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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Prosecutor says hit-and-run death may have been intentional


Prosecutor says hit-and-run death may have been intentional

CLOQUET, Minn. -- A former Duluth man was charged Friday in the Wednesday hit-and-run death of an Interstate 35 rest area janitor, and the prosecutor says there are indications it may have been intentional.

Gregory Allen Scherber, 55, was charged with criminal vehicular homicide and fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, both felonies, in Sixth District Court. More serious charges could follow based on witness statements that Scherber appeared to run over Greg “Blackie” Blackburn on purpose, Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler said.

Pertler said he is still waiting to see all of the witness statements, reconstruction of the accident scene at the rest stop near Mahtowa and photos and analysis from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension of Scherber’s blood taken after he was apprehended. The arrest came after a 25-mile police chase that ended with him and his truck in a Hermantown ditch.

The criminal complaint puts Scherber at a Duluth address, but he said in court that he now lives in Minneapolis.

(DNT Scherber mug)

Man charged with murder in Lake Hattie Township fire

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. -- A man who police say had a questionable explanation for his actions during a house fire in Lake Hattie Township on May 31 was arraigned on murder charges Friday after being arrested in St. Paul.

Fredrick William Bachman, 26, of Laporte, is accused of fatally shooting 57-year-old James Schwartzbauer that day or the day before, but it’s not clear whether he set the fire that destroyed the house.

The Bemidji Fire Department, along with deputies from the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office, were called to the home the two men shared at 5:29 a.m. May 31. There, they found Bachman standing with personal items outside Schwartzbauer’s burning house.

Bachman gave conflicting stories to police and fire personnel, was fully clothed despite saying a smoke alarm woke him and told police he saw “why the evidence points to me,” according to the criminal complaint filed by the Hubbard County Attorney’s Office. He was not taken into custody at the time, and police arrested him Wednesday in St. Paul.

Bachman is being held at the Hubbard County Jail on one count of second-degree murder. Hubbard District Judge Robert Tiffany set bail Friday at $1 million without conditions and $600,000 with conditions.


Judge sets conditions of release for father in infant’s death

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- A judge on Friday set conditions of release for a Moorhead father charged in his 5-month-old daughter’s death.

Andrew J. Sandstrom, 24, made an appearance in Clay County District Court on a charge of second-degree manslaughter.

Judge Michelle Lawson set unconditional release at $75,000 bond or cash.

For release with conditions, she set bond at $4,000 and cash bail at $400.

Sandstrom later posted $400 cash and was released from jail.

Under the term of his conditional release, Sandstrom must stay in contact with his attorney and have no supervisory position over any minor child.

Any contact with his own children must be approved by Clay County Social Services.

Sandstrom is charged in the death of his daughter, Christiana, who died after being left unattended in a van for several hours, according to court documents.

Sandstrom’s other five children, all younger than 8, were placed in foster care through Social Services after the infant was found unresponsive in the family’s van and later pronounced dead June 11.

Sandstrom, who was charged Tuesday, turned himself in to police Thursday.


Foul play not suspected in discovery of body at Nymore Beach

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The death of a 63-year-old man whose body was found on the shore of Nymore Beach on Friday afternoon is not being investigated as a homicide, Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin said.

Two boys were riding bicycles near the shoreline when they made the discovery. They walked to the construction site of the Doubletree Hotel and told Jeremy Hagman, an employee of Knife River Materials, of their discovery.

Hagman said he called police about 2 p.m. after confirming the location of the body. He added that the man was lying face down, half-submerged in the water.

Police were withholding the man’s name until his family could be identified.

Mastin said the body did not appear to have any evidence of trauma, and foul play is not suspected. A cause of death had yet to be determined, and Mastin said there was “nothing obvious” on or near the body that allowed police to say how the man died.

The body was taken from the scene by an employee with Cease Funeral Home. Beltrami County Coroner Mark Robia will handle the autopsy, Mastin said.


Woman accused of taking nearly $500,000 from employer

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- A 44-year-old Moorhead woman is accused of misappropriating nearly $500,000 from the Moorhead dental office where she worked as office manager.

Teresa R. Larson faces 11 felony charges ranging from theft to check forgery and insurance fraud.

A court complaint said a forensic accounting examination of records obtained from a search of Larson’s home indicated she used her position as office manager of Northland Dental in Moorhead to take $478,971 without authorization from January 2006 to April 2013.

