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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Driver charged in triple fatal was legally drunk

From the Forum Communications News Bureau

Woman is state's first West Nile death this year (MST)

MORRIS, Minn. - An elderly Stevens County woman has died after contracting West Nile virus, the first death in the state of Minnesota this year.

As of Wednesday, there have been 27 confirmed cases of West Nile virus in 18 Minnesota counties, the Minnesota Department of health reported. The virus has also been found in 12 blood donors across the state.

West Nile virus is common in open prairie and agricultural areas, said Dave Neitzel of the Minnesota Department of Health.

Since West Nile virus was first discovered in Minnesota in 2002, most of the cases have been found in the west central and southwest sections of the state.

West Nile virus is a mosquito-transmitted virus that can cause central nervous system diseases such as encephalitis or meningitis in some people. Around 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile are able to fight off the illness and show no symptoms.

Most who do become sick contract the less severe form of the disease, West Nile fever, which causes a fever, headache and body aches.

Driver charged in triple fatal was legally drunk (WCT)

WILLMAR -- Blood tests by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension show that Paul Anthony Wickenhauser was over the legal alcohol limit for driving when he allegedly caused the triple fatal motor vehicle crash Aug. 17 east of Willmar.

According to County Attorney Jenna Fischer, the BCA tests showed a 0.09 blood-alcohol content in the blood drawn from Wickenhauser after the crash. The results have prompted the county attorney's office to file four additional felony criminal vehicular operation charges against the 21-year-old Cokato man.

Fischer said she personally called the lab supervisor at the BCA this week, asking that the sample be tested quickly.

"We know now, he was under the influence and over the limit," she said Friday morning.

The additional charges were added late Thursday to the original four criminal vehicular homicide and injury charges, plus a misdemeanor for open bottle, filed against Wickenhauser in Kandiyohi County District Court.

Wickenhauser is charged for causing the crash, along Highway 12 near the intersection with County Road 127, that killed Marta Stoffers, 68, of Atwater, her daughter-in-law, Michelle Hoffman, 40, of Eden Prairie, and Hoffman's 8-year-old daughter Julia and injured Hoffman's 5-year-old son, Jason Hoffman.

Lawnmower ride raises money for better hearing (PRE)

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. -- Lions Hearing Foundation board member Bob Harms is traveling the length on Minnesota on a lawmower to raise money for better hearing.

Harms, a member of the Kington, Minn., Lions Club, arrived in Park Rapids on Thursday evening on a Toro lawnmower on his way to the Iowa state line.

The campaign, called "Steering for Better Hearing" has a goal of raising $50,000 for the Lions Children's Hearing Center at the University of Minnesota. Harms embarked on his journey Aug. 20 at the Canada border. Harms is to get to Iowa onAug. 29.

The lawnmower travels about 7 mph and was donated by Toro for the fundraiser. A raffle of a new Toro lawnmower will be raffled off at the end of Harms' journey.

For more information about the "Steering for Better Hearing" campaign go to

IDEA Competition in 5th year (GFH)

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The fifth annual IDEA Competition begins next month in Minnesota.

The competition invites entrepreneurs to submit ideas for new businesses and provides those it selects as the best with cash awards and opportunities to develop their ideas with help from experts.

The competition has given close to $250,000 to participants in northwest Minnesota so far.

Information on the competition is available at

Former employee accused of stealing from school (MST)

MORRIS, Minn. - The Morris Area School District's former director of buildings and grounds has been charged with a felony in the theft of more than $2,800 of school district property.

David Stoffer of Hancock, Minn., who resigned from his position in the district on June 13, pleaded not guilty to the single count of receiving stolen property in his first court appearance Wednesday. Stoffer faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The investigation into suspected missing computer equipment began earlier this year when a school district staff member reported that a computer had gone missing from Stoffer's office. According to the criminal complaint, a video camera showed leaving the building with another computer.

After executing two separate search warrants of Stoffer's residence in Hancock, officers recovered $2,864 dollars worth of school district equipment in Stoffer's possession: two HP Compaq computers, a ProTeam vacuum cleaner, Dewalt nailers, a Makita drill and charger and assorted computer parts, cleaning supplies, tools and other smaller value items.

South Dakota

STDs on rise in S.D. (DR)

MITCHELL, S.D. -- Sexually transmitted diseases are on a sudden and startling rise in South Dakota.

From the start of the year through the end of July, new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV/AIDS and syphilis are well above their five-year median averages, according to an infectious disease report released each month by the South Dakota Department of Health.

So far this year, there have been 2,124 cases of chlamydia reported in the state, a 24 percent increase over the five-year median average. Gonorrhea is up 58 percent over the five-year median average with 316 cases reported.

Only nine cases of syphilis have been reported so far this year, but because the disease is so rare, that equates to a 350 percent increase over the median average.

South Dakota's data runs counter to more positive national trends. A nationwide study released in 2010 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that cases of reported gonorrhea dropped by 16 percent from 2006 to 2010; but in South Dakota, that number increased by 23 percent.

Dr. Lon Kightlinger, South Dakota's state epidemiologist, said the explanation is simple: "People aren't having safe sex."

North Dakota

GOP House candidate withdraws from race (GFH)

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- District 42 House candidate Josh Schreiner is withdrawing from the November general election because of personal medical issues, he announced Friday.

"I hope for privacy in this trying time for my family and myself. This withdrawal leaves time for District 42 Republicans to find a candidate to replace me and gives our party the best chance at taking back both District 42 House seats on November 6th," he said in a statement.

Schreiner, 22, sought and won the endorsement of District 42 Republicans in February and he and John Mitzel, 19, won the GOP primary in June. Both are students at the University of North Dakota.

The Democratic candidates are Corey Mock, an incumbent, and Kylie Oversen.

Survey: N.D. 1st in job growth (GFH)

North Dakota was first in a survey of job growth by W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

Job growth in the state was up 6.9 percent in July 2012 over July 2011, according to the survey. California was in second place with growth of 2.6 percent.

North Dakota has been in first on the survey for 38 consecutive months.