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December 7, 2008

Missing Somali Men Cause for Concern

Two Somali students from the University of Minnesota and a senior from Roosevelt High School are missing since Nov. 4 and their families fear they fighting in the war in Somalia, according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

Three families made a public plea on Saturday requesting more information regarding the missing people, Burhan Hassan, 17; Abdisalam Ali, 19 and Mohamoud Hassan, 18, according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

Somali families gathered and some have “suggested the men may have been recruited and sent to Somalia – the land their relatives fled because of civil war – to fight,? the Star Tribune reported.

“Nearly a dozen local boys and young men have gone missing in the past two years,? said Somali community leader Abdirizak Bihi, according to the Pioneer Press.

December 6, 2008

Craiglist Babysitter Pleads Guilty to Manufacturing Child Porn

A St. Paul family hired a Craiglist babysitter, who pled guilty Wednesday to using their two-year-old daughter to film pornographic material, the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune reported.

The 23-year-old man from Little Canada, Aaron Jay Lemon, remains free on bond, the Star Tribune reported.

The abuse occurred in August 2007, and charges were brought against Lemon in August 2008, the Star Tribune reported.

Lemon faces up to 30 years in prison, following his sentencing date, which has not yet been set, according to the Star Tribune.

“A search of Lemon’s laptop computer and pocket-sized digital camera revealed more than 100 pictures of children, ranging from 6 months to 5 years old,? the Pioneer Press reported.

November 22, 2008

Hecker Closes 6 Car Lots, Sells 3 others

Six local car lots were closed Friday, and three others sold, from within Denny Hecker’s auto empire in central Minnesota, according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

Four hundred employees are out of a job, according to the Pioneer Press.

Hecker claimed he was “in a perfect storm of economic bad news,? according to the Pioneer Press.

The closings coincided with a law suit filed by General Motors aimed at Hecker to prevent him from selling Hyundai automobiles in his Chevrolet showroom, according to the Star Tribune.

Saudi Riches Revive Rochester's Economy

Rochester’s struggling economic structure received an infusion from Saudi Arabia’s royal family, according to the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press.

The royal family “spent enough money during their visit this week to remedy the area’s economic woes for the year,? the Star Tribune reported.

They spent between $1 million to 2.5 million during their eight day stay, the Pioneer Press reported.

Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz arrived in Rochester on Nov. 15, with “at least five Saudi princes and hundreds of others,? the Star Tribune reported.

Although the king left Rochester Wednesday, some of the group remains behind still, according to the Star Tribune.


November 16, 2008

Fridley Football Player Fatally Shot

A Fridley high-school student died Friday night in his home after being shot in the chest by a friend who thought he had unloaded the gun, according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

The high-school football player “was doing everything right,? in school and by his family according to the Star Tribune report.

He was dedicated to football, and to supporting his mother, according to a Fridley High School senior, A.B. Borner told the Star Tribune. “I remember when he was a kid, he made a promise to his mom to support her. That’s why he played his heart out. Everything he did, he did it for her.?

November 14, 2008

Auto Industry Failing

A local auto empire filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Chrysler Financial Services, according to the Pioneer Press, and consumers aren’t buying cars, according to the Star Tribune.

Denny Hecker’s lawsuit accuses Chrysler of “acting in bad faith by freezing Hecker’s credit lines and refusing to honor certain lending agreements without just cause or warning,? the Pioneer Press reported.

Hecker’s employs 1,200 people across 18 dealerships mostly in Minnesota, the Pioneer Press reported.
Economic fears have virtually frozen car sales, the Star Tribune reported.

The auto industry is asking Congress for “25 billion in bailout money,? the Star Tribune reported.

November 9, 2008

Coleman Campaign Requests Absentee Ballots Held

Norm Coleman’s campaign asked a Ramsey County judge Saturday to delay the counting of 32 absentee ballots until their integrity could be independently confirmed, according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

The judge decided that the Minneapolis ballots should be counted, despite the concern raised by Coleman’s campaign that the ballots may have been compromised, according to the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press.