The complaint said the year in which the greatest amount of money was taken was 2010, when Larson and her husband purchased their home for $292,000.

According to the complaint, Larson admitted to taking money from her employer, saying the activity began about five years ago when her husband lost his job. She told police she continued to take money after her husband returned to work.

Larson was fired from Northland Dental in April after the company discovered unauthorized purchases on the company credit card, the complaint said.

She had worked for the company for about 17 years, the last eight as office manager, the complaint said.


Thunderstorm causes damage in west-central region

BENSON, Minn. -- A thunderstorm packing rain, hail and strong wind early Friday morning roared through the west-central area, including Swift County, damaging many homes, outbuildings and trees.

The National Weather Service office in Chanhassen listed a wind speed of 85 mph at 1:33 a.m. Friday in Benson. The weather service said the city received 1.10 inches of rain.

Swift County Sheriff John Holtz described the wind as “straight-line’’ wind since the storm affected such a wide area. The hardest hit areas were Benson and Swift Falls, along with Danvers and DeGraff.

Holtz said Benson was without power for much of the time, with power coming back on around 8 a.m. Friday for some city areas. He said crews were working to restore power.

The sheriff said buildings were damaged by fallen trees, and that turkey barns were destroyed and shingles were blown off. Several power poles were snapped off, and power lines were lying on the ground.

Holtz said part of a grain elevator in Danvers blew off and landed on the railroad tracks. As of Friday, he said his office had not received any reports of injuries as cleanup was underway.


Police seek help in finding homicide victim’s cane

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- Police here are asking for the public’s help in searching their property, particularly in the downtown area, for a missing cane in the apparent killing of 87-year-old Henry Andrew Volochenko.

Moorhead police Deputy Chief Shannon Monroe confirmed Friday that the body discovered by a friend at 1209 Main Ave. here Wednesday night is that of the elderly Volochenko, a man who friends and neighbors have said often opened his home to people who fell on hard times.

Preliminary autopsy results conducted on Volochenko’s body indicate he died from “trauma -- by assaultive-type actions,” Lt. Tory Jacobson said, though he declined to specify the nature of the injuries.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Jacobson showed reporters a black walking cane that he said was similar to the one Volochenko used.

Police wouldn’t say if they suspect the missing cane was used in the assault, but they did urge area residents to look through their property for the cane or “anything unusual, anything that doesn’t belong there,” Jacobson said.


Woman sues diocese for allowing abusive priest to serve

CROOKSTON, Minn. -- A Minnesota woman filed suit Thursday in state district court in Crookston alleging negligence by the Catholic Diocese of Crookston by allowing the late James Porter to serve as a priest in Bemidji 44 years ago, when she says he sexually assaulted her many times in her home and in the church.

The lawsuit, citing damages to “Doe 4” of more than the statutory minimum of $50,000, also claims a Massachusetts diocese and a former New Mexico Catholic treatment center for priests, were negligent in allowing Porter to move to Minnesota.

Porter was removed from the priesthood in 1974 and died in 2005 of cancer after serving a prison term for sexually abusing 28 young people. He admitted to sexually attacking more than 100 young girls and boys from his ordination in 1960 to 1973, including 21 in Bemidji.

Several of his Bemidji victims earlier sued the Crookston diocese, also represented by Doe 4’s attorney, Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul, who has sued Catholic leaders and dioceses and parishes for hundreds of millions of dollars in sex abuse claims the past 20 years.

Anderson plans to hold news conferences Monday in Crookston and Bemidji.

Requests for comment from the diocese, led by Bishop James Hoeppner in Crookston, and the attorney representing the diocese, were not returned Friday.


Lowry couple seriously hurt in motorcycle-deer collision

DEER RIVER, Minn. -- A couple from west-central Minnesota suffered serious injuries Friday afternoon when the motorcycle they were riding on struck a deer near Deer River on Minnesota Highway 6.

The Minnesota State Patrol said a call came in at 12:38 p.m. about a 2008 Yamaha Road Star colliding with a deer on the highway in Itasca County. The man and woman, ages 58 and 60, were transported to the hospital in Deer River with “serious injuries,” the patrol reported, and then airlifted to Duluth. They are from Lowry, a small city south of Alexandria.

