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October 30, 2007

North Carolina fire kills seven college students

A beach house fire in North Carolina killed seven college students Sunday, reports the Star Tribune and the New York Times.
Six of the victims were students at the University of South Carolina, and the seventh attended Clemson University. Most were members of the Delta Delta Delta sorority or the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity on a weekend away. Many had bright futures ahead of them.
Experts are unsure of how the fire was started but it appears to have been an accident. It is thought the blaze started near the back deck of the house and quickly spread, gutting most of the house.
Allison Walden, a 19-year-old pre-med major, was one of the students who died. She had left her home in Ohio for the warmth and Greek life of South Carolina. Terry Walden, Allison's father said she spent her last night alive partying and having fun with friends.
“It sounded like they were having a good time,� he said. “Unfortunately, the fire didn’t show any mercy. They probably never woke up.�

October 29, 2007

Charges filed in 2005 drive-by shooting case

Charges were filed against a Minneapolis man Friday in the case of a 2005 drive-by killing, reports the Star Tribune.
Artaives Brown, 24, was shot to death on Feb. 22 after an argument with Marcus Champs, 20, at a Roosevelt High School basketball game.
Both men left the school in their cars and Champs began to chase Brown. He caught up to him around 9 p.m. near E. 37th Street and Cedar Avenue S when Champs shot at Brown five times, the charges said.
Brown was driven to the hospital, where he died, by someone else in his car.
Police said he was a gang member at the time, but his mother denied it. Champs will be tried as an adult even though he was 17 at the time of the shooting.

October 28, 2007

Obituary analysis

The obituary of Francis Mayer in the Star Tribune does not follow the standard formula.
The lead tells some facts about Mayer. The second paragraph says that he died. Former students were used as sources, describing his teaching style and personality.
It works because it lets the reader see a small glimpse of the person who has died, but it is also not the most effective way to inform people.

Russian serial killer convicted of killing 48

A Russian man was found guilty of killing 48 people Wednesday, reports the New York Times.
Aleksandr Y. Pichushkin, nicknamed the “Bittsa Maniac�, confessed to killing 63 people, one short of his goal. He lured people into drinking sessions, then made them his victims. Most were killed with a blunt object hit to the head or were drowned in a sewer.
Pichushkin, 33, was a former supermarket worker. He was trying to outdo the Rostov Ripper, Andrei Chikatilowho, who raped and murdered 52 people and was executed in 1994.
The jury took less than three hours to reach the guilty verdict. Pichushkin faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Investigations of 11 other murders have been reopened because Pichushkin has confessed to them.

Not making the bed may keep people healthier

Researchers in the United Kingdom believe that an unmade bed can kill off dust mites thought to cause certain allergies, reports the BBC.
Studies conducted at Kingston University show that the mites cannot survive in the warm and dry conditions of an untidy bed, but instead prefer the damp conditions of an occupied bed. Up to 1.5 million dust mites can make their home in the average bed.
The tiny bugs feed on human skin scales, producing allergens that can be inhaled during sleep. These are thought to cause asthma.
The research is being done partly in hopes to find ways to build healthier homes.

Minneapolis woman dead after answering ad posted on Craigslist

Answering a Craigslist ad for a nanny job Thursday morning may have led to a Minneapolis woman's death, police said in the Star Tribune and the Savage Pacer.
The body of Katherine Ann Olson, 24, was found in the trunk of her car late Friday in Rudy Kraemer Park Preserve in Burnsville. The search for her began after the Savage Police Department had received a call about a purse found in a garbage can at Pacer Park in Savage.
Police discovered the purse belonged to Olson and left her a message Friday saying they it. Olson's roommate returned the call later that day and said she hadn't seen her since she left Thursday morning to answer an ad posted on Craigslist. This turned into a search for a missing person.
Police went back to Pacer Park, where Olson's purse had been found, and searched for more clues. A bloody towel was found also inside a garbage bag.
A helicopter was called to use heat sensing to search Pacer Park. That was unsuccessful, but as the helicopter was leaving the scene it spotted a car parked at Rudy Kraemer Park Reserve. The car was identified as Olson's and searched. Her body was in the trunk.
The cause of death was not released. Neither was the name of the suspect, a 19-year-old Savage man who police have in custody. He is expected to be charged as early as today.

