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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Search for missing man suspended

From the Forum News Service


Hit-and-run suspect violated probation three times

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Martin Erwin Ubert, arrested Tuesday in the July 31 hit-and-run death of a Bemidji man, fatally struck a horse with his vehicle in February and fled the scene, police said.

Ubert was on probation for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test in 2010 when he struck the horse Feb. 20 and tested positive for methamphetamines when a Beltrami County Sheriff's Office deputy caught up with the now-58-year-old the next day, according to a police report. The positive drug test is one of three probation violations committed by Ubert since that incident.

Police believe Ubert also fled July 31 after striking and killing Christopher Strong, 25, and is scheduled to be arraigned in that case today in Beltrami District Court.

Ubert was convicted in Clearwater County for refusing to take a breathalyzer test after being arrested following an April 24, 2010, traffic stop. As a result of that conviction, he was placed on four years’ probation, the conditions of which require him to remain law-abiding, to not possess alcohol and to not incur any driver's license infractions or driving without proof of insurance.

Ubert violated those terms at least three times -- twice in Beltrami County and once in Itasca County, court documents showed. Each violation was a petty misdemeanor that resulted in a fine.

Ubert turned himself in Friday and police seized the red Monte Carlo they believe struck Strong. Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said Tuesday that an arrest was not made immediately due to the forensic examination of the vehicle over the weekend.


Search for missing man suspended

GRAND MARAIS, Minn. -- Paul Brandt, 82, went looking for blueberries along the Gunflint Trail on Aug. 1 and then disappeared, baffling search and rescue teams who have been looking ever since.

On Wednesday, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said they had suspended the formal search for Brandt, a lifetime resident of the area.

“I can’t tell you how frustrating this is to not have found him. But I don’t know what else we could have done,” Cook County Chief Deputy Leif Lunde said.

Lunde said Brandt’s family was still out looking Wednesday, and that local pilots also are expected to continue looking for Brandt.

Brandt was reported missing after 9 p.m. Aug. 1 after he failed to return from picking blueberries. His vehicle was found just north of the Seagull Guard Station, a U.S. Forest Service field office, near a helipad that was used during forest firefighting efforts in recent years.

Lunde said there’s no evidence of foul play or that Brandt ended up in a lake or river.


North Dakota

Two human West Nile cases in Grand Forks County

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- There are now two human cases of West Nile virus in Grand Forks County, the state Department of Health said Wednesday.

This brings the state total to eight, with one case each in Barnes, Cass, Grant and Stutsman counties and two in Richland County. On Tuesday, the state reported for the first time this year a human case in Grand Forks County.

West Nile virus can cause illness in about one in five people it infects. In 1 percent of those infected, it can affect the brain and cause death. The culex tarsalis mosquito is the primary transmitter. Grand Forks County has increased its spraying since the first West Nile virus case, a dead bird, appeared about three weeks ago.


Fargo police probe Facebook threat against Northwood

NORTHWOOD, N.D. -- Police are investigating threats made on a Fargo man’s Facebook page that triggered a lockdown at a Northwood nursing home Wednesday.

Lt. Joel Vettel of the Fargo Police Department said part of the investigation included who posted the threats on Troy Larson’s Facebook account.

Authorities said Wednesday the comments were threats against the school.

Sue Holweger, who identified herself as Larson’s aunt, said he was using Facebook from a computer at the Fargo Public Library and forgot to log out when he left. Then someone posted the threats on his page.

No one has been arrested, Vettel said.


Tornado ruled out in Dickinson storm damage

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Damage caused by a severe thunderstorm Tuesday evening in Dickinson was surveyed Wednesday by the National Weather Service, which determined that despite numerous reports of funnel clouds, the city was not hit by a tornado.

According to the weather service’s Bismarck office, a severe thunderstorm struck Dickinson’s west side with heavy rain, small hail and winds up to 90 mph.

A storage building in rural Dickinson took the brunt of the damage, Stark County Emergency Manager Bill Fahlsing said. The winds blew in garage doors, tore loose the roof and damaged the cinder-block walls.

Other buildings sustained damage from the missing roof of the storage facility.

“The damage surveyed was consistent with straight line thunderstorm winds … and not a tornado,” the National Weather Service said in a statement. “The damage surveyed indicated wind speeds of approximately 90 mph. A peak wind gust of 87 mph from this storm was recorded at the Dickinson airport.”

A funnel cloud was sighted by several people, including law enforcement, Fahlsing said.

He also said there was a malfunction with some warning sirens. A company will be coming in an attempt to correct the issue.


Storms damage thousands of acres of crops

COLFAX, N.D. -- Storms that rolled through the southern Red River Valley on Tuesday evening damaged thousands of acres of crops west of Colfax in Richland County.

A three-mile band of storms with 65- to 85-mph winds and golfball size hail flattened cornfields and damaged soybeans, and farmers may not be able to make up for the loss.

"We won’t know what comes out of this until weeks later, but right now it doesn't look very good at all," said Carrol Duerr, general manager of Colfax Farmers Elevator.

Duerr said the corn was supposed to be harvested in October and that most, if not all, of it  won't recover by then.

And the storm didn't spare the soybean crop. The hail was so strong, it ripped the leaves right off the stems.

Each acre yields about 150 bushels. Duerr said that without the much-needed crop, farmers won't be the only ones hurting.

"We miss out on this opportunity, not only for the growers to have that crop, but for us to handle that crop, it kind of takes away … opportunity for everyone that's involved," Duerr said.

Insurance adjusters were on several farm properties Wednesday morning assessing the damage.


South Dakota

Couple sent to prison for burning down business

TYNDALL, S.D. -- A couple who owned a restaurant in Springfield are headed to prison for burning the building in 2010.

Charles and Kimberly Johnson of Niobrara, Neb., were each sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison, with nine years suspended, for burning Libby's Steakhouse.

Judge Glen Eng ordered that Charles Johnson, 62, begin serving his one-year sentence Sept. 15 and Kim Johnson, 56, start serving hers Jan. 15. Eng explained that both will be eligible for parole after serving three months, which is why he staggered their prison times.

"You're serving them at alternating times so you can still take care of your grandchildren," Eng told the Johnsons. "I know it's not the sentence you wanted."

The Johnsons are also each required to pay $208 in court costs, $255.05 apiece in prosecution costs and $573,467.62 jointly in restitution.

The couple were convicted during a June jury trial of intentionally burning their restaurant. They were found guilty of second-degree arson and reckless burning, each of which is a felony.

The fire, which destroyed the restaurant, also destroyed another business and damaged a third.


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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