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REGIONAL BRIEFS: 24-year-old gets 10-year term in stabbing


Minn. man fit to stand trial in fatal stabbing

MONTEVIDEO, Minn. - A murder case against a 25-year-old Montevideo man accused in a fatal stabbing is moving forward.

Judge Dwayne Knutsen last week confirmed an earlier order finding Darek Jon Nelson mentally competent to stand trial in the Jan. 13 slaying of his co-worker, Vinessa Lozano, 18, at the Pizza Ranch in Montevideo. A grand jury has indicted Nelson on a charge of first-degree premeditated murder.

Court records allege Nelson had concealed a knife in a hooded sweatshirt at work and told investigators he planned to kill Lozano if she continued to reject his interest in her. On the night of the fatal stabbing, Nelson had placed a note on Lozano's shoulder stating "I love you." She crumpled the note and threw it away, according to statements a witness gave investigators.

Dilworth man sentenced for stabbing incident

MOORHEAD, Minn. - A Dilworth man accused of stabbing an acquaintance in the back in August was sentenced Friday to 120 days in jail.

Rodrick Mark Ponce, 48, pleaded guilty earlier this month to felony third-degree assault in Clay County District Court. A second-degree assault charge was dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

The stabbing was reported at 2:01 a.m. Aug. 9 in the 700 block of Center Avenue West in Dilworth.

According to the complaint, Ponce initially told police that he and the victim had been drinking all day and that he'd been sharpening his knife that night. He said the victim was sitting in a chair in front of him when he fell backward onto the knife, the complaint states.


Minn-Dak fined for watershed discharges

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative of Wahpeton, N.D., has paid a $70,000 fine and aggressively taken corrective steps to address problems identified at several Minn-Dak sugar beet piling sites in Minnesota following an investigation by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

MPCA staff investigated after receiving a complaint of smelly, polluted waters in drainage areas leading to the Rabbit River in the spring of 2011.

Investigators determined the pollution came from polluted runoff from Minn-Dak's Lyngaas, Yaggi and Hawes sugar beet piling sites. Inspections also found problems with company reporting practices, land application of waste beets, and disposal of solid waste on site by burning.


24-year-old gets 10-year term in stabbing

LITCHFIELD, Minn. - Nels Clarence Bonde, 24, of Dassel, was sentenced Thursday to 10 years and 10 months in prison on a first-degree assault charge for stabbing a woman during a May 4 incident at a rural Litchfield residence.

As part of a plea agreement in Meeker County District Court, charges of second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon were dismissed.

Bonde had been accused of stabbing a 25-year-old woman in her sleep.


North Dakota

Witness in synthetic drug case beaten in jail

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -The East Grand Forks man who admitted in court to giving a friend a fatal dose of synthetic drugs was beaten up by a fellow inmate two weeks later in the Grand Forks County jail for talking with authorities, a federal prosecutor said Thursday.

Brandon Lee Turner, 22, faces a felony charge of retaliating against a witness in the alleged beating of Adam Budge, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Shasky. Turner, arraigned Thursday in federal court in Fargo, pleaded not guilty.

His alleged victim, Budge, 19, admitted Sept. 5 in federal court that he gave a drug-laced chocolate bar to Elijah Stai, 17, that led to Stai's death in June.

Budge took a plea deal with prosecutors and discussed his involvement in a an alleged drug conspiracy based in Grand Forks that made and distributed synthetic hallucinogens.

Nine others have been charged in the federal case which prosecutors say led to two deaths.


Relief fund set up for fire-ravage ND town

BUCYRUS, N.D. - A credit union has established a relief fund for residents of Bucyrus after a wildfire all but destroyed the small southwestern North Dakota community and left residents wondering how the town will recover.

Dakota Plains Federal Credit Union, based in Lemmon, S.D., has set up a fund at its branch in Hettinger, which is near Bucyrus. The credit union also has established a $50,000 pool from which to make low-interest loans to fire victims.

Donations to the Bucyrus Disaster Relief Fund can be sent to Dakota Plains Federal Credit Union, 221 South Main St., P.O. Box 1020, Hettinger, N.D. 58639.


Authorities seek three in N.D. bank robbery

NEW ENGLAND -- Law enforcement is looking for two - possibly three - suspects linked to an armed robbery early Thursday at American Bank Center.

