Recently in Local News Category

By Sarah Barchus

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra said Tuesday that it has a deficit of $895,080 for the fiscal year that ended June 30, the Pioneer Press reported.

The deficit is the first that the SPCO reported in a decade and comprises about 9 percent of its expenses, the Star Tribune reported.

SPCO president and board chair Dobson West said that the orchestra had cut expenses by $1.5 million, which prevented deficits since 2008. The cut included laying off 17 percent of administrative staff and slicing the management's and musicians pay, the Star Tribune reported.

But West said that "if significant changes are not made" that the SPCO will see even larger deficits, the Star Tribune reported.

For example, the Minnesota Orchestra is expected to report a deficit of 19 percent of its expenses, the Star Tribune reported.

Musicians from both orchestras are restricted from performing at their facilities due to contract disputes, the Star Tribune reported. Additionally, the musician's concerts and paychecks were cancelled for the rest of the year, the Pioneer Press reported.

The musicians are not willing to make the sacrifices management is asking of them and they are unhappy with how much control it is taking of the orchestra, the Pioneer Press reported.

However, Lynn Erickson, co-chair of the musicians' negotiating committee, said that the musicians are "very interested in getting back to the table and trying to find a resolution to all of this," the Pioneer Press reported.

Meanwhile, the SPCO musicians performed at the Wayzata Community Church and are scheduled to play at the Minneapolis' Central Lutheran Church Dec. 20 and 21, the Pioneer Press reported.

Suspected shooter of Cold Springs officer released

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By Sarah Barchus

The suspected shooter in the death of a Cold Springs police officer was released Tuesday due to a lack of evidence, the Pioneer Press reported.

Ryan Larson, 34, was released from the Stearns County jail where he had been held since midnight Thursday under suspicion of shooting Officer Tom Decker, 31, the Star Tribune reported.

Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall said that all agencies agreed that more evidence was needed to continue holding Larson, the Star Tribune reported.

"Our agencies have reviewed the investigative data collected thus far and must act within the time allotted by law, within the constraints of the law, and based upon the facts known at this time," Kendall said, the Star Tribune reported.

Decker was making a welfare check on Larson at the request of Larson's family, who were concerned Larson was suicidal, when police think he was ambushed and shot below Larson's apartment, Evans said, the Pioneer Press reported.

Jeff Scoles a friend of Larson's said he was with Larson most of the day at the Scoles's Winners bar in Sartell while he worked and Larson did homework, the Star Tribune reported.

"He was normal," Scoles said. "In fact, I thought he seemed like he was in was in a good mood."

Larson said he was sleeping at the time and that police arrested the wrong person, the Star Tribune reported.

"Basically, they have no evidence whatsoever that points in my direction," Larson said to the St. Cloud Times on Sunday. He said, "They have no gun, they have no fingerprints, they have nothing," the Star Tribune reported.

Police are still looking for a 20-gauge shotgun that they believe to be the murder weapon. Anyone with information is urged to call the Stearns County Sheriff's Office at 30-251-4240, the Star Tribune reported.

"Investigators will not rest until we fully determine what happened the night of Officer Decker's death and bring to account those responsible, "Drew Evans, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Assistant Superintendent, said, the Pioneer Press reported.

Decker left behind four children under 9 years old. His funeral is scheduled for at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. John's Abbey and University Church in Collegeville, the Pioneer Press reported.

Priest's conviction in sex case reversed

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By Sarah Barchus

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ordered that the priest accused of having sexual relations with a female parishioner be given a new trial, KARE 11 reported.

Christopher Wenthe, formerly of Nativity of Our Lord parish in St. Paul, was convicted in November 2011 for criminal sexual conduct involving a 21-year-old woman that he was counseling, the Pioneer Press reported.

Wenthe was released early from his one-year sentence in the Ramsey country workhouse for good behavior and then appealed his conviction, the Pioneer Press reported.

The appeals court overturned the conviction, saying it was unconstitutional because it was "based on evidence that was excessively entangled in matters of religion," KARE 11 reported. The case was sent back to the Ramsey County District Court for a new trial, the Pioneer Press reported.

Wenthe, 48, was counseling the woman in her fight against eating disorders and past sexual abuse when they became sexually involved, the Pioneer Press reported.

The state jury found the sexual relations to be criminal according to a clergy-sex statute because they were done "during the course of a meeting in which the (victim) sought or received religious or spiritual advice, aid, or comfort from the (clergy member) in private," the Pioneer Press reported.

Wenthe denied that having sex while he offered spiritual guidance, although he acknowledged the relationship, KARE 11 reported.

The appeals court ruled that the statute didn't violate the establishment clause, which says the government cannot make a law that respects the establishment of a religion, the Pioneer Press reported.

However, the ruling was overturned because the trial invited the jury to make judgments based on Roman Catholic doctrine instead of state law, the Pioneer Press reported.

Little Falls Students Mourn Shooting Victims

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By Sarah Barchus

Two Little Falls High School cousins were remembered by hundreds of fellow students Sunday night during a candlelight vigil on the school's football field, KARE 11 reported.

