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December 13, 2008

Sister of missing NW Minnesota woman dies in car crash

The Star Tribune reported Gina Anderson’s, who has been missing since Oct. 23, younger sister died in a car crash on Sunday.
"The family is in agony," said Eric Pagel, who is married to the Lappegaards' middle daughter, Jackie, 29. "They feel they're being picked on -- that God doesn't like them."(Star Tribune).
Anderson’s sister, Jill Lappegaard, was 22. The sisters are from Thief River Falls and Lappegaard was living with her parents (Grand Forks Herald).
Along with Anderson’s other sister, Jackie Pagel of Minnetonka, Lappegaard was helping the fundraisers to help find Anderson (Grand Forks Herald).
The family buried Lappegaard on Wednesday, and they continued with the benefit for Anderson, 32, which Lappengaard helped plan (Star Tribune).
The benefit will go on, said Steve Lappegaard, but he and his wife won’t be able to attend now (Grand Forks Herald).
"They knew Jill would want it that way," Pagel said. "She worked so hard on it." (Star Tribune).
Anderson was last seen Oct. 23 by a construction worker, leaving her house in her yellow car at 2:30 pm (Star Tribune). Anderson left behind her purse, credit cards, passport and anti-seizure medication (Star Tribune).
Anderson’s husband, Jeremy Anderson, has been ruled out as a suspect by Thief River Falls police investigator Jim Van Schaick. "We didn't suspect him to begin with because we established he'd been where he said he was that day," Van Schaick said. "But we offered him the polygraph anyway, to formally clear him and prevent any rumors." (Star Tribune).
Lappengaard was driving to a friend’s house at 1:30 am Sunday; she was not wearing a seatbelt when the accident happened and she was ejected through the windshield (Star Tribune). The accident was a single-car accident, and authorities are not sure what caused the accident (Grand Forks Herald and Star Tribune).
"I couldn't believe it," Van Schaick said. "One daughter missing, and one dead. It goes beyond what most people could handle." (Star Tribune).

December 6, 2008

Craigslist babysitter admits child pornography use

The Star Tribune reported the 23-year-old Little Canada man pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Minneapolis.
The woman who hired the babysitter, Andrea Bang of St. Paul, said she interviewed him and watched him care for her children twice in her home before hiring him (KARE-11).
"I really never saw any red flags at all," Bang said (KARE-11).
The babysitter, Aaron Jay Lemon, was charged Aug. 5; the incident took place in August 2007 in St. Paul (Star Tribune). Lemon pleaded guilty to making a pornographic video of a two-year-old girl for whom he was babysitting; that incident happened about a month before Bang hired Lemon to watch her kids (KARE-11).
"I just feel horribly sick that I put my kids in a position that they could have been harmed," Bang said (KARE-11).
Lemon could face a maximum of 30 years in prison (Star Tribune). Bang said her daughter does not remember anything bad happening when Lemon babysat, but Bang wants police to check to see if Lemon has any inappropriate videos or photos or her children (KARE-11).
This is the second time a crime has been linked to Craigslist and babysitting. Katherine Ann Olson, 24, was killed in October 2007 after she answered a Craigslist ad for a babysitter. Michael John Anderson, 20, of Savage, is scheduled to stand trial in her death sometime next year (Star Tribune).

November 30, 2008

Hastings hospital workers walk out

The Pioneer Press reported that more than 230 workers at Regina Medical Center were planning a two-day strike on Monday, to protest what they view as unfair labor practices. On Monday the Star Tribune confirmed that the workers walked picket lines and rallied outside the center.
"How can they expect that we can afford this package when we're earning only $14 to $17 an hour?" said Karen Martineau, who spent six hours on the picket lines. "It's a challenge, especially as a single parent, to make ends meet," (Star Tribune).
The Pioneer Press reported that the current contract ended Oct. 31; the contract includes nursing assistants, physical therapy aides, housekeepers, dietary workers and other caregivers.
The union called for a two-day strike to take a stand for working families, said Ryan Nagle, a union spokesman (Star Tribune).
The strike was the first at Regina in more than 20 years (Star Tribune). The hospital is seeking to reduce its retirement contribution for all union and non-union employees between one and two percent, depending on how long they have worked with the hospital (Star Tribune). The hospital is offering a 3 percent wage increase for each of the next three years, Misencik said (Star Tribune).
"All we want for Christmas is my pension saved," one placard read. "Regina's CEO: Why don't you give up your golf play time?" read another (Star Tribune).