Two armed men wearing dark-colored ski masks reportedly entered the bank from a next door alleyway and approached a bank teller, who followed the robbers' instruction and placed a known amount of money in a laptop bag, according to a news release from the Hettinger County Sheriff's Office.

The suspects are believed to have gotten into a dark grey or dark green compact pickup before leaving.

One suspect is a white male, approximately 6 feet tall and weighs between 165 pounds to 170 pounds. He wore a light blue jean jacket and dark blue and carried a sawed-off pump shotgun with a light colored wood stock.

A second suspect is approximately 5 foot, 6 inches tall, weighs 155 pounds and has long, dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. He wore a red bandana tied around his neck, a black sweatshirt/jacket, dark pants and black shoes, and he carried a large-frame revolver with a 6- or 8-inch barrel.

The possible third suspect is a white male who wore a brimmed hat and was driving a dark green or dark gray compact pickup, possibly a Ford Ranger.

Anyone with tips is asked to call (800) 472-2121.


Duluth plant closes permanently Friday

DULUTH, Minn. - The Georgia-Pacific hardboard plant here permanently closed Friday, according to company spokesman Eric Abercrombie, a move that puts 141 employees out of work.

Georgia Pacific announced the plant closure Aug. 21 and said at that time it would be closed by the end of August.

Abercrombie said the plant closed Friday because "it has gotten to the point where there was no more work to be done." He said there are no plans to reopen the plant and Georgia Pacific is working with the Workforce Development Center in Duluth to assist the laid off employees in finding other jobs.


Remains in swamp area ID'd as missing man

DULUTH, Minn. - Human remains discovered Sunday in a swampy area northwest of here have been identified as those of a man missing more than two years, the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office said Friday.

Andrew Michael Owca, then 44, was reported missing Oct. 5, 2010, from a group home at 5799 Lavaque Road in Canosia Township. In a news release, the Sheriff's Office reported that upland game hunters found human remains at about 10 a.m. Sunday in the Canosia Wildlife Management Area, several hundred meters off the wildlife trail.

Officers presumed the remains were those of Owca, the news release said. He was positively identified through dental records.

An autopsy on Wednesday showed no signs of trauma, the news release said, and officials said the case is considered closed.


South Dakota

'Colbert Report' gets dig in at Corn Palace

MITCHELL, S.D. - Mitchell's Corn Palace received an "a-maize-ing" six minutes and 37 seconds of free national publicity Thursday night.

Stephen Colbert did a segment about the corn-covered auditorium and tourist attraction on his popular "The Colbert Report" Comedy Central cable television show.

The segment, titled "A Shucking Disaster: Nightmare at the Mitchell Corn Palace," took the form of a mock television news report about the effects of the ongoing drought, which has forced the Corn Palace to reduce from 12 to eight the number of different corn colors on its murals.

The report was filled with sarcastic yet mostly good-natured humor.

"We've seen the crushed farming communities," Colbert narrated in an ominous-sounding voice. "We've been warned about rising food and fuel prices.

"But no one prepared us for less vibrant corn murals."


S.D. board declines to lessen murder sentence

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied a convicted murderer's request to have his life sentence reduced.

Larry Gene Faller, 59, was sentenced to life in prison in 1973 for the murder of Woonsocket resident Pearl Warner. He was also given a concurrent 10-year sentence for committing assault with intent to kill on Volney T. Warner, Pearl Warner's husband.

Thursday, Faller appeared before the Board of Pardons and Paroles at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls hoping the board would vote to recommend his life sentence be reduced to a term of years, which would eventually allow him to seek release from prison on parole.


Police chief sentenced for failure to report

WAGNER, S.D. - The former police chief of Wagner was sentenced to community service for failing to report his girlfriend's drug paraphernalia.

Attorney General Marty Jackley announced Friday that James A. Chaney, 44, Wagner, was sentenced to serve 180 days in jail and pay a $1,000 fine on one count of misprision of a felony, a misdemeanor.

But the sentence is suspended on the condition that Chaney complete 120 hours of community service within the next four months.

A news release said the charge against Chaney "stemmed from Chaney's failure to report drug paraphernalia at his place of residence."

Court documents previously indicated Chaney was accused of using a storage unit at the Wagner Police Department to store needles his girlfriend, Charline Cournoyer, apparently used to take meth.