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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Xcel looks to end New Era Wind contracts

From the Forum News Service


Wrongful death suit settled in Larson killing

WILLMAR, Minn. -- A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Timothy Larson's family against the father and son convicted in his killing has been settled.

The Larsons' attorney, Ryan Vettleson, said the substance of the settlement is complete, but the court-ordered distribution of the proceeds from the sale of property has not been completed.

Delbert Huber, 82, is serving the maximum sentence of 367 months in prison -- more than 30 years -- for second-degree intentional murder, to which he pleaded guilty last August. His son, Timothy Huber, 47, was convicted Tuesday on two counts of second-degree murder and is awaiting sentencing.

A farm sale is scheduled for May 22 on the Huber farmstead north of Paynesville to include the sale of tractors, farm machinery and antiques, according to the auctioneer who will conduct the auction.

Vettleson said the Larsons received three of four parcels of the Hubers' property in the settlement. The remaining property, the 57-acre homestead, could not be taken in the settlement. State law provides a homestead exception from creditors, including plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit, Vettleson explained.


Another fatal crash at Goodhue County intersection

CANNON FALLS, Minn. -- A Northfield woman is dead after a T-bone crash at Highway 52 and County Road 9 around 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Sharon J. Hull, 74, was eastbound on County Road 9 when her Kia Spectra was struck by a Mazda van traveling north on Highway 52, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.

Hull was transported to Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester, where she was pronounced dead a little before midnight Thursday, the patrol said.

The driver of the van, identified as Anna M. Hauser, 29, of Galesville, Wis., was treated at Cannon Falls Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Hauser's passenger, a 1-year-old child, suffered no apparent injuries, the patrol said.

Thursday's fatal crash adds to the more than 50 T-bones recorded at the intersection south of Cannon Falls since 2000, according to Minnesota Department of Transportation data.

Eleven T-bone crashes there caused serious or fatal injuries between 2000 and 2011, MnDOT said.

The intersection has been hotly debated in Goodhue County in recent months, with county staff working to secure funds to build an overpass at the site. County Engineer Greg Isakson told county commissioners at a meeting Tuesday that his staff applied for a state grant to help fund the approximately $8 million overpass project.


Xcel looks to end New Era Wind contracts

RED WING, Minn. -- Xcel Energy could begin pulling out of an agreement to buy power from the New Era Wind Farm as early as Monday, a utility director said.

New Era was given until Sunday to resolve a delay in the production of a 78-megawatt wind farm in Goodhue County that is causing the company to default on an agreement to sell its power, said Jim Alders of Xcel Energy.

The subject of a protracted debate over regulations and environmental impacts, the proposed wind farm in Goodhue County has been a four-year, $15 million headache for the project's various developers.

Peter Mastic, owner of New Era, indicated in an April 17 letter to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that the company was looking to assign its power purchasing agreement to wind projects operated in other counties in order to fulfill its contracts with Xcel and help recover some of its investment.

But Alders said Xcel decided not to accept New Era's assignment proposals.


Fishing opener will be icy

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. -- As of Friday, it appears the Park Rapids Governor's Fishing Opener will be one for the record books.

Ice still remains on the four lakes that make up the Fish Hook chain.

"There's ice," area Fisheries supervisor Doug Kingsley quipped after a survey. "Lots of it."

Ice is receding on the Fish Hook chain's shorelines, "but not enough to fish" on Saturday, the opening day for inland walleye, northern pike and lake trout.

Gov. Mark Dayton arrived Friday afternoon and addressed the Park Rapids community.

He joked about his past luck with fishing.

"I only hope I don't disgrace the state of Minnesota and not catch a fish," he said.


North Dakota

Police investigate death of man outside strip club

FARGO -- Police are investigating the death of a man who died this week after hitting his head in a scuffle with an employee at a strip club last month.

Deputy Chief Pat Claus said Friday that police were called for a medical assist April 13 at the Northern Gentleman's Club. Officers found Christopher Barr, 38, of Devils Lake, who Claus said was alert and conscious. Claus said Barr was uncooperative and wouldn't officers what led to the injury.

Barr was taken to Sanford Medical Center. Claus said Barr died Tuesday, and his body was sent to the North Dakota state medical examiner for an autopsy, the results of which police haven't yet received.

Claus said Northern employees told police that Barr had been disruptive and was escorted out. Club staff reported that Barr returned and confronted an employee outside in the parking lot. The employee claimed to have pushed Barr in self-defense, after which he fell and hit his head. No report was taken at the time, Claus said, because Barr was unwilling to cooperate.

Claus said the case is being treated as an unattended death, and that police are working to determine the means and manner of death, as well as whether there are any allegations of a crime having been committed.


Statements by murder suspect admissible

FARGO -- FBI agents properly obtained statements from a St. Michael man about his alleged involvement in the abuse and killing of two children on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation in 2011, a judge ruled Friday.

Attorneys for Valentino James "Tino" Bagola, 20, had moved to have the statements suppressed.

Bagola faces four counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Destiny Jane Shaw, 9, and her brother, Travis Lee DuBois, Jr., 6. Their bodies were found May 21, 2011, by their mother, Mena Shaw, beneath a mattress.

Bagola is charged with two counts of first-degree murder that allege he stabbed to death each child in May 2011. He also faces a charge of killing Destiny Shaw while committing aggravated sexual abuse and a charge of killing Travis in the course of committing child abuse.

Bagola was interviewed by FBI agents last July, while in the Grand Forks County Correctional Center on unrelated state charges.

He was read his Miranda rights and signed a form saying he was willing to proceed with questioning without his attorney present, according to testimony and documents presented at a hearing before District Judge Ralph Erickson March 21.

On Friday, Erickson ruled the statements could be entered as evidence at trial, which is set to begin Sept. 3 in Fargo.


South Dakota

Fatal blaze ruled accidental, electrical

PARKSTON, S.D. -- The cause of a fatal fire Wednesday morning in Parkston has been deemed accidental and electrical in nature, according to the State Fire Marshal's Office.

Firefighters were called around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday to a fire at the home of Kathie Neal, 64. Neal, a former art teacher, died in the blaze, which destroyed the home.

The fire began in the living room before spreading to the rest of the house. No further information from the investigation was divulged.

The Kathie Neal Memorial Fund has been started at First Dakota National Bank to assist Neal's family.