Some polling places had been shut down before the ballots were delivered; Coleman’s campaign contends that the ballots were in a city election official’s car, according to the Pioneer Press.

Al Franken’s campaign called the request a “Saturday sneak attack,? according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

November 8, 2008

Food Pantry Demand Up

A Menomonie charity’s financial pool is draining in an effort to keep up with a demand of service from their food pantry, the Pioneer Press reported.

Dunn County’s Interfaith Food Pantry’s “traffic has increased 30 percent this year? when comparing this past 10 months to the first 10 months of 2007, according to the Pioneer Press.

In an effort to keep supplies on the shelf, Interfaith has had to “dip into its financial reserves,? the Pioneer Press reported.

In the face of tough economic times, “monetary donations are down 50 percent,? according to the Pioneer Press.

Interfaith serves 547 households, and the average residence includes three people. “Seventy-five percent of the households have less than $1,500 a month,? Interfaith executive director Katherine Dutton told the Pioneer Press.

The most economical donation is money, not food, because the group can stretch one donated dollar to buy $9 worth of groceries through the Feed My People Food Bank in Eau Claire, the Pioneer Press reported.

November 2, 2008

Siblings Arrested in Connection With Missing Andover Man

A brother and sister of a missing Andover man allegedly burnt his body in a bonfire following a dispute over an inheritance, and were arrested Friday, the Star Tribune reported.

Andrew T. Hawes, 36 and Elizabeth M. Hawes, 43, were held in Anoka County jail “on suspicion of second-degree murder,? according to the Star Tribune.

Edwin Charles Hawes, 46, was reported missing Thursday afternoon, by his roommate who had found blood in their driveway, according to the Pioneer Press.

Authorities found the brother and sister standing over a bonfire the following day “burning human remains believed to be those of Hawes,? the Pioneer Press reported. A charred torso found in the pit has not been officially identified yet, according to the Pioneer Press.

Edwin Hawes had been granted protection orders against his brother and sister following an incident on July 19. Andrew Hawes had “rammed his truck into his brother’s car,? and pushed it into oncoming traffic, the Pioneer Press reported.

The feud allegedly revolves around their 97- year- old grandmother’s property; Edwin Hawes had been named as conservator, according to the Star Tribune.

Petters Informant Revealed

After participating for 15 years in Tom Petters’ entrepreneurial Ponzi schemes, a woman who had looked to Petters as a boss and mentor turned to the FBI, according to the Sunday Star Tribune article.

Deanna Coleman, “apparently overwhelmed by the size of the alleged fraud and feeling guilty for her own role in it, walked into the sixth-floor suite of the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Minneapolis federal building and agreed to become an informant against her mentor and employer of 15 years,? the Star Tribune reported.

Petters lured businesses into bogus short term investments, such as electronics, when “in truth, no such merchandise existed,? Coleman told federal investigators. “Until Coleman walked through the door, the government had no clue about the alleged scheme,? which dates back to 1993, the Star Tribune reported.

Coleman and others have entered guilty pleas, but Petters maintains his innocence, according to the Star Tribune.


October 26, 2008

Richfield Man Charged in Hit and Run

A 36-year-old man from Richfield claimed he was defending his girlfriend after he drove his SUV into a man from St. Paul, according to the criminal complaint filed Thursday and reported on by the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

“The Ramsey County attorney’s office charged Moises Aguilar Nieves with two counts of second-degree murder,? the Pioneer Press reported.

David Ramirez, 46, also known as Sergio Escalona of St. Paul stood by the driver’s-side door of his ex-girlfriend’s SUV. Nieves allegedly drove his own black SUV into Ramirez, “struck the door and pinned Ramirez against her vehicle,? according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

The woman reported that she “blacked out? and drove her car to the rear of her home, and went inside, the Pioneer Press reported.

Nieves told police he was concerned that the Ramirez was forcing his girlfriend into unwanted sexual acts, but “police spokesman Peter Panos said the woman and ex-boyfriend still were friendly,? the Star Tribune reported.