The students gathered to mourn the loss of Nicolas Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, who were shot Thursday by Byron David Smith, 64, when they allegedly broke into his home, the Pioneer Press reported.

"These were both friends to a lot of folks, involved in lots of activities and working their way towards graduation like so many other kids, trying to put their focus on the future," Superintendent Stephen Jones said, the Pioneer Press reported.

Support and counsel will be offered to Little Falls students when they return to classes on Tuesday, KARE 11 reported.

Family members said the cousins never showed up for Thanksgiving dinner, KARE 11 reported. Their bodies where found in Smith's basement by Morrison County police on Friday after they received a call about Smith's suspicious behavior, the Pioneer Press reported.

Police said Smith confessed immediately to shooting the teens and said it was in self-defense after they broke into his secluded home north of Little Falls by the Mississippi River, the Pioneer Press reported.

Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel said that investigators believe Smith's actions went beyond self-defense, the Pioneer Press reported.

Smith's friend John Lange said Smith was friendly to the local teens, but was upset by a series of break-ins, KARE 11 reported.

"I think he just couldn't deal with it anymore," Lange said. "It's just a tragic thing."

Smith will appear in court on Tuesday on charges of second-degree murder, KARE 11 reported.

More than 1,500 people are following a Facebook page to remember the teens, the KARE 11 reported.

I-35W Collapse settled with $8.9 million

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By Sarah Barchus

Minnesota received the final check from a California design firm Tuesday, ending the legal battle surrounding the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge, KARE 11 reported.

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. paid the last installment in an $8.9 million settlement, which Minnesota Department of Transportation spokeswoman said "ends all litigation dealing with the collapse of the 35W bridge," the Pioneer Press reported.

The settlement was reached in October but the information was not made public, KARE 11 reported.

The I-35W bridge collapsed in August during rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145 more, the Pioneer Press reported.

Jacobs wanted the case dismissed due to a 10-year liability limit. The state's contract with the now defunct builder that Jacobs acquired in 1999 was from 1962, the Pioneer Press reported.

The Supreme Court denied Jacob's appeal in May. Jacobs said it agreed to the settlement to prevent continued legal expenses and protracted litigation, but did not admit any wrongdoing, KARE 11 reported.

The settlement money was put into the state's general fund and helped reimburse Minnesota taxpayers for the I-35W Survivor Compensation Fund, Democratic Rep. Ryan Winkler said. Winkler helped establish the fund for victims from the bridge collapse who agreed not to sue the state, the Pioneer Press reported.

"We can never change what happened on that terrible day, but fortunately we were able to come together and ensure that the survivors were given help to try to somehow rebuild their lives," Winkler said, the Pioneer Press reported.

Minnesota also reached a $5 million settlement with URS Corp., the engineering company that evaluated the bridge before its collapse, the Pioneer Press reported. Survivors and families of victims sued URS for $52 million.

The state tried to help those affected by the collapse through a $36.3 million compensation fund, the Pioneer Press reported.

By Sarah Barchus

A 21-year-old man faces assault charges after he allegedly threw his girlfriend's 21-month-old daughter on a bed "like a sack of potatoes," the Pioneer Press reported.

Eric P. Boon was charged Friday for throwing Shawny Bradshaw, who medical professionals say may become a paraplegic as a result of Boon's actions, the Star Tribune reported.

On October 26, officers went to a house in Minneapolis, where Boon and his 21-year-old girlfriend Shanise Pruitt live in the basement, after receiving a call that a child was not breathing, the Star Tribune reported.

Boon was watching Shawny and his and Pruitt's newborn when the police were called. Boon said they were all sleeping when he woke up and discovered that the toddler wasn't breathing, the Pioneer Press reported.

Bradshaw was taken to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, where it was observed that she had swelling and bruises around her eye, chin and neck, the Star Tribune reported.

A county child protection investigator found out three days later that Boon had thrown the girl five feet, face-first onto the bed out of frustration after she had slipped out of his hands while he was carrying her down the stairs, the Star Tribune reported.

Doctors said that Shawny's serious high cervical-cord injury could have resulted from being thrown or from being subjected to other violent acts, the Star Tribune reported.

Boon is being held in the Hennepin County Jail, the Pioneer Press reported. His court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported.

Marriage amendment defeated in Minnesota

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By Sarah Barchus

The proposed marriage amendment in Minnesota was defeated, according to the Associated Press early Wednesday morning, the Star Tribune reported.

The decision makes Minnesota the first state to deny an the addition of an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman into the state constitution, the Pioneer Press reported.

"Tonight Minnesota proved that love is bigger than government," Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, the main Vote No group, said. "Minnesota has become the first state in the nation to beat back a freedom-limiting amendment like this," the Pioneer Press reported.

To pass, the amendment needed the majority of votes. With 98 percent of the precincts reported, the amendment had received only 48 percent of the voters' support, the Star Tribune reported.

But some supporters like Chuck Darrell of Minnesota for Marriage, the leading support group for the amendment, were waiting for the official count to accept the decision, the Pioneer Press reported.

"No, we're not conceding. There's just too many counties out there," he said, the Pioneer Press reported.

The amendment was the most expensive and controversial ballot question in state history, the Star Tribune reported.