November 21, 2008

St. Paul murder suspect surrenders

KARE-11 reported that the 19-year-old St. Paul suspect of shooting his 15-year-old friend turned himself in on Thursday.
St. Paul Police say the suspect, Alfredo Gutierrez-Gonzalez, killed his friend Jacob MacKenzie, who died in his St. Paul home Sunday (KARE-11).
Police say investigators found what they believe is the murder weapon, a semi-automatic rifle, dumped on Highway 52 (KARE-11).
Family members and friends of MacKenzie had pleaded Gutierrez-Gonzalez to turn himself in (Star Tribune).
"I have no remorse for him," MacKenzie’s mother Michelle Olson said. "I hate him for what he did -- accident or not." (Star Tribune).
Gutierrez-Gonzalez turned himself in three days after his girlfriend, Jayna Emerson, who also is MacKenzie’s cousin, made a tearful public plea (Star Tribune). He turned himself in the same day of the victim’s visitation service (Star Tribune).
No matter what the motive was, Olson hopes Gutierrez-Gonzales is charged with murder. She believes it was an accident because she believes no one would ever have cause to kill her son (Star Tribune).

November 14, 2008

University of Minnesota student calls in false bomb threat

The Minnesota Daily reported that a female University of Minnesota student called in a bomb threat around 7 a.m. Tuesday but there was no bomb threat.
The student called and said she overheard three Somali males discussing a bomb threat for Anderson Hall and Hubert H. Humphrey Center (MN Daily).
"After confronting her about the discrepancies in her story, she eventually confessed to making the story up," university spokesman Dan Wolter said. "My understanding is [she lied] to get out of going to class." (Star Tribune).
Before discovering the threat was a hoax, the university evacuated classes in both halls at 8 a.m. (MN Daily).
Once the threat was determined to be a lie, building inspections stopped and the building reopened at about 8:30 a.m., Wolter said (Star Tribune).
The Minnesota Daily reported that the student has not been charged, but could be charged for filing a false police report which is a misdemeanor offense; Wolter said if she is not criminally charged, she could still face consequences from the university.
The student racial profiled the men she made up, which was troubling said University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner (MN Daily)
Salma Hussein, a sophomore and secretary of the U's Somali Student Association, said, "This is really sad that a person who goes to the university would think that low of other students." (Star Tribune).
Though authorities take into consideration that students use a bomb threat to get out of class, they still take it seriously."We did have the text message ready to roll [until the student confessed]," Wolter said (Star Tribune).

