December 8, 2007

St. Paul man charged with murder

A 26-year-old St. Paul man, whose father was stabbed to death when he was a child and who was shot in the head before he reached his teenage years, pleaded guilty to shooting to death a drug client in St. Paul, according to the Pioneer Press.
Lionell Thompson was sentenced to 17 years in prison Friday for shooting Robert Renville in a “drug deal gone sour,� according to the Pioneer Press.
Thompson moved to St. Paul from Chicago “for a change,� he said.
Except for the lawyers, no one showed up in court to support either side.

Police chief leaves amid controversy

The Northfield police chief who said hundreds of young local people were on heroin resigned Friday for a police job in Kansas, according to the Star Tribune.
Gary Smith said at a press conference in July that 150 to 200 young people were on heroin or using some kind of narcotic. The statement drew resident criticism and arguments from the Northfield School District , who said their numbers which showed that in the 2006-07 school year, only 15 of their students were being treated for heroin use.
Smith went on a medical leave of absence within two weeks of the statement and did not return. He says his decision to take the job in Kansas is not related to his statement.

December 1, 2007

Craigslist killer's charges changed

Michael J. Anderson was charged with first-degree premeditated murder Monday for allegedly killing a Savage woman who responded to his nanny request on Craigslist, according to the Star Tribune. His original charge was changed from second-degree intentional murder after a grand jury heard evidence on the case.
Anderson is accused of shooting 24-year-old Katherine Olson in his home after she responded to a Craigslist ad for a nanny, dragging her down the stairs, putting her in the trunk of a car, and leaving the car at a Burnsville park.
Anderson is 19.

Two die in Minneapolis double-murder men were killed in a double-murder in a Minneapolis apartment building Saturday morning, according to the Pioneer Press.
Police arrived at the scene 7:30 a.m. Saturday, where they found one man’s body in the apartment’s hallway, and another man’s body in a nearby alley. Police say the second man ran from the apartment complex before dying
No arrests have been made, but police say the killings are not random.

November 18, 2007

Free speech becomes issue in Robbinsdale

Proponents of the school levy which failed in Robbinsdale are suing to declare Minnesota statute 211B.06, which restricts anyone from “knowingly distributing false political or campaign information� as unconstitutional, according to the Star Tribune.em>
The lawsuit emerged after the levy failed November 6. Levy proponents sued Robbinsdale superintendent Stan Mack, and the state Office of Administrative Hearings on charges that Mack, who called attacks against the levy purposeful distortions of truth and the state, which enforces the statute, are infringing on their First Amendment rights. Opponents also said they feared the Mack and the state would sue them on the terms of 211B.06, and wanted to beat them to it, according to the Star Tribune.

Mankato fire kills two

The first fatal fire in North Mankato for 20 years killed two people in a mobile home Saturday, according to the Pioneer Press.em>
Authorities still don’t know what caused the fire, but it looks as though an explosion set the mobile home on fire.
Shawn and Beth Marxen died from the fire at 1:25 a.m. Their two daughters were staying at their grandmother’s home, and were not hurt.
Two of the firefighters called to the scene tried to enter the home, but the fire was so intense they couldn’t get to the victims, authorities said, according to the Pioneer Press.

November 11, 2007

Anoka County Woman Embezzles Over $100,000

An Anoka County woman was charged Wednesday with embezzling $134,000 over three
years from the car dealership she worked for, according to the Pioneer Press.em>
Natalie Maureen Steen was an accounts payable and receivable clerk for Maplewood Imports car dealership, where she moved money around in ways that it wouldn’t be missed.
Steen’s job paid $37,000 a year. She had worked for the company for over four years.

15-year-old found, ex-boyfriend arrested

An 18-year-old St. Paul man was arrested in connection with an Amber Alert case on Tuesday, according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.
David Guzman allegedly kidnapped his 15-year-old ex-girlfriend, Jacqueline Mendoza, according to the Star Tribune. Mendoza had been a runaway since Oct. 28, but had just returned to her mother when Guzman allegedly kidnapped her.
Mendoza was found safe and unharmed just after midnight not far from where she was kidnapped.

November 4, 2007

Girls discovered drinking at school

After observing one student have difficulty walk down a set of stairs and others acting oddly during science class, St. Paul school officials found that four girls had shared a water bottle of vodka at Highland Park Senior High School Monday, according to the Star Tribune.
Three 14-year-old girls and one 15-year-old girl were cited for minor consumption by St. Paul police before being released to their parents. The 15-year-old had a blood-alcohol level of .172, and two of the 14-year-olds had a blood alcohol level of just under .08, according to the St. Paul police spokesman, the Star Tribune said.
The minimum school penalty for drinking in school is suspension, and the St. Paul schools public spokesman said they would be referred for a chemical health evaluation.

Suspected robber kills himself

Only ten minutes after robbing a Hudson, Wisconsin bank, the suspected robber, who made it to Stillwater but was blocked from escaping by a police car, shot himself in the head, a bag of cash at his side, according to the Pioneer Press.
Little details have been released about the suspected robber, though police did find a business card with him, along with the pistol and money.
Hudson police believe the suspected robber is the same man who robbed another bank nearby last Friday, due to the man’s stature and mannerisms, which match the description of that robber.