October 23, 2007

Missouri woman convicted of kidnapping a pregnant woman and cutting the baby from her womb

A Missouri woman was convicted Monday of kidnapping leading to death in the 2004 incident in which she cut the baby from a pregnant woman, reports the Star Tribune and the Kansas City Star.
Lisa Montgomery, 39, kidnapped 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, in 2004 the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore. It took the jury about four hours of deliberation to reach the verdict.
Montgomery had been searching the internet for information on Stinnett and used a fake identity to set up a meeting with her. She kidnapped Stinnett, attempted to choke her with a rope and then cut the baby from her womb with a kitchen knife.
Montgomery's attorneys claim she suffers from severe mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder and pseudocyesis, which causes women to falsely believe they are pregnant and show the outward signs.
Prosecutors portrayed Montgomery as being manipulative and dishonest, claiming she used pregnancy lies as leverage in her own life. Montgomery has four children of her own and is in a slight custody battle with her ex-husband.
After delivering her last child in 1990, she had a tubal ligation which left her incapable of carrying a child. Despite this, Montgomery would still claim to be pregnant.

Man dies after contracting rabies from a bat

A man died Saturday from rabies, said the Minnesota Department of Health in the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. This was only the second case of rabies in Minnesota in the last seven years.
The man had been working around his cabin in north central Minnesota when he was bitten by a bat on his hand. He said it felt like a needle prick and it did not draw blood, so he thought he had not been bitten.
The man who was in his 40s sought medical treatment at multiple facilities during the two months since he was bitten. Health care workers that treated him are being tested and some are receiving preventive treatment.
Approximately one to three cases of rabies are reported in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Minnesota has had cases in 1917, 1964, 1975 and 2000. All were fatal.

October 21, 2007

Event coverage analysis

"The Lion King" is coming back to Minneapolis, 10 years after it premiered at the Orpheum Theatre. The Star Tribune reports on the upcoming show and what it was like in 1997.
The sources used in the story were the director Julie Taymor, technical director David Benken and Dave Marietta, operations coordinator and technical director at the Orpheum. Tom Hoch, president of the Hennepin Theatre Trust was also quoted in the story.
I believe the angle in the story was to remember and bring back the feelings during the first time it was on stage in Minneapolis. Specific details about the way the theatre was changed after undergoing a huge renovation three years earlier, the director having surgery and directing from her Barcalounger and how every inch of the Orpheum was turned into a work space. Bringing back these feelings is how the reporter turned this into more than a listing.

October 19, 2007

ATM found in foreclosed North Minneapolis house

An ATM found inside a foreclosed North Minneapolis house Saturday confuses investigators, reports the Star Tribune.
A city inspector found the machine while examining the house. It was pried open and all the money was gone. Now forensics are trying to find evidence that could lead them to a suspect.
ATM theft is not a common crime, but it does happen. The serial numbers on the machine found Saturday were compared with those on an ATM taken from the campus of Hamline University in St. Paul last month, but they were not a match.

Firefighters raise money in their boots for muscular dystophy

Minneapolis firefighters attempt to fill their boots with money this week with plans to donate it to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, reports the MN Daily.
All 19 stations plan to have firefighters at 26 busy intersections throughout the city asking for stopped cars to donate, Daniel Casper, a member of the Minneapolis Fire Department's executive board. They are positioned near their stations in case they need to respond to a call.
The "Fill-the-Boot" campaign runs from Wednesday to Friday evening. The Minneapolis district director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Lisa Piccolino, she the goal was to raise $38,000 this week. It is the first time Minneapolis firefighters have been a part of a campaign this size.
Thomas Thornberg, captain of the station that responds to calls in areas near the University and president of the Minneapolis firefighters union, was out collecting donations Wednesday. The International Association of Firefighters has raised more money for Muscular Dystrophy Association than any other organization.

