s likely or possible that the lion’s share of your claims will be denied,” Prell warned more than 60 people who turned out at a committee meeting last week.
In 1999, about 55 claims against the city were filed after heavy rain caused basement flooding throughout the city.
Those claims were denied because it was determined nature, not negligence on the part of city staff, caused the basement flooding.
F-M construction shows strength (FF)
FARGO – The construction industry in the Fargo-Moorhead area is having its strongest year since 2007, building permit information compiled by the Home Builders Association of Fargo-Moorhead shows.
Total construction value for the first six months of the year is more than $263 million, up almost $100 million from the same period in 2011, said Terry Becker, the association’s president.
“After three years of flooding and a shaky national economy, it is refreshing to see the home-building industry thriving again and crews are extra busy on job sites,” Becker said.
The association’s report said housing starts are up 90 percent from the same time last year, with West Fargo showing the biggest gains. West Fargo posted 178 housing starts this year, compared to 69 last year at this time
Fargo went from 104 housing starts in the first half of 2011 to 172 this year, while Moorhead numbers went from 27 to 44.
St. Michael man pleads guilty (GFH)
FARGO -- A St. Michael, N.D., man admitted in federal court Tuesday to causing a drunken driving accident that led to a Grand Forks man’s death.
Douglas Allen Baker, also known as Douglas Lawrence, faces up to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter in U.S. District Court in Fargo.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Baker was speeding around a curve on a rural road on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation at 7:22 a.m. on Sept. 8, when he lost control of his vehicle.
The vehicle hit head on with an oncoming vehicle driven by Dana Grow, who was on his way to work.
Baker’s blood alcohol was tested by authorities at .210, more than twice the legal limit.
Sentencing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 15 at 11 a.m.
Work will restore scenic route through national park (DP)
DICKINSON, N.D. -- A $2.4 million construction project on a nearly one-mile portion of road will enable tourists to take a 14-mile scenic drive through Theodore Roosevelt National Park in mid-October if all goes as planned.
The road has been closed to vehicles since last summer, but pedestrian traffic has been allowed on the western section of the North Unit road.
But that will change with work to begin this week.
“When construction starts, bikers and walkers will also not be allowed to access the road until the construction is through,” Eileen Andes, the park’s chief of interpretation, said Monday.
Andes said the road six-and-a-half miles into the North Unit of the park developed a “pretty large slump” late last summer and it needs to be repaired so vehicles can regain access to the road.
The cost of fixing the North Unit road and a spot on a South Unit road is $2.4 million, which Andes said will be funded with emergency relief for federally owned roads.
Andes said building roads in the Badlands “means the ground is made of rock and soil material that erodes fairly easily,” and that, with heavy rain last year, caused the roads to deteriorate.
Senate campaigns raise more the $6 million (FF)
FARGO – North Dakota’s U.S. Senate candidates have raised nearly $6.2 million – and spent more than $3.1 million – in pursuit of victory in November.
The latest financial figures for Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rep. Rick Berg come as they enter the most intensive months of the campaign, leading up to Election Day on Nov. 6.
Second-quarter finance reports made available this past week from the Federal Election Commission show Berg continues to hold a significant financial edge over Heitkamp, although both had strong fundraising in recent months.
Between April 1 and June 30, Berg collected more than $1.2 million in campaign donations and spent $628,000. He reported $100,000 in campaign debt, a personal loan rolled over from his House campaign two years ago.
As of July 1, Berg had $2.2 million in available cash, more than three times the amount Heitkamp had in her campaign war chest by that date. The gap comes in part from Heitkamp ramping up her expenses, spending more than she took in during the second quarter.
In the same three-month period ending June 30, Heitkamp brought in $977,000 while spending nearly $1.1 million, making the second quarter her costliest so far.
Engineer OK’s permit for Devils Lake outlet (GFH)
The North Dakota state engineer has affirmed the state’s permit to operate the new Devils Lake East End Outlet.
Todd Sando, in a memo to the State Water Commission, said the state has met or will meet all requirements in the operation of the new outlet, which will drain a maximum of 350 cubic feet of water per second from East Devils Lake to the Tolna Coulee and the Sheyenne River.
The action was taken after a hearing last month requested by downstream opponents of the project, who fear more flooding, more erosion and diminished water quality, among other things.
Sando’s memo did, however, suggest two modifications to the conditions listed in the drain permit.
It recommends adding that the Water Commission monitor erosion on the Sheyenne River and in the Tolna Coulee from the discharge point of the outlet to where the coulee joins the Sheyenne River.
It also broadens the scope of another condition, “to allow the state engineer to require modification of the project for any reason, not solely to protect downstream property and fish and wildlife resources.”