Nieves attempted to cover the damage done to his SUV by crashing into a highway barrier, according to the Pioneer Press.

October 25, 2008

Bus Driver Injured by Six Teenagers

Six teenagers attacked a Metro Transit bus driver Thursday night while he was driving through the Cedar—Riverside neighborhood after he had told them to “settle down,? the Star Tribune reported.

The driver lost control, the bus crashed, and the teens ran from the scene, the Star Tribune reported. Police arrested two teenagers shortly after the incident was reported, according to the Star Tribune.

Those two teens “were taken to Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center and are expected to be charged with
felony assault,? the Star Tribune reported.

The bus “crashed into a traffic light pole? and the driver was “treated for bruising around one of his eyes,? at Hennepin County Medical Center, Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons told the Star Tribune.

October 17, 2008

Woodbury Man Charged With Intentional Homicide

After shooting his 19-year-old girlfriend, a Woodbury man called his wife to tell her “She is dead, I put three bullets in her head,? according to the Star Tribune.

Christopher S. Ledesma, 29, was charged Tuesday in Hudson Wis. with first-degree intentional homicide. The victim, Kelly Lynn Dahm had been found dead Sept. 20 in the front seat of Ledesma’s car which was parked “in the main parking lot of the St. Croix County Government Center in Hudson,? according to the Star Tribune.

Since Ledesma was on parole for having attacked two men and a boy with a knife in 1996 after having served four years for that crime, he was ineligible to buy a firearm, the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press reported.

Instead, his wife bought the firearm for him to use, because “someone was out to get him, and he needed protection,? he had told his wife, according to the Pioneer Press.

Four days prior to her death, Dahm was waiting in their car outside the sporting goods shop while Ledesma and his wife bought the gun, the Pioneer Press reported.

Ledesma has made “several utterances to jailers, including ‘I’m not a cheater. I loved her. I’m the one who was hurt, that why I (expletive) killed her,’? the Pioneer Press reported.

Surgeon Honored for Reattaching Teens Arms

A doctor was recognized for his treatment of an 18-year-old, whose arms were ripped off in a farming accident, and for his medical career Thursday night at the University of North Dakota Alumni Association’s Sioux Awards, according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

Dr. Allen Van Beek, 64, treated John Thompson in 1992 in an eight hour operation that restored Thompson’s mobility so he can “do everything except play darts,? according to the Pioneer Press. “Van Beek estimated that fewer than 10 people have had successful double-arm reattachments,? the Star Tribune reported.

Thompson’s arms were cut off by a “spinning power takeoff shaft on his father’s central North Dakota farm in January 1992,? the Star Tribune reported.

Thompson fell unconscious following the accident, and “woke up to his dog, Tuffy, persistently licking his face,? the Pioneer Press reported. Thompson then walked roughly 400 yards, used his mouth to open the door, and clenching a pencil between his teeth, dialed for help. Since he was concerned about his mother’s carpet he then went to the bathroom to wait, the Pioneer Press reported.

October 12, 2008

Contenders for Senate Debate in Golden Valley

Minnesota’s three top contenders clashed during the Senate debate in Golden Valley Saturday evening according to the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press.

The Independent Party’s candidate Dean Barkley, Democratic candidate Al Franken and Republican Sen. Norm Coleman met at Breck School in Golden Valley to discuss “a range of issues: Iraq, the economy and negative ads,? according to the Star Tribune.

The debate was televised, before a crowd of 500 “riled-up? audience members who clapped, cheered, and laughed, according to the Pioneer Press.

“I will vote no for certain things, even if 85 senators vote for it… I guess, maybe I’m just, I don’t know, a maverick,? Franken said according to the Pioneer Press.

Barkley said, “this whole economic collapse, it was on your watch. I’m going to pin you on that one," the Star Tribune reported.

Coleman, who was taking criticism from both remaining candidates for his time in Washington contributing to the current economic crisis, reminded the two challengers “it was easy to cast stones from the cheap seats,? the Star Tribune reported.