An update on their conditions was unavailable. The State Patrol is withholding the accident victims’ names until midday today.


North Dakota

Calif. man arrested after pot found on train

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- A California man was arrested in Fargo early Friday after police in Grand Forks found 12.5 pounds of marijuana hidden in an unattended bag on an Amtrak train while it was stopped at the Grand Forks Amtrak Depot.

Fargo police arrested Caesar Jay Leal Jr., 25, of Olivehurst, Calif.

According to a news release, the Grand Forks Police Department, Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force and U.S. Border Patrol were summoned to the depot at about 2:30 a.m. Friday on a tip provided by a Border Patrol agent.

Once on the scene, officers discovered an unattended bag on the second level of one of the train cars, according to the report. When no one on board claimed ownership, the bag was confiscated.

Further investigation revealed marijuana in several vacuum-sealed bags hidden within the bag. Police also discovered an identification card for Leal. Grand Forks police then contacted Fargo police, who arrested Leal when the train arrived in Fargo, according to the report.

Leal was in the Cass County jail, charged with possession of a controlled substance, according to court records. He is also charged in Grand Forks County with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.


N.D. employers to get workers’ comp rebate

BISMARCK -- North Dakota’s workers’ compensation program will send employers almost $160 million in payments as a distribution of surplus reserves.

The premium credits will go to about 22,000 employers throughout the state. They are the latest in a series of eight payouts to employers since 2005 totaling $774.3 million.

The payments mean employers in good standing will end up paying half their normal premium, according to a board member of Workforce Safety and Insurance.

“That is the maximum allowed by statute,” Ed Grossbauer, an employee representative on the board, said Friday. “It also brings us into compliance with what the Legislature prescribes.”

By law, WSI’s reserves must range between 120 percent and 140 percent of expected claims. Surpluses are distributed to premium payers. The current fund surplus is $536.1 million, with total assets of almost $1.7 billion, according to figures from WSI.


Fiery crash kills three, injures three east of Stanley

STANLEY, N.D. -- A five-vehicle crash that involved an oil tanker that exploded killed three people and injured three more east of here at 6:40 a.m. Friday, said the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

A tanker loaded with crude oil driven by Vernon Wright, 49, of Hiram, Ga., was eastbound on U.S. Highway 2, the Highway Patrol said. The tanker was turning north on a gravel road three miles east of Stanley in heavy, dense fog.

Ricky Hovland, 54, of Minot, who was heading west on Highway 2 in a Ford F-150 pickup, braked and turned right to attempt to avoid a collision with the oil tanker, authorities said.

The tanker struck the left side of the pickup, which entered a ditch, overturned and came to rest on the driver’s side.

A Chevrolet Silverado pickup driven by a 41-year-old Minot man then struck the right side of the tanker, and a Freightliner Vac truck driven by John Ofsthun, 55, of Granville, struck the rear of the Silverado pickup and the right side of the tanker trailer.

A GMC Sierra pickup driven by a 26-year-old Wahpeton man then struck the rear of the vac truck and the right side of the oil tanker. The tanker trailer exploded, and all vehicles but the Ford F-150 caught fire.

Wright, Hovland and Ofsthun moved to safety.

The 41-year-old Minot man, the 26-year-old Wahpeton man and a 23-year-old passenger in the Wahpeton man’s pickup died, the Highway Patrol said. The names were withheld pending notification of family.

The crash closed down U.S. Highway 2 until late Friday afternoon.


N.D. film initiative banquet set July 3

MANDAN, N.D. -- The Film Initiative Banquet will begin at 5:30 p.m. July 3 here at Fort Lincoln.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer will serve as emcee, along with Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Ted Baher, chief executive officer of MovieGuide.

The banquet will include a panel discussion with Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, Clay Jenkinson of Dickinson State University, Christopher Williams of Princebury Productions and other national experts.

Some of the areas for discussion are:

-- Establishing a North Dakota family-friendly film industry and commission.

-- Launching an International Badlands Film Festival focused on family-friendly films.

-- An International Badlands Screenwriting Conference with North Dakota colleges and universities.

-- Growing the North Dakota economy and education through film and media productions.

-- A North Dakota Film Fund focused on family-friendly films and American values.

-- Production of “Young Four Eyes,” an eight-part mini-series in the “Downton Abbey” genre.

For registration and more information, visit


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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