November 7, 2008

Minnesota Senate race to recount

Senator Norm Coleman declared a victory on Wednesday after Tuesday’s Election Day, but with his lead only 0.01 percent over Franken, a mandatory recount has been ordered (Pioneer Press).
Coleman said Wednesday that Franken should consider stepping aside. Franken said on Minnesota Public Radio Thursday morning that "candidates don't get to decide when an election's over -- voters do." (KARE-11).
The Associated Press had called the race a victory for Coleman on Wednesday morning, but recalled it saying they called it prematurely (Pioneer Press).
"No matter how fast people would like it, the emphasis is on accuracy," Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said (Pioneer Press). Ritchie said the recount will not start until mid-November at the earliest and could take until December (Pioneer Press).
Minnesota law requires an automatic recount when the difference between a winner and loser is less than 0.5 percent of the total number of votes cast (Pioneer Press).
"Let me be clear. This race is too close to call and we do not yet know who won," Al Franken said. "It's going to be a little longer before we have a winner." (Pioneer Press).
Both Coleman and Franken’s campaign have hired attorneys to watch over the recount (Pioneer Press).
KARE-11 reported Thursday that a typo has been fixed which shortened Coleman’s lead to 337. The Pioneer Press reported Coleman’s lead on Wednesday as 477 votes. KARE-11 reported that the lead was cut by 100 votes, but according to the amount of votes Coleman led by according to both articles, his lead was cut by 140 votes.
KARE-11 reported that the typo was in Pine County; an election official accidentally entered 24 votes for Franken on Tuesday night instead of the 124 he actually received.
KARE-11 also reported that 55 absentee ballots that arrived on time for Election Day in Ramsey County were not counted, and they have now been added to the total.
KARE-11 reported that the town of Buhl in northwestern Minnesota ballots have been casted, but not counted in statewide totals. According St. Louis County Director of Elections Paul Tynjala officials tried to get results from Buhl’s ballots but everyone had already gone home. Results from Buhl were counted Wednesday; the results still did not declare either candidate as a winner (KARE-11).
"The hand counting had just started and they already announced Obama was president and that's kind of demoralizing," Mary Markas, one of Buhl's election judges said. "We felt bad about that because we wondered if our votes even counted." (KARE-11).
It just goes to show that when you think your vote doesn't count, it does count," she said.

October 31, 2008

University of Minnesota breaks flu shot world record

The Minnesota Daily reported that the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus broke the Guinness Book of World Record for most flu vaccinations in a single day on Tuesday with 11,538.
The flu shot event broke the previous record held by a hospital in Florida (Star Tribune). The Minnesota Daily reported that the former record was 3,721 which was set in 2006.
“The whole thing we’re about is trying to get the whole idea of protecting your entire house, or team,? Mark Robien of the University’s children’s hospital said, “or your entire home team.? Robien is part of the Vikings Tackling Influenza Program, a partnership between the Vikings and the University’s pediatrics department (MN Daily).
The Minnesota Daily reported that the U of M’s record of flu vaccinations in a single day beat of the Mayo Clinic’s 7,401 shots it gave to its employees last week in Rochester. The Star Tribune reported that officials at the Mayo Clinic say it gave out twice as many shots as the U did (The Star Tribune’s press time was at 2:29pm on Tuesday and the total number of flu shots for the U of M was only 6,680 at 2p.m.). Hospital officials were not sure if they flu shot event at the Mayo Clinic had registered with the Guinness Book of World Records (Star Tribune).
Some wanted to make sure people were careful about their flu shots, like David Schwartz who was handing out to people that warned them about some of the dangers of flu shots. “We’re not preventing anyone from getting it, we just want to get people to look into it before they get it done,? he said. “No protest, just an education.? (MN Daily).
When the Star Tribune’s story went to press, University spokeswoman Patty Mattern said she expects that about 7,000 students, faculty and staff will receive immunizations by the time the world record campaign wraps up at 5 p.m.
Edward Ehlinger, a director at Boynton Health Service, said he came up with the idea to break the world record this summer when he was thinking of ways to get more flu shots to people (MN Daily).