October 10, 2008

Teacher Investigated for Sexual Assault Claim

A St. Paul teacher from Humboldt Junior High is being investigated for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old student.

Police have not filed charges against John Bernard Mauer, 58.

Police searched Mauer’s home and classrooms, taking a computer, a laptop and a bag of pictures – but police told the Star Tribune there is not enough evidence to support any allegations.

The girl reported that her teacher made advances toward her by “brushing up against her breasts? and showing her pictures of himself when he was younger, wearing only underwear, police said.

The special-ed student had been moved to another school recently following what the mother described as symptoms of high stress.

The girl reported that the teacher came to visit her at her new school on Sept. 19.

The mother notified the new school’s officials a few days after the visit and the school has placed Mauer on paid administrative leave.

Mauer did not answer calls to his home.

The girl’s mother told police that the teacher had called their home on two occasions, after regular school hours to “inquire about her well-being,? according to the police report.

In an interview at the Midwest Children’s Resource Center at Children’s Hospital the girl told the examiner that Mauer allegedly “pulled her pants down turned the lights off in his class room, and penetrated her on his desk,? the Pioneer Press reported.

“School should be the safest place in the world for kids to go,? Denise Quinlain, executive director of the middle grade schools in the district, said.

October 5, 2008

Former Convict Turned Millionaire Under Investigation

The local FBI investigation into $1 billion in fraud now includes another area man, a reformed convict turned millionaire.

Frank Vennes Jr. is under investigation for allegations that he and others “raised funds from investors for the purchase and resale of electronic good that actually didn’t exist and then used the money for other purposes,? the Star Tribune reported.

In 1987, Vennes was convicted of money-laundering, drug and firearm charges, according to the Star Tribune.

Vennes was once an inmate and following his release began ministering to other prisoners, advising them how he had “left behind a life of crime to become a success,? the Star Tribune reported

October 4, 2008

Local CEO Arrested for $1 Billion Federal Fraud Charges

Authorities arrested a local business man, Friday, on charges associated with $1 billion of federal fraud, the Pioneer Press reported.

Tom Petters faces charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and obstruction of justice which were made on Thursday, one week after a raid investigating both the company headquarters in Minnetonka and his home, the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune reported.

The judge ordered no bail be set because Petters is considered a flight risk, following a secretly recorded conversation in which he stated he “had not intended to be in the country by the time of the presidential debates,? according to the Star Tribune.

October 3, 2008

Republican National Convention Search Warrant Made Public

A police search warrant outlining suspected support for terrorism, weapons and plans for violence during the Republican National Convention to justify entry into a St. Paul man’s home arrived at the Ramsey County attorney’s office, Monday, according to the Star Tribune.

When police raided the duplex they found boxes suspected to be housing weapons, but found only Vegan leaflets called “Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating? which his roommate distributes for $15 dollars an hour, according to reports in both the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

The home owner, Mike Whalen, said he “has been involved with Irish solidarity groups and has brought speakers to the Twin cities -- including mothers whose children have been killed by plastic bullets -- to talk about the violence in North Ireland,? the Star Tribune reported. He also teaches Irish dancing, and is well-known in the community.

September 27, 2008

Father Flings Dog Over Balcony

A daughter and her two friends watched as her father flung her pet bull-dog from a third floor balcony in St. Paul Friday night, police said.

Her mother’s ex-boyfriend, Donald Dornseif, 44, was charged with felony animal cruelty, according to the Pioneer Press.

A downstairs neighbor, Cynthia Hayes, overheard Dornseif say above her “I hate animals,? while sitting on her balcony. “I told him, ‘You hate animals, because you are an animal,’? Hayes told the Pioneer Press.

“Do you want to see the dog hit the sidewalk?? Dornseif allegedly replied, according to the Pioneer Press.

Moments later Precious, a 3-year-old, 70 pound bull-dog, plummeted past the neighbors balcony and struck the ground, the Pioneer Press reported.

When police arrived at 10 p.m., Dornseif explained that the dog had jumped over the balcony when he tried to pick the dog up.

