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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Emerald ash borer moves north, found in Superior

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Charges alleging sexual assault of girl are dropped

DULUTH -- Charges against a former Duluth man accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a preteen girl over more than three years have been dropped.

Kenyon Ray Graves, 52, of Mitchell, S.D., faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in St. Louis County court.

However, prosecutor Nate Stumme dropped the charge Wednesday, saying new evidence raised serious doubt about Graves’ guilt and would have made the case impossible to prove.

“It was a lot of information that came to light after it was charged that moved it from a challenging case to one that couldn’t be proven,” Stumme said, declining to go into specifics. “It looked like in the interests of justice, it shouldn’t be tried.”

Graves’ defense attorney, Bill Sherry, declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday.

The case, which was filed in February 2011, was scheduled to go before a jury beginning Aug. 20.


Barn blaze kills 150 pigs in Nobles County

LISMORE, Minn. -- About 150 pigs were killed early Thursday in a barn fire northwest of Lismore in Nobles County.

The destruction was discovered by Jeff Tweet when he went to do chores. He notified law enforcement, and the Lismore Fire Department was dispatched about 7:30 a.m. By then, no flames from the barn were visible.

"I came and did chores and she was pretty much over with," said Tweet, adding that a neighbor said he'd heard a dog barking about 3 a.m., and that may have been when the fire was active.

The barn housed about 600 pigs of 100 to 150 pounds. Those that survived were found underneath the collapsed roof, protected by the steel gates that made up their pens.

"I don't know why so many lived," Tweet said.

Firefighters used their water hoses to help cool down the surviving pigs.

With multiple barns on the site, Tweet said they were fortunate the fire didn't spread to any of the others. The surviving pigs were transported to other barns.

Lismore Fire Chief Jim Weidert said the cause is believed to be electrical.


Hearing delayed for grandson in Willmar killing

WILLMAR, Minn. -- A court hearing Thursday for a Willmar teen accused of plotting to kill his grandmother was delayed at his attorney’s request.

Robert Warwick, 17, is one of three teens charged in the strangulation and stabbing death of Lila Warwick, 79. He is charged with second-degree murder with intent-not premeditated and liability for crimes of another.

His probable cause hearing was rescheduled for Sept. 9. A hearing to discuss whether he will be tried in adult court will also be delayed. It had been scheduled for Aug. 30.

Judge David Mennis approved the delay at the request of public defender Ramona Lackore. Assistant County Attorney Stephen Wentzell did not object to the delay.

No specific reason was given for the delay.

During the three-minute court appearance, Warwick sat at the defense table with his mother, Jennifer, and two attorneys. Mennis said he was to remain in custody at Prairie Lakes Youth Detention Center.

The juvenile delinquency petition filed against Warwick states that he was the mastermind of the plan to rob and kill his grandmother and believed she had a safe in the house with access to $40,000.


Second Colobus monkey born at Duluth zoo

DULUTH -- There’s more monkey business going on at the Lake Superior Zoo -- and that’s a good thing, the zoo reported Thursday.

The Angolan Colobus monkey born at the zoo in June has a playmate: A second monkey was born July 16.

Peter Pruett, director of zoo operations, said in a news release that the births are a significant part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ species survival plan for the monkeys.

The survival plan was put in place because the captive population is aging and few births have taken place in the past few years, according to the zoo. Both of the Lake Superior Zoo’s females were taken off birth control last year, and both have now given birth.

The new baby, an unnamed female, is the offspring of 11-year-old female Kero and 18-year-old male Kramer. Kero’s mother, Kelly, gave birth to another female, to which Kramer was also the father, on June 26. They are the fifth and sixth born in captivity this year, the zoo said.

The young monkeys are interacting and are on exhibit together with their parents. The zoo plans to soon begin considering names for the monkeys.


Possible ownership group lined up for IFL franchise

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Bemidji is one step closer to having an Indoor Football League franchise.

Curtis Webb, Sanford Center executive director, said Thursday he couldn't divulge many details but there are people interested in starting a team.

"Things are looking very positive," Webb said. "We're moving forward with one ownership group."

Webb said the "ownership group" as of now is a single owner, although the person is looking for more interested parties.