Airport screener accused of domestic violence (FF)
DEVILS LAKE, N.D. – A screening officer at Devils Lake Regional Airport is accused of assaulting his roommate and threatening him with a handgun – his second arrest for domestic violence within a year.
Robert Don Jensen, 40, of Brinsmade, N.D., was charged last week in Benson County District Court with felony terrorizing and misdemeanor counts of simple assault and ingesting a controlled substance. Authorities alleged his urine tested positive for THC, the active chemical in marijuana.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Jensen was being held on $5,000 bail in the Lake Region Correctional Center in Devils Lake. He remains employed by the federal Transportation Security Administration, said John Hursey, TSA federal security director. A TSA spokeswoman said in an email that Jensen has been removed from screening operations pending the outcome of the case.
The assault charge alleges that Jensen came home from the bar July 13 and pushed and shoved his roommate during an argument, leaving him with a fat lip and red marks on his cheeks.
After the dispute, Jensen allegedly threatened the man with a gun, causing him to fear for his life and leave the residence, according to the terrorizing charge.
Man accused of taking steel pleads guilty (FF)
FARGO – A West Fargo man accused of stealing $23,000 worth of stainless steel from his former employer pleaded guilty to one of two charges against him Tuesday in Cass County District Court.
Brian Hemphill, 32, entered an Alford plea to a felony burglary charge, meaning he admitted there was enough evidence for a conviction but didn’t admit guilt. A theft charge was dismissed.
Judge Steven McCullough sentenced Hemphill to a five-year prison term, which will be suspended during five years of probation, and gave him credit for 132 days served in jail since his arrest.
Hemphill also must pay $10,000 in restitution to his former employer, Standard Industries of Fargo, to cover its insurance deductible.
Hemphill was recently involved in court proceedings after being run over last year by 73-year-old Alois Vetter, his former West Fargo landlord. Vetter was sentenced to two years in prison after a jury found him guilty of felony charges of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. The prison term is stayed until an appeal is settled.
Hemphill suffered several broken ribs and a collapsed lung in the incident.
Murder charges added in Native Mob case (BP)
MINNEAPOLIS – A complex case alleging violence, drugs and retaliation by the Native Mob gang now includes accusations of murder.
A superseding indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, also updates the case file with additional charges against purported gang members from Bemidji, Cass Lake and the surrounding area.
Prosecutors filed additional charges late last week against Shawn Michael Martinez, also known as Tinez, for murder, murder in aid of racketeering, retaliation against a witness by murder and witness tampering.
He is accused of killing fellow Native Mob member Jeremee Kraskey on Feb. 26, 2011.
“The premeditated murder was purportedly committed to keep Kraskey from offering law enforcement information and in retaliation for a mistaken belief that he had already provided information to law enforcement about the gang’s activities,” a news release issued Tuesday stated.
The Native Mob, a well-structured, highly organized gang with influence from the Twin Cities to reservations throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, started in the 1990s in Minneapolis and membership is estimated at around 200.
Court papers detail crimes on the state’s American Indian reservations – including Leech Lake, Red Lake, White Earth and Mille Lacs – and near Duluth and the Twin Cities area.
Man pleads guilty to embezzling from Masons (BP)
BEMIDJI – A former treasurer of the Bemidji Masonic Lodge pleaded guilty Tuesday to swindling more than $45,000 from the fraternal organization.
Nathan Arlo Pochardt, 40, of Bemidji entered the plea in Beltrami County District Court to gross misdemeanor theft. Previously charged with a felony, Pochardt agreed to the amended charge after prosecutors consulted with Masonic Lodge officers.
A judge ordered Pochardt to immediately repay $45,555.48 to the Masonic Lodge No. 233. In addition, he was sentenced to one year in jail, with all but 30 days suspended for two years, and a $1,000 fine.
Jury convicts man of sex abuse (BP)
MINNEAPOLIS – A jury found a 60-year-old Red Lake man guilty Tuesday of sexually abusing two girls.
Dean Earl Wilkens was found guilty of four counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12.
The conviction came after a four-day trial in Minneapolis.
Wilkens remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, prosecutors presented evidence showing Wilkens engaged in sexual acts with two girls on the Red Lake Indian Reservation between December 2008 and December 2011.
The crimes were reported to the FBI, which worked on the investigation with the Red Lake Tribal Police Department, after one of the victims disclosed the abuse to a school official.
Wilkens faces a maximum penalty of life in prison for each count. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis will determine his sentence at a future hearing. No date has been set for the sentencing hearing.
City worker overcome by fumes (WCT)
WILLMAR, Minn — A Willmar city employee was hospitalized Tuesday afternoon after being overcome by fumes while cleaning a pool shed at Rice Park.