October 25, 2008

Six politician’s homes vandalized

The Star Tribune reported that Sen. Norm Coleman and others found messages of disapproval written on their homes and garages on Wednesday.
Coleman’s side garage had a message that said, “U R A CRIMINAL RESIGN OR ELSE! PSALM 2.? The front of the senator’s garage had “scum? written three times (Star Tribune).
All six politicians affected were Minnesota Congress members: Sens. Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar, Reps. John Kline, Michele Bachmann, Jim Ramstad and Keith Ellison (Pioneer Press).
Almost all the messages were spray painted on garages and homes saying similar things as Coleman’s, with messages about resigning and Psalm 2. One difference was a message on Bachman’s property that said, "Vote No on the bailout." Bachman had voted against the $700 billion bailout this month (Star Tribune).
Coleman said the graffiti is a "physical manifestation" of the anger and partisanship that he said is tearing apart the country. The problems are "worse this year," he said (Pioneer Press).
Sgt. Jesse Garcia of Minneapolis said tests could be conducted to determine if the graffiti messages all came from the same spray can (Pioneer Press).
"This is a childish way for someone to express their political views," said Garcia (Pioneer Press).
William Barnes, a professor of Hebrew and the Old Testament at North Central University in Minneapolis, explained that Psalm 2 refers to those who have displeased God and risk his wrath (Star Tribune). "I took it to a meeting [of biblical scholars] today and we just don't know what to make of it," he said. "It's not something we've commonly seen used in a political context."
If Norm Coleman and the others are going to be held accountable for their poor stewardship, then it must be done the American way — at the ballot box and in public discourse, not in the dead of night with a can of spray paint," Brian Melendez, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chair, said (Pioneer Press).

October 18, 2008

Disabled man beaten over a lie

KARE-11 reported that a disabled man from Lakeville was severely beaten for several hours last Friday and Saturday nights after a 16-year-old girl told her boyfriend that the disabled man had hit her.
"We don't know what the motive was," Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said. "What we do know is that she told her boyfriend that she had been previously assaulted by the victim, which was not the case. But that's what she told them. And then they, at that point of time, took the victim to a remote location and committed these series of horrendous crimes against him." (Star Tribune).
The mentally disabled man, Justin Hamilton, 24, has injuries including, not seeing color out of one eye, bruises, two broken ribs, and was branded by a heated up credit card (KARE-11).
Hamilton’s mother, Carolyn Hamilton, told KARE-11 that the victim, who is adopted, suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. "He's thinking someone is going to find where he is and come and beat him up and take him," she said.
The four suspects are Glen Richard Ries, 33, Jonathon Michael Diepold, 21, John Maxwell Maniglia, 19, and Timothy John Ketterling, 21, were each charged with assault and false imprisonment (KARE-11).The 16-year-old, Natasha Dahn, was also charged for connection with the beating. Maniglia is Dahn’s boyfriend (Star Tribune).
The Star Tribune reported that one of the suspects, Ketterling, of Prior Lake, is also mentally disabled.
"Tim tried to stop the fighting and tried to leave," Ketterling's mother, Lynn Ketterling said. "He wasn't involved in any of this brutal, ugly, icky anything."
Along with the beatings, Diepold and Maniglia demanded money and property from Hamilton (Star Tribune). Ketterling drove all of them to Hamilton's family home where Diepold and Maniglia stole X-box games (Star Tribune).
Hamilton recalled being kicked with tan military boots as Diepold and Maniglia yelled, "You don't hit women!" (Star Tribune).
Authorities said Diepold and Maniglia tied Hamilton to a tree with a belt and beat him with a baton, kicked him, and punched him (Star Tribune). They also burned him with a cigarette lighter and heated up credit card, according to the charges (Star Tribune).
Hamilton black out at some point, and once conscious again, the abusers let him walk away, where a driver picked him up on the highway and brought him to the Northfield police station (Star Tribune).
All five suspects were arrested. Authorities say Diepold, Maniglia and Dahn told police of the roles they played in Hamilton's assault (Star Tribune).

