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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Repeat sex offender gets 13-year sentence

From the Forum News Service


Arson confirmed in fire at former Moorhead nightclub

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- An investigation confirms that Monday’s fire at the former Coach’s Sports Pub in downtown Moorhead was the result of arson, Moorhead police said Tuesday.

The fire is believed to have been intentionally started on the main floor in the kitchen area of the building.

No one was injured in the fire.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the fire.

The Tip Hotline number is (800) 723-2020.

Anyone with information about the fire can contact Moorhead police by calling (701) 451-7660 and asking for the Moorhead police on-duty shift supervisor.

The fire was discovered about 2:45 a.m. Monday by a police officer on patrol, and fire officials believe the fire may have been burning for some time.

The building had sat empty since Coach’s closed in 2005.

Fire Chief Rich Duysen said Monday that when firefighters arrived on scene, they found an open door and signs that a fire had been intentionally set in the building’s kitchen.


Suspect arrested in hit-and-run death of bicyclist

MINNEAPOLIS -- A suspect has been arrested in a hit-and-run bicycle crash in Minneapolis last week that killed a 24-year-old woman with close ties to the Hoffman-Kensington area.

Minneapolis police arrested Abdirahman Abdi Ali, 24, on Monday morning after he turned himself in.

Jessica Hanson was on her way to her boyfriend's house July 3 when she was struck. She was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center and pronounced dead Friday morning.

Police said the vehicle involved was driving faster than the speed limit with its lights off when it ran a stop sign, hit Hanson and left the scene. Using information from witnesses, Minneapolis police located Ali’s vehicle and were looking for him after making contacts within the community, according to a news release.

Hanson, a 2007 graduate of West Central Area High School, received a degree in computer graphic design from Alexandria Technical and Community College and held jobs in Alexandria. Hanson designed the signature logo for the city of Hoffman, which appears on the city water tower.

Her parents, Jerome and Natalie Hanson, live in Hoffman. Jerome is an auctioneer and Natalie is a state trooper who works out of the Morris region.


Minnesota’s wolf population down from 2008

DULUTH -- A survey across Minnesota’s northern forest last winter showed the state has about 2,211 wolves, down some from the most recent survey in 2008.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced the revised estimate Tuesday after a winter-long survey taken by biologists and other wildlife experts.

The number is down about 710 from the state’s last major wolf count taken during the winter of 2007-08 and comes on the heels of last autumn’s controversial wolf hunting and trapping seasons when 413 wolves were killed. They were the first regulated wolf seasons in Minnesota and the first sanctioned public killing of wolves since the 1960s. The hunt was allowed only after the wolf population had recovered enough to be taken off the federal endangered species list earlier in 2012.

Another 200 or so wolves were trapped and killed last year, as they are each year, under a government-sanctioned program that targets wolves near where livestock have been attacked.

Although lower than the 2008 wolf population survey midpoint estimate of 2,921 wolves, the population exceeds the state’s minimum goal of at least 1,600 wolves and is above the federal recovery goal range of 1,251 to 1,400 animals.


Repeat sex offender gets 13-year sentence

WILLMAR, Minn. — A Willmar man was sentenced Monday to 13 years in prison, plus a 100-year conditional release period, and $3,000 in fines on a first-degree charge of criminal sexual conduct for molesting two young girls over a period of several years.

The charges against Jose Luis Ramos, 54, were filed in February, after an investigation by Willmar police. A now 21-year-old woman reported that Ramos had sexually abused her from the time she was 7 years old to when she was 14. A now 17-year-old girl also reported that Ramos abused her from the time she was 7 to age 16.

Both victims told investigators that Ramos offered them money. Most of the incidents took place in Willmar.

According to the complaint, Ramos was convicted of sexually abusing another girl in 1998.

As part of his sentence handed down Monday in Kandiyohi County District Court, Ramos was ordered to register as a predatory offender. He was given credit for 143 days already served in custody.

As part of an earlier plea agreement, eight additional counts  — seven felonies and one gross misdemeanor — were dismissed.


Man gets prison time for child porn

WILLMAR, Minn. — A Willmar man was sentenced Monday to more than four years in prison for possessing and distributing child pornography.

