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St. Paul shooting kills woman and injures husband

Heidi Firkus, 25, died inside the home at 1794 W. Minnehaha Ave. when a shotgun went off during a struggle with an intruder Sunday morning, according to KARE 11.

Her husband, Nicholas Firkus, 27, was shot in the leg and treated at Regions Hospital where he has since been released.

Nick Firkus told police that he and his wife were upstairs around 6:30 a.m. when they heard a noise downstairs. He said he grabbed his shotgun and walked downstairs with his wife where an intruder coming through the front door confronted him.

"A struggle ensued over the shotgun," said Sgt. Paul Schnell. "The shotgun went off and the wife was shot."

Branden O'Connor, who was house-sitting next door, heard a muffled sound coming from the victims' home Sunday morning and was concerned.

"I thought I heard, 'Please stop!'" O'Connor said. "I may have also heard, 'You shot me,' or, 'You shot her.'"

Calvary Baptist, where the Firkus' attended church, in Roseville held a prayer service Sunday night.

Plumbing Co. taking advantage of St. Paul explosion

KSTP reports that a home in Highland Park exploded in February after a sewer repairman hit a gas line, and some accuse a local plumbing company for using the incident to make money off the neighborhood.

After the explosion Xcel had begun offering camera inspections for free but Benjamin Franklin Plumbing had sent out postcards saying they would do the service for $99, according to KSTP.

"I thought it was too bad that this company wanted to charge us $99," said Carol Tauer, a St. Paul resident. "And make it seem like a bargain."

The company owner, Paul Gavic, claims that they are offering it to customers who want faster service than Xcel's.

"Could take two to three years before the contractor looks into someone's sewer," said Gavic. "And in the meantime, they could have a backup and could have another explosion."

Minnesota DWI ignition device bills move forward

Gov. Tim Pawlenty is in favor of new bills proposing that DWI ignition devices be put in driver's cars who have acquired a DWI and feels that they are essential to cleaning up the roads, according to the Star Tribune.

Pawlenty was in favor of making it mandatory to put the devices in every convicted offender's vehicles in place of taking away their driving privileges, but the bills being put through are a little more lenient for first-time offenders, making it just an option for those caught with low blood-alcohol levels.

"More than 40 states have some kind of interlock requirement in their law books," Sen. Steve Murphy told the Star Tribune. "With at least half of them putting the penalties on first time offenders and repeat drunken drivers."

On Wednesday the committee approved the bill, while the House Ways and Means Committee approved a similar bill also. The proposals could be put up to a vote as soon as next week in both chambers.

"Quite frankly, we are behind in Minnesota on this," said Murphy.

Fire code inspectors not receiving proper training

The Minneapolis City Council decision to transfer fire-code inspections to the Fire Department in 2004 is under scrutiny after an apartment fire killed six this month could have been handled better, according to an investigative report by the Star Tribune.

City officials had not checked the upstairs unit of the apartment for violations of the fire code for almost 16 years and many see the split of responsibility between two departments as inadequate.

"I have heard mixed stories, not a whole lot of stories," said Cam Gordon, vice chair of a committee that oversees inspections told the Star Tribune. "Some people have said the Fire Department does a good job and is competent and they are happy with the inspections they have gotten. But I have also heard the concern that maybe there should be professional housing inspectors doing these inspections."

The Star Tribune reports that two fire captains have said that they don't have adequate training to carry out their jobs as housing inspectors.

According to the Star Tribune, Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, chair of the Regulatory Services Committee, said reports are showing that the fire department is not finding as many violations of the fire code as regulatory services are because they are not sure what to look for.

"I definitely lack expertise," said one of the captains. "I have a list of what is a violation and what isn't, but I don't exactly know what it means."

Low water levels at White Bear Lake a cause for concern

White Bear Lake could have some problems this year with a low water level that just won't seem to go back up, KARE 11 reported.

This year, it seems that the lake is headed for a record low depth, causing some people to want to move their boats to a different lake so they don't have to worry about their boats getting stuck in the shallow watered docks.

Jason Brown, owner of White Bear Boat Works, provides the docks and manages the marina. Friday afternoon they struggled to pry walkways off the ever-growing beach, and push them twenty feet further into the lake than in normal years, according to KARE 11.

Generally, there is a long list of people waiting to get their boats onto White Bear Lake, but this year, that isn't the case. Registrations for boaters on the lake are down so much in fact, that they still have a quarter of their spots open.

White Bear Lake isn't the only lake suffering from low water levels, the State Climatology Department says, but there are plenty of lakes that are not suffering at all.

"At some point, it'll be back up," Environmental Specialist Alan Rupnow said. "It's part of the normal fluctuation of the lake."

Bon Jovi visits a Minneapolis shelter in between concerts

Rock star Jon Bon Jovi surprised a downtown Minneapolis shelter with a visit Thursday.

According to the Star Tribune, Bon Jovi visited People Serving People on 614 S. 3rd St. because he had driven past it on a previous trip to the twin cities and was interested in their work.