October 10, 2008

University of Minnesota considers a smoking ban

The Minnesota Daily reported last Tuesday that the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus is currently conducting a study about a possible smoking ban.
“It’s not going to make or break the University, but it is certainly something we are looking at in this study,? Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart said.
The Star Tribune picked up the story on Tuesday reporting that a U of M student affairs group and health officials have sent a survey to students, staff and faculty to measure their feelings on a campus wide smoking ban.
Rinehart said the survey’s purpose is to get a broad sampling of people’s attitudes toward smoking (MN Daily).
Rinehart told the Star Tribune that the ban could lower smoking rates at the U of M. Similarly, Rinehart told the Daily that the ban could reduce smokers as well as entice other universities to follow the U of M’s example if such a ban existed.
Rinehart said the study should be completed by the first of the year, and there should be recommendations for the University by spring (MN Daily).
Other U of M campuses have already taken part in smoking bans: Crookston’s smoking ban will be enforced in January, and the Duluth campus’s smoking ban was enacted last year (Star Tribune). Also, Minnesota State University Moorhead went smoke-free in January (MN Daily).
“Last spring I still saw people smoking around campus,? said Dori Becker, a health educator at UMD Health Services. “You wouldn’t have even known there was a smoking policy in place.? (MN Daily).
The University’s current policy prohibits smoking in all facilities and within 25 feet of building entrances (MN Daily). Rinehart told the Daily that a smoking ban would bring questions regarding campus boundaries.
“Is it realistic to have somebody that really wants to smoke to have to go off campus at night to have a cigarette?? Dave Golden, public health and marketing director at Boynton. “There is a safety issue there.? (MN Daily).
Golden also said the number of smokers at the U of M is relatively low right now (MN Daily). A recent Boynton survey found that 96 percent of University undergraduates don’t use tobacco on a daily basis; 80 percent report they never use tobacco products. This is the lowest rate since tobacco-use data was first collected in 1992 (MN Daily).

October 4, 2008

Minneapolis soldier accused of killing two soldiers from his unit

KARE-11 News reported that Sgt. Joseph Bozicevich, 39, allegedly opened fire on his fellow soldiers on their patrol base in Iraq.
The alleged murder of Army Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson, 24, of Pensacola, Florida, and Sgt. Wesley Durbin, 26, of Hurst, Texas took place Sept. 14 (KARE-11).
"We just have to wait and see what the circumstances were," said Joe Bozicevich Sr., the soldier's father. "In a combat zone, where people are highly stressed, who knows what happened?" (Star Tribune).
The Star Tribune reported that the soldiers were serving a 15-month deployment to Iraq with the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. The 4th Brigade Combat Team is held in Ft. Stewart, Georgia, where Bozicevich is currently being held (KARE-11).
KARE-11 reported that Dawson was Bozicevich's superior. Bozicevich was on his second deployment to Iraq when the alleged murder occurred (KARE-11).
Maxine Mathis, Dawson's stepmother, said she wasn't rushing to judgment about Bozicevich (Star Tribune). "I don't want to condemn him," Mathis said. "I don't know what state that child was in. He's somebody's son, too." (Star Tribune).
A Defense Department official told The Associated Press that the suspected shooter had been in a meeting with Dawson and Durbin to discuss his leadership performance (Star Tribune).
Bozicevich’s mother, Mary Katherine Bozicevich said her son grew up in Eagan, graduated from Cretin-Derham Hall High School and attended the University of Minnesota (KARE-11). She said she lost contact with her son after a falling out 18 years ago (KARE-11).
Bozicevich will face an Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury; the hearing date has not been set yet (Star Tribune).

September 27, 2008

Petters Group’s Minnetonka headquarters raided

The Star Tribune reported that the FBI carried out a search warrant at Petters Group’s headquarters in Minnetonka on Wednesday.
The search involved the FBI, the U.S. attorney’s office, the IRS criminal investigative division, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (Star Tribune). According to the search warrant, CEO Tom Petters and some employees allegedly defrauded investors of $100 million or more since the 1990s (Business Week). The warrant also alleges that the company created fictitious documents for current and potential investors (Business Week).
"Mr. Petters denies that he did anything wrong and intends to fight," Jon Hopeman, attorney for Petters, said (Business Week).
Agents also searched the CEO’s home in Wayzata on Wednesday (Star Tribune). Agents hauled boxes out the back entrance of the Minnetonka headquarters loading them in two sport-utility vehicles as well as one pick-up truck (Star Tribune).
"No charges have been filed. No one has been arrested," said criminal defense attorney John Lundquist, who is representing Petters Co. Inc. and related entities. "Petters Co. is cooperating." (Star Tribune).
Petters Group Worldwide includes several companies: Sun Country Airlines, Fingerhut, and Polaroid (Business Week). A company spokeswoman told the Star Tribune that the investigation does not involve Sun Country, Polaroid, uBid, Fingerhut or Great Waters Media.
"The investigation pertains to one financial entity that Petters is involved with,? company spokeswoman Andrea Miller said (Star Tribune).

