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Nearly $50K in crop damage leads to criminal charges

An aerial photo from a field in the town of Erin Prairie depicts damage done by suspected vandals last week. (Submitted photo)

Suspects allegedly rode in truck that wrecked farm fields

A wild ride through multiple farm fields that allegedly inflicted thousands of dollars in crop damage led to felony charges last week for five people.

St. Croix County prosecutors filed two counts each of felony criminal property damage against Somerset resident Joshua J. Gingras, 24; Thomas V. Griffin, 25, Roberts; Nathan E. Rosenbush, 24, Hudson; Valerie A. Lubinski, 23, Baldwin; and 22-year-old Timothy J. Schwartz, Hudson.

They’re also charged with four counts each of misdemeanor criminal property damage, along with one count of misdemeanor theft.

All five suspects made their initial court appearances July 25 and are set for preliminary hearings on Aug. 9.

According to a criminal complaint:

St. Croix County sheriff’s deputies were called the morning of July 22 to the area of 130th Avenue and 170th Street for a report of damage to multiple fields.

One of the property owners, John Mickelson, said sometime the previous night a vehicle came through and damaged crops. He showed a deputy numerous circular tracks left behind.

He estimated $15,000 in crop damage, while fellow property owner Jerry Emmert, who has corn fields on either side of 130th Avenue just east of 170th Street — in addition to corn near county roads T and G — estimated he sustained about $25,000 in damage.

Property owner Rob Stafsholt, who owns corn and bean fields in the area, put his damage estimate at about $2,000.

John Schottler, another nearby property owner, reported about $500 in damage to his corn, while fellow property owner Thomas Landry reported about $500 in damage to beans and some $5,000 in wrecked corn crops.

While taking the reports, a witness approached deputies to say he’d seen online photos of a white-colored truck with corn stalks hanging off it. The caption on the photo made reference to a “Nate” and noted that he had damaged his truck the previous night.

The deputy looked closer at the photo, which appeared to have been posted by Gingras, and read the license plate displayed on the truck, which registered to Rosenbush.

A deputy went to Rosenbush’s Roberts home, where he admitted to driving his truck through numerous fields. He named other people in the truck, saying no one told him to stop.

“He said everyone was laughing and knew what was going on,” the complaint states.

Officers also spoke with Lubinski, who said a group of friends gathered at Griffin’s house, where, at about 2 a.m., someone suggested they go on a road trip. She said Rosenbush was the driver and that she, along with others, were passengers. She said the truck’s occupants weren’t drunk.

Lubinski said they were driving for a while when Rosenbush turned into a cornfield. She said she eventually told him to stop because “this was not his field to ruin,” the complaint states.

She said the group got back to Griffin’s house at about 4 a.m.

Lubinski, described by a deputy as remorseful, was taken to jail. While en route, she got a text from Gingras saying “we really had fun last night.” Gingras suggested that he was going to claim someone had taken his phone and that he had been sleeping through the night.

Deputies spoke with Schwartz, who said he had been drinking and didn’t remember what happened.

In an interview with Griffin, he also claimed to have been drunk the previous night and had no recollection of the events.

Later in the day on July 22, Jerome McAllister reported his mailbox had been stolen. The mailbox was later found in the bed of Rosenbush’s truck.

“Tell him I’m really sorry,” the complaint states Rosenbush told police about the mailbox.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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