Stephen Elliot Titrud, 38, of Willmar, was sentenced to 51 months in prison, plus a five-year conditional release period, and $2,000 in fines on two felony charges of possession and dissemination of pornography.  Investigators found nearly 4,000 images and videos of child pornography found on his computer equipment.

As part of his sentence handed down by District Judge Donald M. Spilseth in Kandiyohi County District Court, Titrud is also required to register as a predatory offender.

The investigation began in September 2011, when agents from the Internet Crimes Against Children division started an automatic program that trolls a list of suspected Internet protocol addresses for pornography, downloading the images as it finds them.

A video showing child pornography was downloaded via file sharing from an IP address that was ultimately identified as Titrud’s computer, leading to a search of his home and computer equipment.


North Dakota

Valley City doctors, hospital hope for agreement

VALLEY CITY, N.D. -- Administrators at Mercy Hospital in Valley City and four doctors are trying to reach an agreement on emergency room services before the the end of the month. If not, patients of those doctors requiring hospitalization would not be able to get treatment from their primary doctors at Mercy Hospital.

Drs. Misty Anderson, Genevieve Govan, Dave Hochhalter and James Buhr, all physicians at Sanford Health Valley City, submitted letters resigning their privileges at Mercy Hospital on June 24. The resignations, unless rescinded, take effect Aug. 1.

If the resignations take effect, the Sanford Clinic doctors would no longer have the right or privilege to admit patients to the hospital or provide care for those hospitalized patients.

Linda Lane, director of clinical operations for Sanford Health Valley City Clinic, said a major part of the disagreement revolves around policies at the Mercy Hospital Emergency Room.

Currently, patients seeking services at the Mercy Hospital Emergency Room are treated by physicians under contract to the hospital.

Keith Heuser, administrator of Mercy Hospital, said the hospital board is trying to find solutions. Heuser would not comment on the current status of the negotiations or the topics under discussion.


Storms tear up Dunn County Airport

KILLDEER, N.D. -- Weydahl Field, commonly known as the Dunn County Airport on the north side of Killdeer, suffered a huge setback Monday evening when a storm ripped through the area.

The airport has seen a surge in use because of oil activity in the area and was in the process of being improved, but winds reaching up to 85 mph overturned airplanes and destroyed the hangar Monday, leaving only the terminal intact.

“I think it’s a real tragedy because the people that own those airplanes have helped tremendously in the effort to help rebuild the hangar and the whole airport in general,” said Mike Schollmeyer, vice chairman of the Dunn County Airport Authority. “It’s a lot of hard work that just got blown away.”

Pilots have still been landing at the airport regularly despite part of the runway being torn up, speaking to its need as the area continues to grow.

Jason Hutchinson, the airport authority’s treasurer, said at least three airplanes were in the hangar when it was destroyed.

“We’re working hard to get it open and this is just kind of another setback,” Hutchinson said. “It wasn’t much of a hanger to begin with, but it was something.”

Schollmeyer said there are no plans to abandon the work already accomplished at the airport, despite Monday’s damage.


South Dakota

Two Fish and Wildlife employees struck by car, killed

PICKSTOWN, S.D. -- Two U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees were killed when a driver hit them in a parking lot Monday evening in southeast South Dakota.

Dr. Robert Allan Klumb, 46, of Pierre, and Maegen E. Spindler, 25, of Cazenovia, N.Y., were in the Pickstown area doing field work, said Scott Larson, field supervisor in the Pierre Fish and Wildlife office. Pickstown is next to the Fort Randall Dam on the Missouri River.

Around 8:45 p.m., Ronald Ray Fischer Jr., 28, of Lake Andes, was driving a 2003 Chrysler Town and Country minivan on U.S. Highway 18 when he failed to stop at the stop sign at the T-intersection of state Highway 46.

The van traveled into the Dakota Inn parking lot, where it struck and killed Klumb and Spindler, and damaged two vehicles.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service website, Klumb was the lead research biologist in the Pierre office.

Fischer, who was seriously injured, was airlifted to Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls. He remained in the hospital Tuesday.

Lt. Alan Welsh of the South Dakota Highway Patrol said lab results of Fischer’s blood are pending to determine whether he was drunk. Witnesses were still being interviewed.


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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