IFL expansion director Chris Kokalis had visited Bemidji in July to gauge interest at a news conference at the Sanford Center. He said for a team to be ready to play the 2014 season, the league would ideally want an ownership group in place by late August or September.

Webb said he hopes everything will be in place in the next few days.

The IFL, currently in its sixth year, has nine teams. Each team plays a 14-game schedule -- seven home games and seven road games. The season begins in February and ends in June.

Bemidji would be the smallest market in a league that includes cities as large as Chicago and as small as Grand Island, Neb. League officials have also expressed interest in other cities around the region, including Fargo and Bismarck.


CP railroad cutting jobs in Minnesota

Canadian Pacific railroad has furloughed about 90 workers in recent months from its operation in Minnesota, according to union officials.

The United Transportation Union says the cuts started last October, coming after leadership changes in the company.

“We’re not happy about it,” said P.J. Qualy, UTU Minnesota legislative director.

Furloughs in Minnesota include 50 in St. Paul, 30 in Thief River Falls and 10 in Glenwood, according to Qualy. Union officials were not aware of any job losses in North Dakota.

A CP spokesman would not confirm any job cuts, citing company policy.

“We adjust staffing levels according to business ebbs and flows,” said spokesman Andy Cummings.


North Dakota

FBI investigating New Town death

NEW TOWN, N.D. -- The FBI is investigating a death that occurred in New Town, but authorities are releasing few details.

The FBI was notified Monday evening of the death of a male, said FBI spokesman Kyle Loven.

The FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs are investigating but are unable to provide further information, he said.

“At this point, it’s an active investigation,” Loven said.

New Town is on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

New Town Police Chief Art Walgren said the death occurred in the city, but he could not say where or release any other information.

“We are involved, but only as an assisting agency,” Walgren said.


Land Board awards nearly $7 million for Oil Patch schools

BISMARCK – The Board of University and School Lands awarded $6.85 million Thursday to K-12 schools in the Oil Patch affected by rapid growth.

The energy impact grants will help 23 school districts in western North Dakota buy portable classrooms, provide affordable housing for teachers, enhance school security systems and address other critical needs.

The Land Board set aside $25 million in energy impact grants for Oil Patch schools during the 2013-15 biennium, and the grants awarded Thursday represented the first round of funding.

McKenzie County schools were given the largest grant, $1.8 million.

For a complete list of the grants approved, visit


Old police dog wins N.D. trophy

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Ten-years-old and on the verge of retirement, Gypsy still can show she’s a top dog.

The chocolate Lab from the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department just won her second top award in a statewide police dog competition.

“I was absolutely... I was amazed. I was astounded,” her partner, Cpl. Mike Lee, said Thursday, the day after the competition at Minot Air Force Base, which included about 11 other dogs.

Gypsy won first in the “iron dog” part of the competition, which tests her maneuverability under stressful conditions such as gunfire, and second in the drug sniffing. Together, that gave her enough points to win the North Dakota Peace Officers Association’s Top Dog trophy.

Gypsy hadn’t even trained much — Lee said they were working too much — her joints are arthritic and she isn’t formally trained in fancy maneuvers. She’s a single-purpose dog, trained to sniff out narcotics, not chase down criminals.

But Lee said he thought she had a good chance of taking home the trophy. “I thought those dual-purpose attack dogs are doing it. My dog’s just as good.”

Gypsy already proved that in 2010, when she took home her first top dog award.



Emerald ash borer moves north, found in Superior

SUPERIOR, Wis. -- A Chinese insect that has killed millions of trees in the United States and Canada has made the leap to northwest Wisconsin, with a tree in Superior being confirmed as infested.

Until now, the closest the emerald ash borer had been found to the Duluth-Superior area was the Twin Cities and southwestern Wisconsin near LaCrosse. Now the half-inch, metallic-green bug appears to have jumped more than 150 miles quickly, leaving thousands of urban and suburban ash trees in peril and threatening huge swaths of forest composed of black ash.

City of Superior crews found what they thought was a suspect ash tree in Superior last week and, after investigating further, found what appeared to be ash borer larvae in the tree.

They sent samples to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Michigan, which confirmed emerald ash borer this week.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection immediately placed all of Douglas County under quarantine to prevent infected trees and wood from moving into other areas.


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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