April 29, 2007

Fungal Disease Causes Illness in Afton

A rare fungal disease has affected several Afton residents over the past several years.

Though it isn't life-threatening for most people, health experts say that some can develop skin lesions and pulmonary infections, which could lead to death, the Pioneer Press reported.

The fungus can be found in "sandy, acidic soil enriched with decomposing organic debris, such as leaves," such as that found in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the Pioneer Press reported.

Symptoms may include fever, chills, cough, fatigue and muscle aches, but it may take months for a person to show symptoms once they inhale the fungus.

In Minnesota there have been about 30 reported cases of this fungal disease, called blastomycosis, whereas Wisconsin saw 170 in the last year.

Light DWI Sentences Receive Complaints

Minnesotans are becoming concerned by the growing number of light sentences given to those guilty of fatal DWIs. Despite the new 0.08 blood-alcohol level and a rule making four DWIs in 10 years a felony, many of those found guilty for DWI are receiving far less than the state suggested four years in prison.

Judges are allowed to assign a lighter sentence if they believe the offender is truly remorseful, the Star Tribune reported.

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April 15, 2007

Survivor of Triple Homicide Caught in Custody Battle

The 10-year-old girl who escaped the house in St. Paul on March 23 where her mother, half-sister, and mother's fiance were killed is now caught in a custody battle between her mother's family and the man listed as her father on her birth certificate.

Daneisha Thomas was placed in protective custody Sunday after Dane L. Thomas, who is listed as her father on her birth certificate, called and complained to St. Paul police that her mother's relatives were taking her out of state, the Star Tribune said.

According to police the girl said that she was scared of Thomas and didn't want to go with him.

Ramsey County District Judge John Finley granted the petition to place Daneisha in the custody of Community Human Services Department. Another court hearing is set for May 3, the Star Tribune said.

Newborn Baby Stabbed 135 Times

A 17-year-old Oakdale girl gave birth to a baby in her bathroom, then proceeded to stab it 135 times and toss it in a dumpster.

Nicole Beecroft, a Tartan High School senior, originally told police that she thought the baby was stillborn, the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune reported.

Later, when police confronted her with the newfound evidence of a knife and stab wounds, Beecroft admitted to panicking and stabbing the baby to death.

According to various testimonies, no one knew Beecroft was even pregnant, the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune said.

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April 8, 2007

$100,000 Bail Set for University Athletes

Bail has been set at $100,000 each for three University of Minnesota football players.

The three athletes, who have been jailed on suspicion of rape, have not yet been formally charged as of Saturday evening, the Pioneer Press said.

Alex Daniels, 20, Keith Massey, 20, and E.J. Jones, 19 have been suspended from the university's football team. The players, who were arrested Friday, are suspected of raping an 18-year-old student who does not attend the university, the campus police told the Pioneer Press.

Southern Minneapolis Couple Experiences Their Own Titanic

A south Minneapolis couple celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary by evacuating a sinking cruise liner.

Jon and Cindy Hof were planning on sailing to the Greek island of Santorini Thursday when their cruise ship, the Sea Diamond, hit a reef, the Star Tribune said.

15 hours after its 1,200 passengers and 400 crew members evacuated, the Sea Diamond sank. Two passengers -- a father and daughter -- are still missing, the Star Tribune said. The captain, who blamed the accident on strong currents, has been charged with negligence.

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April 1, 2007

High School Students Charged with Arson

No one was injured in the two fires started Friday by two Eveleth-Gilbert High School students.

The fires, which were extinguished before authorities arrived, were said to have been set by two high schoolers, ages 18 and 16, the Associated Press said.

One of the fires was set in a bathroom garbage can, while the other was caused by papers set on fire on the stairwell.

Hwy 36 Fix Expected to Divide St. Paul

In an effort to save money, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has decided on a new approach to highway reconstruction. The new tactic will separate St. Paul even further by shutting down Highway 36.

The department plans to save $2 million by completely shutting down Highway 35 - which around 40,000 people use each day - in May, the Star Tribune reported. City officials are expecting that thousands of residents will begin using local streets to cut across the city.

Besides cutting down the cost, the department has estimated that the reconstruction will take only seven months - less than half of the time reconstruction normally takes.