The reason for the visit was because Bon Jovi, who was between Xcel Center concerts on Wednesday and Thursday night, was on a fact-finding mission for the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, which has worked to tackle homelessness by building affordable housing, establishing community kitchens and cleaning up vacant lots in neighborhoods.

The surprise visit was away from cameras but afterward he spoke to reporters about Larissa Thelmon, 28, a personal care assistant laid off just before Christmas that he had talked to.

The singer also recently visited a shelter for alcoholics in Seattle and toured Skid Row in Los Angeles.

Jim Minor, president of People Serving People, said Bon Jovi asked "a lot of good questions ... and knew what he was talking about." When asked whether the shelter might someday benefit from a grant, Minor added: "They haven't said a word. And we haven't said a word."

The Star Tribune also reported that the executive director of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, Mimi Box, accompanied the rock star during his Thursday visit and said the foundation uses such stops to find out what has worked in some cities and can be promoted elsewhere.

'Titans' snags No. 1 spot at weekend box office

"Clash of the Titans" clearly took over the box office this weekend by more than doubling the No. 2 movie. Titans has made $64.1 million in ticket sales since its release Friday, according to the Star Tribune.

Coming in at No. 2 was Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married Too?" which made $30.2 million and in third was "How to Train Your Dragon" made $29.2 million.

The thing that makes many want to see this movie is the same thing that drew people to see Avatar; The 3D effects.

"If three out of the top five films doesn't spell a mandate for 3-D," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for "I don't know what does."

The rest of the weekend box office went in this order, Miley Cyrus's "The Last Song" took in $16.2 million and "Alice in Wonderland", which rounded out the top five, took in $8.3 million.

From 1999 to 2009, the department had an 8.7 percent drop in service calls, according to the Star Tribune. Meanwhile, from 2003 to 2009, calls went up 17 percent throughout the county.

Fire Chief Nyle Zikmund credits this to the department's many years and wide range of fire prevention work because he says the most important firefighting occurs before a spark is struck.

The three cities' per capita decrease in emergency calls was a stunning 28 percent when you take into account the population growth.

"Volumes of evidence says [fire] suppression is a failed response," Zikmund told the Star Tribune. "It's the extreme case that suppression actually makes a difference. You don't abandon suppression, but we recognize if we really want to make a difference, we've got to make an investment ... into prevention."

The success is due to the three tactics that Zikmund employs in his department: public education, code enforcement and fire investigations paired with arson prosecution.

Frank DiGangi did not consider a career in pharmacy until his dream of becoming an engineer was shattered when he failed to get an engineering scholarship at a prestigious New York school he applied for.

That is when his boss at the drugstore in New Jersey he worked at offered to pay his first year of college tuition if he went to Rutgers to study pharmacy, the Star Tribune reported.

After getting his undergraduate, he continued his education at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, where he earned a master's degree, and finally went to the University of Minnesota, where he earned a doctorate.

He then became a professor at the University of Minnesota teaching pharmacy where he connected with his students easily. "He loved teaching and he loved his students," Ellen Hall, daughter of DiGangi, told the Star Tribune. "He was proud of them."

Complications of pneumonia caused the death of DiGangi at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut on March 2. He was 92.

According to the Tribune, throughout his tenure at the U, he taught and advised more than 2,000 students before retiring in 1985. He specialized in medicinal chemistry and was always around to help students with questions on classes.

"Dr. DiGangi was an extraordinary friend of the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, pharmacy students," said associate professor Bruce Benson. "And all of Minnesota pharmacy for close to 70 years."

Keith Jacob grew up in Wisconsin where he learned what to look for in the perfect Christmas tree while walking through the many forests that reside there as a child.

Known as "Mr. Minnesota Christmas Tree Grower," Jacob planted his first trees in the 1950s and never looked back as he went on to be one of the best tree growers in the country.

He was selected to present the official Christmas tree for the Blue Room at the White House to First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1993 and 1994, family members told the Star Tribune.

"He was an inspiration," Pat Olive, vice president of the Minnesota Christmas Tree Association, told the Star Tribune. "He was extremely respected by both Minnesota and national tree growers, and was a mentor to many of them."

Jacob, 84, of North Oaks, died of mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, on March 5, according to the Star Tribune.

He joined the Minnesota Christmas Tree Association in 1957 and was on its board for more than 45 years and was also elected as the president of the National Christmas Tree Association in 1987.

His trees were sold at Bachman's, YMCA, nurseries and at small tree lots throughout the Upper Midwest.

In 2007, he was given the National Christmas Tree Associations Lifetime Achievement Award, an organization spokeswoman told the Star Tribune.

Jacob sold his farms in Shoreview and Anoka, but kept the one in Sunrise, Minn. all his life.

The obituary did a good job of using structure to make the story go a certain way. It starts with an anecdote and then goes into some insight into Keith Jacob the man and some quotes before getting to the background information and finally finishing with a good kicker quote.

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