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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HUDSON — A former girls basketball coach accused of molesting a babysitter erupted into uncontrollable sobs Friday after a judge sentenced him to prison. The 20-year sentence, issued by St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Scott Needham, is five years longer than what was sought by prosecution for 43-year-old Louis J. French. The judge’s sentence calls for the Hudson man to spend 10 years in prison and 10 years on extended supervision.
Raids on two St. Croix County homes this week yielded what authorities said was about 275 pounds of suspected marijuana. St. Croix County prosecutors said the drugs were found stashed in nearby homes in the town of Eau Galle while serving search warrants on Wednesday, Feb. 21.
The aftermath of a Super Bowl-timed sex crime sting revealed details from more suspects rounded up this month in St. Croix County. Criminal complaints against two Hudson men and a Woodville man outlined state and local efforts to target child pornography. Two of those cases were launched after Hudson police got word about suspected child porn being discovered by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The organization passed information along to the state's Department of Justice, which disseminated the complaints to local law enforcement.
Authorities said it took a costume, a comment and a cast of accomplices to pull off a con that fleeced Walmart out of thousands of dollars at various stores in western Wisconsin and Minnesota. According to court documents, the main suspect would enter a Walmart clad in a former employee's vest, then approach a cashier, who would be told it was breaktime. From there, the suspect would open up the cash register to allow a string of accomplices to buy thousands of dollars in gift cards. And then, according to authorities, it was off to the next store.
A Roberts man was charged with drunken driving for the eighth time last week after a suspected hit-and-run crash in St. Croix County. Police arrested 37-year-old Jaason A. Bierschenk Feb. 12 after he was allegedly seen ditching his wrecked car and heading to the Willow River Saloon in Burkhardt. He was charged the next day with OWI-eighth offense — a felony — along with operating while revoked and hit and run, both misdemeanors. The felony charge carries a mandatory three-year minimum prison sentence.
Voters in St. Croix County's District 1 will go to the polls Feb. 20, where three candidates will be on the ballot, but only two will be seeking votes. The Somerset-area primary will pit Matt Foucault versus Ed Schachtner. Candidate Chris Polfus is no longer seeking election, though his name will be on the ballot. He said he ended his candidacy because he plans to move out of the district in the foreseeable future. Incumbent Ryan Sicard did not complete his filing paperwork and won't be on the ballot, according to the St. Croix County Clerk's Office.
Wisconsin voters will see three state Supreme Court justice candidates on next week’s primary ballots.
St. Croix County firefighters responded to two structure fires between Saturday and Monday, one of which destroyed a Baldwin business. Gary Newton, Baldwin chief for United Fire Department, said a Saturday night fire at Baldwin Machine & Fab resulted in a total loss. Firefighters were called to the 1080 Sixth Ave. business at 10:06 p.m. Feb. 10.
A UW-River Falls building was temporarily evacuated Tuesday after a small fire in a heating unit. A campus spokesman said River Falls firefighters were called at 9:39 a.m. Feb. 13 to the Kleinpell Fine Arts building for the fire, caused by a burned-out motor in a heating unit in the north stairwell. The fire filled the building with smoke. Students and staff were allowed to re-enter the building just before 10 a.m., according to the university. No injuries were reported. Firefighters continued ventilating the building, where classes resumed.
Authorities said a man arrested in St. Croix County was the driver in a hit-and-run crash that left an Amery woman dead. The Polk County Sheriff's Office said in a news release that 50-year-old Lisa Allen died Monday, Feb. 12 — three days after she was struck by a car while crossing a street in Amery. Witnesses to the Feb. 9 incident gave police the license plate and a description of the suspect's vehicle, which briefly stopped before allegedly leaving the scene.