October 27, 2007

12-year-old expected in court

A 12-year-old boy was expected in court Wednesday after he was arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of a 36-year-old man, but officials would not confirmed if it happened, according to the Pioneer Press.
Keith Amborn was shot in his home in Raymond, Minnesota. Officials have not discussed the relationship between Amborn and the boy. Officials are staying mum on the boy’s situation due to restrictions on what can legally be said about juvenile cases.
Dan Hartog, the Kandiyohi County Sheriff, did say, however, that the boy was the youngest person in his 30 years of service to be arrested in connection with a shooting, according to the Pioneer Press.

Fire alarm broken? Try bullets

Police officials say that a student was most likely trying to get out of class after they found multiple bullets placed throughout the hallways of a St. Paul school on Wednesday, according to the Star Tribune.
“Given the way they were placed, somebody may have wanted a day off,� said Tom Walsh, a police department spokesman, according to the Star Tribune. “They wanted to make people panic.�
Officials have not found any threatening letters or weapons, and have no reason to believe anyone is in danger.

October 20, 2007

Local fugitive runs for president

A Minneapolis fugitive who lives in Rome filed via courier package to be the first candidate in the New Hampshire presidential primary, according to the Pioneer Press.
Jack Shepard, a former Minnesota dentist, is a Republican who faces 25-year-old arson charges if he returns to Minnesota. Shepard allegedly set fire to his dental office in 1982. Shepard denies the arson charge, according to the Pioneer Press. He also pleaded guilty to fourth degree sexual assault in 1980. Shepard has lost three elections in Minnesota since 2003.

Supervalu gets swindled

Supervalu, a national gas chain based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, will go to court after being scammed out of $10 million, according to the Star Tribune.
The scam started when Supervalu received two emails, one which said it was from Frito-Lay and the other said it was from America Greetings Corp., which told Supervalu to send payments to a new bank number, according to the Star Tribune. Overall, Supervalu sent $10 million to fraudulent bank accounts.
The FBI confined the money before it could be spent, but now a federal judge has to decide whether the recovered money will go to Frito-Lay, American Greeting, or Supervalu.

October 12, 2007

St. Paul Girl's Father Charged With Meth Posession

The father of a 14-year-old girl who distributed crystal meth at her St. Paul school last week was charged with drug possession Thursday, according to the Star Tribune.
The complaint did not tie the father, Jerry Castillo, 35, to the girl’s meth distribution, the Star Tribune said. According to the complaint, the girl told the police brought the meth to school after finding a tube full of “little crystals� in a bathroom at Hazel Park middle school, the Star Tribune reported.
The police found two grams of meth in a bedroom nightstand during a search of the house.
Castillo denied giving the girl meth, the police said.

Klondike Kates go Pinup

The Klondike Kates, middle-aged “divas of the St. Paul Winter Carnival,� are coming out with a new pin-up calendar in which they appear almost naked—covered by strategically placed umbrellas and towels, according to the Pioneer Press. Other photos for the calendar include seemingly naked Kates posing behind flowers and in a tub.
The Kates hope to rouse interest in their act through the calendars, according to the Pioneer Press.
The calendars are currently in production but can be ordered now. They will also be available at the Winter Carnival. Proceeds will go to the Royal Order of Klondike Kates.

October 6, 2007

Toy Guns Call For Vote

The Minneapolis City Council will vote Friday whether to restrict the carrying of replica or non-lethal firearms in public, according to the Star Tribune.
The vote is in response to burglaries, assaults, car thefts and kidnappings carried out using such guns. Police officers are afraid of unknowingly shooting someone who is carrying a fake gun.
The Minnesota Airsoft Association, which represents the interests of players of paintball-style war games, gave the only testimony on the proposal. It supports the proposed restrictions.
“The problem is the realism,� Airsoft Association Safety Officer Erik Pakieser told the city council Friday, according to the Star Tribune.

Young Girl Pleads Guilty in Meth Case

A 14-year-old St. Paul student pleaded guilty to distributing to distributing crystal meth on Wednesday, a day after police say she handed the drug out at school, according to the Pioneer Press.
The girl was arrested Tuesday and was charged Wednesday with second-degree sale of a controlled substance. Her hearing is scheduled for October 10, and she will remain in custody until then. After finding two grams of crystal met at the girl’s home Wednesday, St. Paul police say they are considering the girl’s parents as a possible source, according to the Pioneer Press.
Seven students went to the hospital from their middle school in St. Paul after ingesting the crystal meth on Tuesday, according to the Star Tribune.

September 30, 2007

Mayor Pleads Not Guilty

The Mayor of Spicer, a city in Wilmar, Minnesota, pleaded not guilty to charges of disorderly conduct and fifth-degree assault Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
Mayor Perry Wohnoutka, 47, was arrested Sept. 1 after an incident at a Spicer bar. Prosecutors said that Wohnoutka had been drinking for a while at Melvin’s on the Lake in Spicer when the bar’s owner told his bartenders to stop serving him drinks. Two bartenders tried to put the mayor on his bike to go home and a fight ensued, prosecutors said.
According to a breath test, Wonhoutka had a blood-alcohol level of 0.217 percent, the police report said. He went to jail that night and was released the following day.
Wonhoutka will hire a private attorney to represent him.

