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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Trial set for December in Superior homicide

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No public safety issue in Clarkfield shooting incident

CLARKFIELD, Minn. -- Yellow Medicine County sheriff's officials are working with agencies from several jurisdictions, including South Dakota, in an investigation of an incident Tuesday morning in Clarkfield in which a handgun was fired during a law enforcement interview.

No one was injured and there is no threat to public safety, Yellow Medicine County Sheriff Bill Flaten said.

Flaten said Wednesday in an interview that the person is not in custody in Yellow Medicine County but is in a secure facility. He said more information would be released on the case, possibly by this morning.

In a news release Tuesday night, Flaten said agents from the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation were at a Clarkfield home to interview a person regarding an investigation in South Dakota.

The Yellow Medicine County Sheriff's Office was providing security assistance when the person being interviewed produced a handgun. The interviewing officers began to struggle with the person, and the gun discharged during the struggle.

Officers secured the weapon and the scene.

Besides law enforcement from Yellow Medicine County and South Dakota, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Yellow Medicine County Attorney's Office and Yellow Medicine County Family Services are assisting in the investigation.


Invasive species found on boat leaving Lake Bemidji

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- A watercraft inspector discovered zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil on a boat trailer exiting Lake Bemidji this month, though they didn't originate here.

The zebra mussels and watermilfoil appeared to be dried and dead, said Henry Drewes,  Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regional fisheries manager. He said if that's the case, DNR officials wouldn't expect the incident to result in an infestation, something that Beltrami County has thus far been able to avoid.

"What it tells you, though, is that boats coming from infested waters, despite all the publicity, people are still not being vigilant enough about cleaning their watercraft before they move them," Drewes said.

The boat discovered Aug. 2 had recently been in the Twin Cities in Lake Minnetonka, one of the most infested waters in Minnesota. The boaters were from North Dakota.

"I think it also illustrates the mobility of people and their equipment," Drewes added.

The boaters cleaned the boat and were issued a $500 fine.


New search planned for missing Duluth woman

DULUTH -- Law enforcement officers and volunteers will spend today looking for a Duluth woman who went missing last month.

Authorities plan to conduct searches in the Lincoln Park area where Dale Gerard raised her family. Gerard has dementia, and her family said last week that she often believes she’s living in the past.

Gerard, 74, went missing from her home at an assisted-living facility July 20 and has not been seen since.

Police said she boarded a bus and got off at Piedmont Avenue and Seventh Street, and then walked into the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

The Duluth Police Department, St. Louis County Rescue Squad and volunteers will conduct today’s searches. The agencies also are reminding residents and business owners to search their buildings, campers, boats and other locations where Gerard could be staying.

Gerard is 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighs 155 pounds and has brown eyes and auburn or reddish hair. She has distinct red marks on her chin, nose and cheeks. She last was seen wearing dark-colored pants, a flowered blouse and a pink sweater.


North Dakota

Two drivers killed in fiery semi collision

VALLEY CITY, N.D. -- Two men were pronounced dead at the scene of a fiery collision involving two semis around 9 a.m. Wednesday east of Litchville, the North Dakota Highway Patrol said.

The first vehicle was eastbound on Highway 46 about 20 miles south of Valley City when it failed to stop at the intersection of Highway 1, a release from the patrol stated. A northbound truck on Highway 1 wasn’t able to stop in time and struck the eastbound semi, Sgt. Tom Herzig said.

Both trucks ended up in the ditch near the intersection and both drivers were killed.

The crash remains under investigation. The drivers’ names have not been released.


Dickinson building permits down, values up

DICKINSON, N.D. -- If 2012 was the year of single-family home construction in Dickinson, 2013 is the year of commercial and public structures.

The overall number of new building permits in 2013 as of the end of July are down compared to the same time frame in 2012, but permit values have increased, according to the July 2013 building permit report for the city.

In the first seven months of 2012, the city issued 442 new building permits -- 363 for single-family structures, 32 for commercial structures and the rest for multifamily structures. Permit values were $150.3 million, less than half the record-breaking $389 million seen in 2012.