Police cordoned off the area and evacuated several downwind houses. About 10 people had to leave their homes for about 90 minutes.
The park’s wading pool was closed for maintenance work, so the pool was empty, and no children were involved in the incident.
The cleaning chemicals were isolated and placed in a barrel.
County fair offering free weddings, vow renewals (WB)
LAKE ELMO, Minn. -- Couples seeking a unique wedding experience will have that opportunity during the Washington County Fair.
The fair will be offering free weddings and vow renewals at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Lake Elmo, Aug. 1-5.
Couples will sign up 30 minutes before their desired time slot for either a wedding or vow renewal. Ceremonies will last between three and five minutes.
The ceremonies, being officiated by 10th Judicial District Judge Greg Galler, will take place on a hill overlooking Washington County's Master Gardeners Fairest Garden. Bergmann's Greenhouse and Farm Market in Stillwater will be landscaping and decorating the immediate area of the ceremonies.
“I liked it because it was different than what I was used to at county fairs,” said Margot Rheinberger, the Washington County Fair Board director. “It is something unexpected.”
The weddings and vow renewals have one catch though – couples and guests have to purchase a Washington County Fair admission.
Woman accused of faking identity for housing help (WB)
WOODBURY, Minn. -- A Woodbury woman was indicted on federal charges that she created an alternative identity to receive government payments to live in a low-income housing development here.
An indictment alleges Oluremi George, 53, received more than $18,000 in low-income housing tax credits through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to a justice department news release. George was charged with five counts of Social Security fraud, four counts of making false statements and one count of passport fraud.
The indictment alleges George used the name “Victoria Avoola” and a fraudulently obtained Social Security number to establish an identity she used in filing for low-income housing. The development provides housing assistance to residents through HUD loans and low-income housing tax credits.
According to the indictment, George reported between 2008 and 2011 that her income would be within range to be eligible for the low-income housing, or no higher than $31,995. However, George’s actual income cleared at least $55,000 each of those years, according to the allegations.
Positive signs for Twin Cities housing market (WB)
The number of foreclosures and short sales are dropping. Traditional sellers aren’t waiting months to sell their homes anymore. List prices are rising.
Last month’s data gathered by the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors states that all are signs of a recovering housing market across the state.
Buyers have already snatched up the good short sales and foreclosures, said Dixie Ewing, a real estate agent who’s been working in the Woodbury housing market for 34 years.
“We are seeing more traditional sellers versus the short sales and the foreclosure market,” she said.
Merchants cool to downtown church idea (PRE)
PARK RAPIDS, Minn. – An offshoot of a Detroit Lakes, Minn., church has proposed moving into downtown Park Rapids, but the idea is being met with some resistance.
A church official said he thinks downtown would be a “perfect fit” for the Vineyard campus because Sunday mornings few merchants would be open.
“Basically it’s going to be a campus of Lakes Area Vineyard Church in Detroit Lakes,” said church consultant Mike Meagher. “It will be our first campus. We’re looking for a new location. We don’t know if it’s going to be a storefront. We’re exploring that option.”
The proposed site is at 119 Main Avenue. Meagher said the campus pastors would be Robb and Sara Swanson. Robb Swanson owns Zhateau Zorbaz; Sara Swanson is a Park Rapids attorney.
But the issue of a downtown worship center is stirring debate among merchants. Brett and Heidi Behnken, owners of The Lazy One on Main Avenue wrote to the Park Rapids Planning Commission that downtown “should be for retail stores and the like only.”
“Tourists come solely for the shopping and eating experiences on Main Street,” the letter said.
The planning commission was to take up the issue at a Monday meeting but did not have enough members for a quorum.
Lawsuit claims civil rights violations (RE)
RED WING, Minn. -- A lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court last month against Kenyon (Minn.) Police Chief Lee Sjolander and Minnesota State Highway Patrol Officer Troy Siems alleging civil rights violations.
Richard Thissen, who owned an insurance agency in Kenyon, and his attorneys filed the complaint June 14.
In it, Thissen alleges that both Sjolander and Siems used “excessive force” while taking him into custody on two separate occasions in 2009, depriving Thissen of his civil rights outlined in the U.S. Constitution.
The complaint also alleges conspiracy by Sjolander and Siems to violate Thiessen’s civil rights.
Thissen is asking for an amount exceeding $75,000 for “mental anguish, pain and suffering and humiliation,” attorneys’ fees and other damages.
Jon Iverson, of Iverson Reuvers, will represent Sjolander. He said his office has until July 31 to file a response to the complaint.
“We are going to be filing our aggressive response by the end of this month and are confident that the claims will be dismissed by the federal court as early as possible,” Iverson said.
Siems will be represented by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.