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March 23, 2007

Senate Passes Bill, Tuition on the Rise

A bill passed by the Senate on Thursday could force the University of Minnesota to raise undergraduate tuition by $1,100 in the next two years.

The bill was passed 64-2 and is the first part of a new state budget the Senate plans to pass over the next eight days, the Pioneer Press said.

A previous goal set by the University of Minnesota would have tuition increases of, at the maximum, 4.5 percent. WIth the new bill, tuition will increase by 5.5 percent and 7.5 percent over two school years, university President Robert Bruininks said.

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3 Shot in St. Paul Robbery

Two adults and one teenager were shot to death in their St. Paul home Friday.

Maria McLay, 32, her daughter Brittany Kekadakis, 15, and a man identified to be McLay's boyfriend, 31, were shot by masked intruders who broke into their home, the Star Tribune said.

The men entered the home and had the family line up in the bedrooms. They then demanded cash, but when McLay's boyfriend could not meet the robbers' demands, they shot him, McLay, and Kekadakis.

McLay's surviving son and daughter escaped out the front door and ran to an uncle's house nearby.

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March 10, 2007

Libel Suit Against Blogger Thrown Out

A libel suit against a local political blogger has been thrown out by a Dakota County judge Thursday.

Michael Brodkorb and his blog have helped to pave the way in libel suits regarding bloggers, the Star Tribune said.

Dakota County District Judge Timothy Blakely ruled that blogs should be held to the same standards of accountability as traditional media.

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Man Shot on Bus Was Trying to Quiet "Jerks"

A Twin Cities man was shot in the chest when he tried to quiet some unruly passengers on a Metro Transit bus Thursday night.

Cleveland Montgomery, 34, is in critical condition at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, Minn., the Star Tribune reported.

The crime has caused local police, Metro Transit, and local activists to focus more effort on keeping buses, especially Route 5, safe.

March 4, 2007

Stationary Bike Race to Raise Money for Cerebral Palsy

The 2007 Great Minnesota Stationary Bike Race is set to occur on March 10 at the St. Paul River Centre.

Serving as a fundraiser for United Cerebral Palsy of Minn., organizers of the race hope to raise $50,000, the Pioneer Press said.

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DNA Test Backlog Allowed Rape Suspect to Run Free

A 16-year-old boy might have not been able to rape another victim if the Minnesota crime lab's DNA testing hadn't been backlogged.

Joshua Lamar Smith already had a sample of DNA waiting to be processed when he raped a 57-year-old woman in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood on Jan. 1, the Pioneer Press said.

Smith was charged Friday with the rape of the 57-year-old woman as well as another rape case that occurred in September, the Pioneer Press said.

If the DNA samples had been processed earlier, the police would have been able to build a case against Smith and arrested him before the second rape occurred.

February 25, 2007

Suspect in Mankato Slaying in Custody

A man suspected of being involved in the killing of a Mankato woman on Saturday has been placed in custody, the Pioneer Press said.

Judith Kay Ellgen, 53, was found dead in her apartment early Saturday. Authorities believe that she died from severe head and upper body trauma.

The 32-year-old man suspected of being involved is currently being questioned by police, the Star Tribune said.

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Biggest Storm of the Season Hits Minneapolis

It's the biggest snowstorm to hit the Twin Cities area in years, according to the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press.

Forecasters predict over a foot of snow to accompany the hazardous conditions and freezing weather.

According to the Star Tribune, local police already reported around 200 accidents, but no deaths as of Saturday evening.

The Pioneer Press reports that the National Weather Service predicts winds of over 30 mph. “Long-duration winter storm in progress," the National Weather Service said. “The worst is yet to come…do not be fooled.?

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February 15, 2007

Statue Thieves Charged

Two men attempting to sell the remains of two statues stolen from a Minneapolis park were charged with felonies Friday.

Jeremy Allen Giles, 24, and Brandon James Unruh, 21, were charged with receiving stolen property after they were caught trying to sell pieces of two statues stolen from Theodore Wirth Park on Feb. 9.

Giles and Unruh were caught trying to sell pieces of the broken statues at Great Western Recycling in St. Paul, the Pioneer Press said. When the employee refused to pay them and threatened to call police, the men ran.

The Star Tribune reported that the 239 pounds of bronze that they attempted to sell to the Great Western Recycling scrap yard would have only earned them $310. The statues in their original condition were worth $8,150.