From January to July this year, the city issued 245 building permits -- 193 for single-family homes, 41 for commercial structures, three for public buildings and eight for multifamily structures. The value of these 245 structures is $233.6 million.

“When you permit the hospital, obviously that’s going to drive our average number up quite a bit,” said Brian Bachman, vice president of Meyer Real Estate Group, a Minnesota-based commercial and residential developer with offices in Dickinson.

This spring’s late winter storms combined with the onslaught of rain early this summer delayed the construction of single-family homes, Bachman said.

Other major projects include the Sanford Health Clinic, Menards and several municipal buildings.


Parents of four children charged in child abuse case

MAPLETON, N.D. -- The parents of a family of four children ages 5 months to 13 years face felony child abuse charges after investigators discovered the children living in a wet trailer home covered with dirt and mold.

Misty Renee Byrd, 31, of Dickinson, was charged Monday in Cass County District Court with four counts of Class C felony abuse or neglect of a child. Nathan James Roper, who is 39 or 40, of Mapleton, was charged Aug. 8 with three of the same counts.

Documents filed with the case state that law enforcement officers discovered filthy conditions in Roper’s trailer in Mapleton, where the four children were living. There was a hole in the ceiling panels with what appeared to be mold growing on them, and there was a towel turning brown on top of the electrical box under the hole in the ceiling.

Walls and ceilings in the trailer also appeared to be growing mold, the complaint stated.

The carpet was so wet with moisture from the trailer not sealing correctly that it felt mushy underfoot, according to one officer. There was also mold growing on one of the children’s mattresses, and a large number of flies in the trailer.

Court dates for the couple have not been set. A warrant for Byrd’s arrest was issued Wednesday.



Schaffhausen house receives no bids

HUDSON, Wis. -- A sheriff’s sale auction for the Schaffhausen house in River Falls where three sisters were killed by their father drew no bidders Tuesday at the St. Croix County Government Center.

That means the property will be retained by Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union of St. Paul, which held the mortgage for the property at 2790 Morningside Ave.

Affinity Plus set the opening bid at $189,261. The auction was overseen by St. Croix County Sheriff Jason Sykora.

When no one responded to the opening bid, Sykora said the property reverted to Affinity Plus.

Aaron Schaffhausen, 35, was convicted of killing his three daughters -- Amara, 11; Sophie, 8; and Cecilia, 5 -- at the house in July 2012. Earlier that year he had taken out a 30-year mortgage and still owed $181,000.

Schaffhausen is now serving a life sentence.

His wife, Jessica, and a local group of supporters are raising money to build a special playground in River Falls as a memorial to the Schaffhausen sisters. Called Tri-Angels Playground, it would be accessible for children of all ages and abilities.


Trial set for December in Superior homicide

SUPERIOR, Wis. -- A December trial has been set for an Arizona man accused in the fatal shooting May 23 of Terence Rodney Luukkonen.

Juan Leonardo Padilla, 41, of Fort Mohave, Ariz., faces a charge of first-degree intentional homicide. Padilla is accused of shooting Luukkonen as he sat in his vehicle in the parking lot of Genesis Attachments in Superior. Luukkonen worked as a purchasing director at Genesis.

A vehicle owned by Padilla was seen casing the Genesis parking lot two days before the shooting. Police learned from Luukkonen’s fiancée that Padilla, with whom she’d had a relationship that ended, had threatened to kill Luukkonen.

District Attorney Dan Blank requested the trial date Wednesday, hoping a definitive time line would expedite testing and results of evidence sent to the Wisconsin Crime Lab.

Padilla’s attorney, Chief Public Defender J. Patrick O’Neill, said it was difficult to predict when his case would be ready if additional scientific testing would be necessary to defend his client.

“We can set a date with the understanding that it’s not necessarily a firm date,” O’Neill said.

Douglas County District Court Judge George Glonek set a trial for Dec. 10, and advised Blank and O’Neill to notify him as soon as possible if that date won’t work.


Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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