September 20, 2008

Hopkins High School denies teen clinic proposal

The Minnesota Sun reported Sept. 12 that a West Suburban Teen Clinic will not be opening in Hopkins High School due to complaints from members of the community. "We value the partnerships that we have with the community, particularly those that provide services that meet the needs of our students and their families," Hopkins Superintendent John Schultz said (MN Sun). The Star Tribune reported on Wednesday that Hopkins would have been the first suburban high school in Minnesota to have a teen clinic. But community members did not like the possibility of teens’ sexual activity increasing (Star Tribune).
The West Suburban Teen Clinic is mostly designed for reproductive education, but also for immunizations and physicals (Star Tribune). "The reality is kids in our high school are having sexual intercourse and less than 60 percent are using protection," Bobbi Pointer, Hopkins High School’s nurse said (MN Sun). Pointer told the board that at least 10 Hopkins students were pregnant the last school year, and another 10 students were already parents, and five had experienced miscarriages (MN Sun).
The clinic was proposed after a 2007 Minnesota Student Survey showed at least half of Hopkins seniors were sexually active (Star Tribune). "Planned Parenthood and the Teen Clinic have an agenda and they are bringing their agenda into the schools," Gayle Bell of Eden Prairie said. "It's harming our kids." (MN Sun). Bell also told the MN Sun that public schools should teach abstinence-only classes. "Any comprehensive sex education is explicit and not appropriate at any level," she said (MN Sun).
Students from Hopkins still have access to the West Suburban Teen Clinic if they go to the Excelsior location (Star Tribune). The Excelsior location is 10 miles away from Hopkins; 143 Hopkins students were able to visit the center last year (Star Tribune).
Lisa Weisman, a Hopkins School District parent and supporter of the teen clinic said not opening the clinic could be a positive thing because parents need to be more involved and the schools need their support, "As a parent, the message I give my kids is that I don't want them to become sexually active -- postpone it as long as you can -- but there are kids who are sexually active and there's data to prove it. Certainly, there's nothing that derails a teenager more dramatically than an unintended pregnancy." (MN Sun).

September 12, 2008

I-35W is Nearly Open for Business

Since the bridge collapse on Aug. 1, 2007, construction crews have been working on the Interstate 35W bridge for the completion date of Dec. 24, 2008 (Star Tribune). The Star Tribune reported Sunday that the bridge will be completed earlier than December; in fact, Flatiron Construction officials told the paper the bridge could be complete in 10 days. MnDOT officials told the Star Tribune that just because the bridge may be complete soon does not necessarily mean it will be open to drivers just yet.
The Minnesota Daily reported Thursday that the bridge should be open next Tuesday. Governor Tim Pawlenty and other officials will announce the official opening date on Monday (MN Daily). “The intent is to open the bridge up to traffic as soon it is ready for traffic,? said Kevin Gutknecht of MnDOT (MN Daily).
Both the Star Tribune and the Minnesota Daily reported that the Flatiron will receive $200,000 for every day the bridge is completed before the original deadline of Dec. 24. “It costs the road users $400,000 every day the bridge is closed because users have to travel further and burn more fuel,? Gutknecht said (MN Daily). After its completion, 35W will have a 100-year life span and 10 traffic lanes according to MnDOT (MN Daily).