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February 13, 2007

Amber Alert Teen and Father Found

An Amber Alert issued for a missing Minnesota teenager and her father was cancelled on Tuesday after the two were found in the Mall of America.

Deidre Michuda, 14, and her father, Stephen Michael Michuda, 34, of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., were found in the transit center at the Mall of America by an unidentified citizen who later called in, Inver Grove Heights Police Lt. Jerry Salmey said.

Stephen Michuda, a convicted sex offender, did not have custody of his daughter and was not allowed to have unsupervised contact with her, police said. He was seen picking her up after school on Monday by Deidre's siblings.

The minivan the Michudas were seen travelling in was found in South St. Paul early Tuesday, authorities said.

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February 11, 2007

St. Paul Fire Kills One

The Star Tribune reports that a 29-year-old man was killed in a grease fire that started in his kitchen Saturday night.

At about 9:00 p.m. the St. Paul Fire Department responded to a call from the victim's mother reporting a fire on the 200 block of Goodrich Avenue. The victim was taken to Regions Hospital but was later pronounced dead.

According to firefighters, the man tried to put out the flames with water, which would have only increased the size of the fire.

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February 7, 2007

Classes Cancelled For Mercury, Not Snow

Classes were cancelled for a New Brighton school on Wednesday while a mercury leak is under investigation.

The Associated Press reports that classes at St. John the Baptist Catholic School are cancelled until Friday while school officials and pollution control experts finish cleaning up a mercury leak that happened on Tuesday.

The Star Tribune's article reports that leaks occurred in at least one science lab, a hall, and the cafeteria.

Unless students had extreme exposure to the mercury, they should be alright, Sam Brungardt, an Information Officer from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said.

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February 3, 2007

Shooting Leaves Father and Son Dead

A father and son were found dead and the mother wounded after a 911 call led police to a farmhouse in Waseca, Minn. on Saturday.

Sources say that Tracy Kruger, 40, and Alex Kruger, 13, were found dead in their farmhouse southwest of Waseca.

The mother, Hilary Kruger, was found in critical condition and rushed to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale.

The other son had been staying at a friends house when the shooting took place. A police officer said that he was in utter shock after learning of the incident.

Police have found a suspect in the case and are questioning him. No arrests have been made.

January 31, 2007

School Bus Crash Injures 7

Seven passengers were injured Wednesday when a school bus crashed and then rolled over another car.

The Pioneer Press reports that 5 students and 2 adults were taken to Coon Rapids hospital due to injuries.

The accident occurred Wed. morning on County Road 58 and Cedar Drive, according to Anoka County emergency lead dispatcher Kyle Blum.

Capt. Dave Jenkins of the Anoka County Sheriff's Department said that preliminary results of the investigation reveal that the bus driver rounded a curve, then drifted over the center line where it over corrected and lost control. It then collided with the first vehicle and rolled over.

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January 25, 2007

Debate Lights Up Over Smoking Ban

A proposal for a statewide ban that would prohibit smoking in public places was introduced to Minnesota Legislature on Thursday.

An extension to the state's Indoor Clean Air Act, the ban would prohibit people from smoking in public places such as bars and restaurants. Some exceptions have been announced, including private places like hotel rooms.

Sources say the ban, which would take effect on Aug. 1, would also give business owners the right to ask smokers to leave if they try to light up on their property. Smokers who don't leave could face arrest, and business owners who refuse to follow the rules of the ban could find themselves facing misdemeanor charges.

Those against the ban argue that the state has no right to state how businesses should be operated or to govern smokers' right to smoke. They also worry that a ban on smoking will cause businesses to lose money. Those for the ban argue that smoking is bad for the smokers' and non-smokers' health.

A hearing on the ban will take place on Feb. 1 in the House Health and Human Services Committee.

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January 22, 2007

Snowmobile Crashes into SUV

Desy Tiuma, 31, and her husband, James Nonweiler, 27, collided with an SUV Sunday afternoon at the intersection of County Road 7 and 210th Avenue in west central Minn.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Tiuma was killed at the scene of the accident and Nonweiler was rushed to St. Cloud Hospital in critical condition.

Reports say that the driver of the SUV, a 66-year-old-man from Renville, Minn., was not injured.

The accident is still under investigation by the Kandiyohi Sheriff's Department.

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