San Francsico considers opening a place for drug addicts to with supervision

City health officials in San Francisco are considering opening a place for addicts to use drugs such as heroin and cocaine under the supervision of nurses, reports the Associated Press in the MN Daily. Called a safe-injection site, this is a step to try to reduce the number of fatal overdoses each year.
A daylong forum on the topic was held Thursday and included discussion about the safe-injection site in Vancouver, the only one in North America. Officials know getting a facility like this off the ground could take years because of legal issues.
The deputy director of demand reduction for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Bertha Madras, doesn't think this idea is good. "The underlying philosophy is, 'We accept drug addiction, we accept the state of affairs as acceptable,' " Madras said. "This is a form of giving up."
Grant Colfax, director of HIV prevention for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, estimates that there are between 11,000 and 15,000 intravenous drug users in San Francisco. One in seven emergency calls handled by city paramedics from July 2006 to July 2007 were overdose related.
Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Board of Supervisors support the move towards opening a safe-injection center.

Petition started over the slaughter of pets in Puerto Rico

An online petition has been started asking the governor of the U.S. territory Puerto Rico to ensure punishment for those who threw approximately 80 seized animals off a highway bridge last week, reports the Star Tribune.
Thousands have signed the petition started by Nadia Donato, a 39-year-old New Yorker who was brought to tears over the story about the slaughter of cats and dogs in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Some who have signed are from as far away as Finland and Australia.
The list of names will be delivered to the Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila's residence on Saturday during a demonstration. Pedro Toledo, Puerto Rican police chief, said the people responsible could face up to three years in prison on charges of cruelty.

Three killed in early morning crash

Three people are dead after an early-morning car crash on I-35 near Lakeville. police said. The crossover accident that happened around 2:15 a.m. involved a car, a semi-trailer and another truck reports the Star Tribune.
The victims names have not been released but all were taken to Regina Hospital in Hastings where they died.
The male driver,20, was traveling with his mother, 46, and another female relative, 22, in the vehicle. The male was from Minnetonka and both women were from Mound.
The Ford Taurus was heading northbound when it ran into the back of a semi-trailer. This caused the driver to lose control, hit the median and cross into the southbound lane where it hit another truck head on, reports WCCO. The drivers of the other vehicles were not hurt.
Police closed I-35 for almost four hours while they investigated and clean-up the accident. Alcohol does not appear to be a factor. The road was likely wet at the time of the accident.

October 14, 2007

35W bridge proposal choice

The news focus is different between the Minnesota Department of Transportation news release and the Star Tribune's report announcing the winner.
Both give the specifics on the company and the time line laid out to complete the project. But the focus in the release from Mn/DOT quickly moves to quotes from high ranking officials of Flatiron-Manson and FIGG Bridge Engineers, Inc., both companies that will be working on the new project and what they will be attempting to accomplish with their design.
The Star Tribune provides a picture and description of the proposed design, which plans to honor the tragedy of the collapse and keep aesthetics of the surrounding area in mind. The article also gives some information on the companies and designs that did not win the bid and the criteria that played into the decision. Some had bitter feelings about Flatiron-Manson and FIGG being chosen.

Member of Sound of Music Family Dies

Werner von Trapp, depicted as the character Kurt in the hit Broadway musical and motion picture, died at the age of 91 Thursday, reports BBC News. He was home in Waitsfield, Vermont.
The film and play were loosely based on the book written in 1949 by von Trapp's stepmother Maria. The 1965 film version starring Julie Andrews won five oscars.
The book tells the story of the family fleeing from the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, but in the film shows them hiking over the mountains into Switzerland.
The true story includes the family taking a train to Italy, then moving to the United States where they successfully toured as the Trapp Family Singers. They settled in Vermont.
Von Trapp is survived by three sisters and one brother.