“It would be impossible for such a heavy, short dog to jump a distance of 8 to 10 feet from that railing without being propelled,? police told the Star Tribune.

September 26, 2008

Local FBI Raid

Federal agents descended upon Petters Group Worldwide headquarters, in Minnetonka, on Wednesday morning, commandeering materials from the offices and sending employees home for the remainder of the day, according to the Pioneer Press.

When employees returned Thursday, Tom Petters, the Chairman and CEO, reassured and encouraged the workers to “remain positive,? according to the Star Tribune.

The company’s statement explained “the investigation pertains to one financial entity that Petters is involved with,? according to the Pioneer Press. The statement went on to explain that the probe “doesn’t involve Sun Country Airlines, Polaroid, uBid, Fingerhut or Great Waters Media? holdings, according to the Pioneer Press coverage.

The FBI, the IRS criminal investigation division, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Attorney’s office entered the building around 9 a.m., Paul McCabe, a special agents with the Minneapolis FBI office told the Pioneer Press.

The FBI agents also searched Petters’ residence. Petters was not home when the searches took place. Both the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune attempted to interview Petters, but he declined invterviews.

September 18, 2008

I-35W Bridge Opens

Police, ambulances and fire trucks led traffic in a 10-15 mph procession across the rebuilt I-35W bridge just after 5 a.m. Thursday morning.

Cars, Trucks, motorcycles and emergency responders drove slowly from the north and the south. “Drivers spaced themselves three across, and stopped at the middle,? the Star Tribune reported, and “drivers could be seen waving at each other through windows and sunroofs as they honked horns and snapped photos.?

The reopening of the bridge that collapsed Aug. 1, 2007, occurred “three months ahead of schedule,? thePioneer Press reported Thursday.

A gas station near Washington Avenue that is handing out free gas cards to the first travelers across the bridge who exit the freeway caused some traffic back up Thursday morning, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

September 16, 2008

Up to $150,000 Worth of Delegate's Valuables Missing

According to the Minneapolis police, a woman has allegedly robbed between $50,000 and $150,000 from a Denver delegate attending the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul while visiting his Hotel Ivy room.

The Star Tribune reported that the woman accompanied him to his hotel room and offered to make him a drink. Police said he may have been drugged.

According to the paper, the victim, Gabriel Schwartz, was “very forthright with us, and he has a lot of details,? Minneapolis police Sgt. Bill Palmer said.

The Pioneer Press’ coverage includes information regarding Schwartz’s political views.
“’Less taxes and more war,’ he said, smiling,? on a LinkTV.org video referenced by the Pioneer Press.
The Pioneer Press also noted biographical sketches found in the Rocky Mountain News which indicated that his “dream ticket? was John McCain and Mitt Romney.?

According to the Pioneer Press he advocated for aerial bombing of Iran and recommended that protesters outside the RNC “get a job.?

September 12, 2008

Medicaid in Minnesota

State legislature has two weeks from Wednesday to challenge President Bush’s recent veto against continuing medical insurance subsidies for low-income families in Minnesota.

The administration plans to eliminate access to Minnesota Care, used by 18,000 low-income parents in Minnesota, according to the Star Tribune. The administration opposes the parents’ coverage, originally only intended for children, but, the state officials suggest that total family coverage is the most cost effective measure.

“We believe that by covering parents, you improve access for the kids,? State Medicaid Director Christine Bronson told the Star Tribune. “Families that are covered are more likely to bring their kids in,? she said.

September 7, 2008

Bridge Incentive Speeds Completion

Crews are highly motivated to complete the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis.

If completed by Sept. 15, the Pioneer Press reported contractors can earn up to a $27 million dollar bonus.

The contract awards an additional $200,000 per day that the bridge is completed ahead of schedule . Construction workers believe that the bridge could be completed by Sept. 16 – well ahead of the original Dec. 24 deadline.

The Star Tribune reported that Flatiron, the company in charge of reconstruction, was awarded a $234 million dollar contract to rebuild the bridge.

The projected date for the reopening of the I-35W Bridge is unknown.