Both sides raised and spent a collective sum of $15 million on ads and efforts encouraging people to vote, the biggest action of its kind for organizations that aren't committed to political parties, the Star Tribune reported.

The issue also received attention in other states. Tuesday evening, Maryland and Maine became the first states where voters approved legalizing gay marriage, the Pioneer Press reported.

Though gay marriage is banned under state law in Minnesota, proponents of the amendment said that without the amendment it is possible for judges and lawmakers to overturn it, the Star Tribune reported.

By Sarah Barchus

A St. Paul man went on trial Monday for running over a 16-year-old girl by Harding High School and then attempting to drive away in July, the Star Tribune reported.

Carlos Viveros Colorado went on trial at the Ramsey County District Court on charges of criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular injury, the Pioneer Press reported.

Colorado waived his right to a jury trial and Ramsey County District Judge John Van De North will deliver the verdict, the Star Tribune reported.

Clarisse Grime was waiting with her boyfriend Eduardo Vasquez Torres, 17, for the bus after summer school on July 5th when they heard a car coming toward them, the Pioneer Press reported.

"We looked back, and my instinct was to move. I think she was just in shock or something," Torres said, the Pioneer Press reported.

Colorado jumped out of the way, but the car hit Grime. Dr. Victor Froloff of the Ramsey County medical examiner's office said Grime died at the scene from traumatic head injuries, the Star Tribune reported.

Prosecutor Elizabeth Lamin said Colorado was speeding going east on Third Street toward Hazelwood when he crossed the centerline, hit a fire hydrant and a "no parking sign", and slid down the hill where Grime and Vazquez were sitting, the Pioneer Press reported.

Colorado's attorney, Alberto Miera, said that Colorado experienced numbness in his leg and arm and tried to hit the brake, but instead hit the gas and lost control of the car, the Star Tribune reported.

Torres, who was bruised from the incident, said he went over to the SUV where Colorado was revving the engine in his attempt to flee. Torres said Colorado didn't ask if he was ok and he didn't check on Grime, the Pioneer Press reported.

Miera said Colorado told officers about the numbness but was not taken to a hospital for evaluation, the Star Tribune reported.

Torres and other witnesses including St. Paul officer Mike Tharalson said they saw Colorado walking by the SUV without problems, the Star Tribune reported.

Testimonies continue Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported.


Molestation Charges against Wayzata businessman dropped

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By Sarah Barchus

Hennepin County prosecutors dropped molestation charges against Wayzata businessman William Franklin Wanner after a child refused to testify, the Pioneer Press reported.

In Dec. 2010, a woman said she saw Wanner molest a then 10-year-old girl at the Minneapolis club pool, the Pioneer Press reported. Wanner was charged with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in Jan. 2010, the Star Tribune reported.

The girl's attorney said Friday that the girl signed an affidavit denying that she was sexually abused, the Pioneer Press reported.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Darren Borg said that without the girl's testimony, there is not enough evidence to convict Wanner, the Star Tribune reported.

Borg said the court could order the girl to testify, but decided it was against the best interest of the child, the Pioneer Press reported.

The appellate court said in an Oct. 2011 opinion that they supported the trial court's decision to not admit earlier interviews with the girl because the police asked her "leading and arguably combative questions," the Pioneer Press reported.

Wanner has been free on a $500,000 bail since he was charged. He said that during that time his business, Wanner Industries, almost went under. He said he is angry he had to wait for three years, the Star Tribune reported.

"None of it needed to happen," he said. "Not from the beginning," the Star Tribune reported.


Feds investigate rejection of St. Anthony mosque

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By Sarah Barchus

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis announced Monday that it is investigating St. Anthony's City Council's rejection of a proposed Islamic center, the Star Tribune reported.

Spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office Jeanne Cooney said the administrative development formalized the investigation that started as a preliminary review in June, the Star Tribune reported.

The City Council voted 4-1 on June 12 to deny the Abu Huraira Islamic Center's request to use part of an old building in St. Anthony's light industrial zone for prayer space, the Pioneer Press reported.

The City Council's decision followed a meeting in which some St. Anthony residents voiced their opposition to the center and some made disparaging remarks about Islam, the Star Tribune reported.

The Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations approved of the investigation. Executive Director Lori said the decision might have violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and federal law's equal terms clause, which prohibits discriminating between secular and religious assemblies, the Pioneer Press reported.

"There is a daycare housed in that same building. That is secular assembly and the city is saying you can't have a religious assembly in the same building... that doesn't make sense," Saroya said, the Pioneer Press reported.

St. Anthony Councilmember Hal Gray said the daycare center and the union located in the light-industry zone is acceptable because the center assists the workers with childcare and the union facilitates industry, the Pioneer Press reported.

"The City Council's decision to deny the permit was made after months of study and careful consideration," St. Anthony City Manager Mark Casey said, the Pioneer Press reported. The ruling held that the center would be incompatible with the light industrial zoning, the Star Tribune reported.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said that this is the fourth time a mosque proposal was rejected in Minnesota this year, the Pioneer press reported. The other projects in Plymouth, Willmar and Bloomington were eventually approved, the Star Tribune reported.

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