October 13, 2007

High-ranking priest suspended after admitting he was homosexual

Vatican City officials have confirmed rumors Saturday that a priest has been suspended after appearing on Italian TV, admitting he is homosexual reports BBC News.
The unnamed man works in the department in charge of clergy around the world and is called a monsignor, or senior Vatican official. Chief Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombari said he will be suspended until further investigation is completed.
The Vatican usually does not comment on sexual scandal involving priests. This case is being treated as confidential, but Lombari did say that it is clear the priest has clearly acted in a way that does not comply with rules of the Roman Catholic Church.
The monsignor apparently acted ingeniously, allowing TV cameras to film him inside his Vatican office for an investigative program about gay priests. His voice was disguised, but colleagues and friends easily identified him. He said in the interview that although he was homosexual, he did not consider himself to be living in sin. He was only forced to keep quiet about it because of the teachings on the Catholic Church.

October 12, 2007

Oldest female prison inmate is set to be released soon

A woman thought to be the oldest female inmate in the country is almost finished serving her time, reports WCCO Thursday.
Lucille Keppen, 93, is set to be released Wednesday from the women's prison in Shakopee. She is serving time for shooting a former friend in the back five years ago in a Northeast senior apartment building.
The victim Stephen Flesche, 61, had what was described as a mother-son relationship with Keppen for approximately four years before it turned sour. Keppen seems to have little regret about shooting Flesche in the back in 2002.
When interviewed by WCCO three years ago, she wasn't sure if she would live to see her prison sentence end.
"I can't believe I am going to be going out that door!" said Keppen. "It is going to be so nice to just be by myself -- eat when you're hungry and do things when you feel like it."

Fatal shooting early Friday morning becomes Mineapolis' 37th homicide

An unidentified man died early Friday morning near downtown Minneapolis from gunshot wounds, reports the Star Tribune and WCCO. He is the 37th homicide victim in Minneapolis this year.
The man was found near the intersection of 14th Street and Portland Avenue S when police were called there around 4 a.m. No arrests have been made and the victim's identity has not been released.
Police closed some of the surrounding streets to collect evidence, but they have been reopened now.

October 11, 2007

Mother convicted of breaking infant's skull while using him as a weapon

A woman who used her infant as a weapon in a domestic dispute was convicted Wednesday on multiple charges including endangering the welfare of a child, reported the Erie (Penn) Times.
Chytoria Graham, 28, faces a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence stemming from an Oct. 8, 2006 fight with her boyfriend. During the fight, Graham picked the infant up by his feet and swung him at her boyfriend, Deangelo Troop, 21. The infant's skull was broken and he also suffered brain bleeding and bruising. He has since recovered.
A list of her charges, reported by the AP in the Star Tribune, is aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, simple assault and child endangerment. After she was convicted, Graham fell into the fetal position on the floor. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 12. The defense claims they would "take the appropriate steps for appeal."
Graham had originally pleaded guilty in March to aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child, but withdrew her plea in June. While being questioned Wednesday, Graham said she did not remember much about the night of the fight.
Testimony indicates she had spent time at a night club and drank with her cousin for a birthday celebration. Graham returned home around 3 a.m. where Troop had been caring for the infant, Jarron, and three of four Graham's other children. The fight broke out over whether Jarron should be taken to see a doctor about a cough. Graham then began throwing objects at Troop, including Jarron.
The infant and Graham's four other children are now living with Graham's parents.

October 7, 2007

Follow up story analysis

I blogged last week on a Star Tribune story that two teens had been arrested in conjunction with a shooting of a DHL delivery driver. A follow up story was done a few days later, providing much more information about the incident.
Both leads say much of the necessary information, but the follow up story gives a bit of an answer to the question "why". It says that two teens where charged with the shooting, and had decided to rob him on their way home from school. The first lead says only that two teens, 15 and 17, had been arrested.
The follow up story also gives the names of the two boys, actually 16 and 17, and their charges. Pieces of the two boys; stories are also found within the story. This information was obviously unavailable when the initial story was written. More information on the condition of the driver is also mentioned.
The first story also had a focus of all juvenile crime rates in the area and how they seem to be on the rise. Only information about the specific incident was found in the follow up, which is probably because more information was available and able to be used at the time of the second story.
Both stories organize the news in ways that flow well with a reader, but I thought the first one waited too long to tell the story. It gave facts and talked about juvenile crime before it told the reader what happened.

