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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Moorhead infant's death remains under investigation

Credit Forum News Service


Moorhead infant's death remains under investigation

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- The father of a 5-month-old girl who died Tuesday night after being left in a van was taking care of five other children under the age of 7, police said.

Andrew Sandstrom dropped his wife off at work Tuesday afternoon and shortly after returned to the family's Moorhead apartment with the children. Christiana Sandstrom was left strapped in her car seat in the family's van with the windows closed, and temperatures that afternoon were around 80 degrees.

About four hours later, at 8:22 p.m., Sandstrom found his daughter and called 911.

But it was too late, according to Moorhead police, who said the girl was pronounced dead after officers and other emergency workers were unable to revive her.

Police believe the death was an accident, but an investigation is ongoing, said Lt. Tory Jacobson. Once the investigation is complete, police will forward reports to Clay County prosecutors to review.

The infant was taken to Ramsey County for an autopsy, according to a shift summary report released by Moorhead police.

The family's other five children were in foster care Wednesday after police removed them from the apartment. The shift summary described the apartment as having "extreme filth" that was "unsafe for the other children."

Jacobson declined to discuss details, other than to say Clay County Social Services was addressing whatever issues needed attention.


Board approves Otter Tail RV campground

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. -- Development of a campground near the southeast side of Otter Tail Lake is moving forward despite strong opposition from nearby lakeshore property owners.

The Otter Tail County Board last week approved a scaled-down proposal that reduces the number of camping units from 186 to 141. The board agreed with the county planning commission, which emphasized that the campsites, near Highways 78 and 5, will be outside the shoreland area.

The proposed campground is called Homestead at Ottertail RV Park and Resort. Developers Greg and Beth Swanberg said they fully agree with the board's conditions, which include development of a stormwater management plan, an approved sewage system and ensuring that a pavilion will be used only for smaller events and not for concerts and the like.

Many area lakeshore property owners have raised concerns about the project, such as

the possibility of excess noise, the negative impact of septic systems for a large group of people and increased traffic.

But in the end, the county board unanimously passed the revised plan.


Vergas couple charged in dead horses case

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. -- Bill and Penny Fick, the owners of six horses found dead in rural Vergas in February, have each been charged with 21 counts of animal mistreatment in Otter Tail County District Court.

After failing to appear at a court hearing May 6, a warrant was issued for their arrests, and the Ficks had their first court appearance last week.

Penny Fick's son, Billy Tomkins, was previously charged in the case.

Bill Karl Fick, 47, and Penny Lynn Fick, 38, were each charged with one felony count, one gross misdemeanor count and 19 misdemeanor counts of mistreatment of animals.

During a search of the property in February, the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office and state Humane Society found six dead horses. Authorities said 11 horses were found alive but in poor condition due to malnutrition and dehydration. A water tank was allegedly found frozen, and no food source was available.

The surviving horses, along with two adult llamas and one juvenile llama, were seized and rescued. They were taken to High Tail Horse Ranch and Rescue near Hawley.


Fire kills 26 calves, destroys barn

BIGELOW, Minn. -- A barn was destroyed and 26 3-week-old bottle calves were killed in a fire Tuesday night, about a mile south of the Lake Bella dam near the Minnesota-Iowa line.

The blaze was reported at 8:45 p.m. by a neighbor to the farm in Horton Township, Iowa. Bigelow Fire Chief Paul Hohensee said Wednesday that the biggest challenge was getting a water source to fight the blaze.

"Where the farm place was located, it's a lot of dead miles," he said. "We had to travel practically three miles just to get to a main gravel road."

Water was pumped from Bigelow and a portable pump set up at the Lake Bella dam to draw water.

Rodney Markus, who lives on the site and feeds calves for a Minnesota dairy, was not home at the time. He had about 300 calves on the site, but the only ones lost were those housed in the barn.

Hohensee said he suspected the fire was caused by an electrical issue, based on where the blaze started.

"It was an older barn, remodeled years ago," he said.


Man gets nearly two years in baby shower stabbing

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- A 25-year-old Fargo man was sentenced Wednesday to nearly two years in prison for a stabbing outside a church following a baby shower here last fall.

Christopher Gray pleaded guilty April 11 to second-degree assault, a felony, for the stabbing just after 2 a.m. Nov. 11 in the parking lot of First Congregational Church. The attack happened during a fight that police said involved about 30 people.

Gray was sentenced in Clay County District Court to one year and nine months in prison, with credit for 214 days he has already served in jail.

Court records said Gray was part of a group of males denied access to the event who fought with party-goers as they were leaving the church.

According to the complaint, a relative told police that Stanford Avorklya, 27, of Spring Lake Park, was "trying to keep the peace" and was stabbed.

Avorklya was taken to Essentia Health in Fargo, where he underwent surgery for stab wounds to his lungs and kidneys, police said in the complaint.


People involved in police shooting identified

DULUTH -- Duluth police on Wednesday released the names of the people involved in a fatal shooting early Tuesday.

Zachary Rodney Paul Premo, 26, died after being shot by Officers Matthew Hendrickson and Jacob Peterson outside an East Locust Street address around 2:30 a.m.

Police say the officers shot Premo as he reached for a handgun after a confrontation that began while officers looked for a driver who had fled the scene of a one-vehicle crash.

Eleven days before his death, Premo was convicted and fined $385 on a petty misdemeanor charge of reckless driving after he ignored commands from two officers and nearly hit one with his speeding pickup truck in January, according to court records.

Hendrickson is a seven-year veteran of the department and Peterson is a four-year veteran. Neither officer was injured. They will be placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure in these cases.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the shooting. When the BCA completes its report, a county attorney's office will use it to help determine whether the officers' actions were justified.


North Dakota

Man found dead in car; no foul play suspected

BISMARCK -- A Bismarck man was found dead in his car late Friday outside a hotel after guests noticed a strong odor coming from his vehicle.

The body of Mark Evanger, 52, was in his Ford Explorer after police responded to the north parking lot of the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel.

It was unclear when Evanger had died, but the body had begun to decompose.

Foul play has been ruled out.

"It was more than likely due to natural causes," said Sgt. Bill Connor of the Bismarck Police Department.

The medical examiner decided an autopsy was not warranted. There is no coroner's report yet.

The police report indicated Evanger lived with his parents in Bismarck occasionally, "and stayed in the car quite a bit."


South Dakota

Man pays fine for illegally hunting mountain lion

RAPID CITY, S.D. -- A Mitchell resident entered a guilty plea and paid a $120 fine in a Pennington County court Tuesday on a misdemeanor charge of illegally using dogs to hunt a mountain lion.

Defendant Wade Musick was not present at the hearing but was represented by attorney Matthew Kinney, who submitted his client's guilty plea before Magistrate Judge Scott Bogue.

"Wade decided he didn't want to fight the case anymore and have the expense of going to trial," Kinney said.

The disposition of the charge will not result in a revocation of Musick's hunting privileges, Kinney said.

Kinney said Musick has always contended that his dogs were legally hunting bobcats Feb. 1 when they inadvertently treed the lion.

Musick left the area, Kinney said, but his hunting companions remained and reportedly shot the treed lion. Kinney said he was retained because it was uncertain how far the Department of Game, Fish & Parks wanted to take the case.

"I've been assured that there will be no revocation of hunting privileges," Kinney said. "It's basically an administrative code violation and he just paid the ticket."