Star Tribune Overcharges Franken

The Star Tribune will refund $12,000 spent on a full-page ad to the Al Franken Senate campaign, according to a Franken campaign official, the Star Tribune reported on Wednesday.
The Star Tribune reported Norm Coleman’s campaign took out a full-page ad this week and paid $23,000, according to the Coleman campaign, which is much less than the $37,000 the Franken campaign paid for their full-page ad two months ago.
According to the Star Tribune’s senior vice president for communications and marketing, Benjamin Taylor, Franken was charged the correct rate and Coleman was charged the wrong one. The fault, Taylor said, was with a new sales rep who gave the Coleman campaign the local rate rather than the national one, according to the Star Tribune. The Star Tribune said from here on, both campaigns will be charged the national rate.

September 23, 2007

Plaque Causes Controversy

A man who murdered his ex-fiancé and then shot himself in 2005 was memorialized two weeks ago at a city softball park in Erskine, Minnesota, according to the Star Tribune.
David Defrang, who coached youth baseball and basketball teams before his murder-suicide, was honored with a plaque in Erskine Athletic Park which reads, “In loving memory of David DeFrang, whose love and devotion to our children is greatly appreciated,� according to the Star Tribune.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said Defrang, 44, shot Tina Gerving, 39, to death on January 23, 2005, according to the Star Tribune. Gerving had called off their wedding two weeks earlier.
According to Patty Morrison, who coordinated the effort to put the plaque up, the murder-suicide was “one of those things that is impossible to explain,� the Grand Forks Herald reported.
Gerving’s aunt, Linda Emerson, was displeased to hear of the plaque.
“Yeah? Why don’t they make on for Charles Manson, too?� she said, according to the Grand Forks Herald.
According to Morrison, Defrang was well-liked by the community. “Every day in here would make us laugh. He was just a very, very happy person,� she said, according to the Grand Forks Herald. Emerson disagreed.
“He was a very egotistical S.O.B.,� she said, according to the Grand Forks Herald. “He wore a T-shirt like that to show it. It said 'It's All About Me.'�

Robot Performs Open-Heart Surgery

A new procedure for open-heart surgery using robotic arms is now available in Minnesota, according to WCCO.
The new procedure, in which a robot controlled by a surgeon makes a one-inch incision in the patient’s chest and goes in to complete the surgery, is only offered at Regions Hospital in St. Paul although it is available in other states.
In contrast to traditional open-heart surgery, where a patient is cut from the top of the chest down to the navel and ribs are broken, robotic surgery is much less invasive. The robotic arms, controlled by a surgeon eight feet from the patient, make a small incision in the chest, go into the body, and complete the stitching inside the heart. An advantage to this procedure is the tiny camera connected to the robot, which gives the surgeon a much different view of the heart than what is seen in traditional surgery.
“The robot will transmit our tiny moves very effectively without tremor so the dexterity you get with the robot is phenomenal,� Dr. Goya Raikar, who has performed the surgery, said, according to WCCO.
The robot procedure shortens traditional recovery times by weeks.

September 13, 2007

Inmate Escapes Using Only His Feet

An inmate who was set to go on parole next February walked out of a minimum-security unit at a Lino Lakes state prison on Saturday, according to the Star Tribune.
Jun Williams Vang, 27, was sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to second degree attempted murder for the benefit of a gang, the Star Tribune said. In the case, Vang confessed to his role as a driver in an attempted drive-by shooting in Maplewood.
Vang was under minimum custody since January 25 and was scheduled to be paroled in February, according to the Pioneer Press.
Authorities are now searching for Vang, who walked out of the minimum-security unit between the prisoner counts at 1:45 and 4:30 p.m. According to the Pioneer Press, “Lino Lakes police officer Dale Hager said prison officials told police that Vang had a car waiting outside when he left.� According to the Pioneer Press, Hager said Lino Lakes prison officials notified police two hours after Vang walked out.
Anyone with information on Vang’s whereabouts is asked to call 911.

Pawlenty Schedules Session for Flood Relief

Governor Tim Pawlenty called a special session at the State Capitol Monday to pass a disaster relief bill, according to the Star Tribune. Pawlenty called the session in response to pressure from victims of the severe floods earlier this summer in southeastern Minnesota. The session is set to for Tuesday at 5 p.m. Legislators from both parties have promised to stay on task. Pawlenty said relief to victims could be in low-interest, deferred or forgivable loans and potentially could get to homeowners and businesses within days of the bill’s passage, the Star Tribune reported Monday. If the bill passed, it would provide $121 million in aid to southeastern Minnesota, according to the Star Tribune.
Some of the money will help those affected by the summer drought, according to the Pioneer Press, but the special session will not address the 35W bridge collapse recovery effort. “Lawmakers and the governor discussed those issues in recent weeks but dropped them from the special session agenda when they could not agree,� the Pioneer Press reported.