Chicago marathon shut down because of humidity and record-breaking temps

The 88-degree temperature Sunday became a new record high for the Chicago marathon, and it also caused the 26.2-mile course to be shut down four hours after it started, reports the Associated Press in the Star Tribune.
Organizers diverted runners back to the starting mark where medical attention and cooling misters were available. An unknown number of runners who made it past the halfway-mark were allowed to keep running after it was decided that the heat and humidity were dangerous.
"We're seeing a lot of our participants slowing," race director Carey Pinkowski said. "It was a contingency plan we had in place and we decided to implement as a precautionary measure."
Kenya's Patrick Ivuti won the race, with Jaouad Gharib, Morocco, only 0.05 seconds behind. It was the races closet finish. His unofficial time was 2 hours, 11 minutes, 11 seconds.
Ethiopian Berhane Adere defended her title in the women's race, finishing in 2:33:49. Romania's Adriana Pirtea had a 30-second lead in the final miles, but Adere pushed her last mile and finsihed three seconds before Pirtea.

Two stabbed in large St. Paul fight

A boy and a man were stabbed Saturday in a St. Paul fight involving 30 to 50 people, reported the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press.
Calls reporting a fight on the 1200 block of Bush Avenue came in around 10:15 p.m. Both of the stabbing victims, a 15-year-old and a 21-year-old, were taken to Regions Hospital by ambulance. The wounds appeared to have been caused by a sickle.
The fight started after uninvited guests showed up at a birthday party. Up to 50 people joined, grabbing nearby objects as weapons. No other information was available and witnesses weren't talking to police.

October 5, 2007

Remains of more than 30 people found in Moscow

The remains of an estimated 34 people were found Wednesday in a downtown Moscow estate while renovation work was being done, said city officials. Investigators are attempting to determine their identities, reports the Star Tribune.
A rusted pistol was also found at the site of the estate once owned by a famous czarist-era noble family, the Sheremetyevs. Some of the remains appeared to have gunshot wounds in the back of their skulls.
Moscow city police spokesman Yevgeny Gildeyev said some of the remains appeared to date back to the 1930s, which was an era where many Russian people were executed by the government run by Josef Stalin.
In 1937-1938, an estimated 1.7 million people were arrested by Stalin's secret police and at least 818,000 were shot. The era in history came to be known as the "Great Terror", reports BBC news.

Olympic gold-medalist Marion Jones admits using performance-enhancers

Olympic star Marion Jones is expected to plead guilty today to giving federal agents false statements after years of denied allegations that she used steroids, according to the New York Times and WCCO news.
With her mother by her side, Jones went to be processed, booked and fingerprinted before seeing United States district judge Kenneth Karas.
In previous years, Jones has denied having taken any performance-enhancing drugs. Now she is taking that back, stating that she used them from 1999 to 2001. If guilty, Jones could be stripped of the five medals she won in Sydney in 2000, among others won before.
The steroid that Jones used, "the clear", is linked to the company BALCO, Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, who is also linked to other athletes convicted or under investigation for using performance-enhancing drugs.
In a letter Jones wrote to members of her family, she claims she took the drug unknowingly and that her former coach, Trevor Graham, had given it to her saying it was flaxseed oil.
The letter also apologizes saying, "I am sorry for disappointing you all in so many ways."

Zebra muscles found in area lakes

Invasive zebra mussels were found in three lakes that are part of St. Paul drinking water system, according to the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press.
The nearly 420,000 people that the system serves should not be worried because the zebra mussels do not affect the quality of the water, said Steve Schneider, general manager for St. Paul Regional Water Services. The company provides water for St. Paul and eight suburbs.
St. Paul Regional Water Services found the zebra mussels while doing routine maintenance at Vadnais Lake. The mussels were also found in Sucker and Pleasant lakes, and the connecting canals.
Although the mussels don't affect drinking water quality, they can cause clogs in pipes which can increase maintenance costs. They can also smother native mussels and lead to a change in the ecosystem.
The zebra mussels were originally found in the Great Lakes thought to be brought from Europe in ships' ballast water. In recent years they spread to the upper part of the Mississippi River and continued to spread. At least 29 water bodies in Minnesota are infested with the exotic zebra mussels.