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News Briefs: Cause of fatal car-train collision in Morris remains unknown

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Editor's note: The following is a collection of news briefs from Forum Communication Company newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota.

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MINNEOTA

Cause of fatal car-train collision remains unknown

MORRIS, Minn. -- The cause of a car-train accident that killed a 53-year-old woman in December will likely remain a mystery. 

“We may never really know the final cause for the accident,” said Morris Police Chief Ross Tiegs. 

Lisa Daleo of Alberta was killed just after 2 p.m. Dec. 11 when the car she was driving on Highway 28, in Morris was struck by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train. 

The medical examiner’s report did not indicate that drugs, alcohol or other physical problems were a factor in the accident, Tiegs said. 

Because of the vehicle’s condition, investigators could not determine whether there were mechanical problems that led to the accident. 

Investigators did review a video from the BNSF train that showed the vehicle stopping inside the gate with the front wheels on the eastern rail just before the collision, Tiegs said. 

While the video did show that the train attempted to stop and sounded a warning before the impact, “no clear clues were shown as a reason the vehicle stopped on the rail,” Tiegs said.

Judge dismisses Senate building suit

ST. PAUL -- A district court judge tossed out a lawsuit seeking to halt progress on a state Senate office building, in effect tossing the issue back to politicians.

Ramsey County Judge Lezlie Marek ruled Friday that the suit brought by former state Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, should be dismissed. While Knoblach argued that the law authorizing a $63 million Senate building and a $27 million parking ramp violated the state constitution’s rule that only one subject be included in any law, the judge said the construction projects and other parts of the bill are linked.

The bill containing the projects also dealt with several tax issues. Knoblach and others, especially Republicans, said the Senate project should have been included in a separate bill dealing with construction projects.

The office building and parking ramp need one more approval before construction begins. The House Rules Committee must approve it, but leaders in that body are looking for less expensive ways to provide new office and parking space.

Frazee-Vergas wrestling coach on administrative leave

FRAZEE, Minn. -- Frazee-Vergas High School head wrestling coach and gym teacher John Barlund has been placed on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation.

The district can’t release any other information at this time, said Frazee-Vergas High School Principal Rob Nudell. He wasn’t sure how long the administrative action would last.

Longtime assistant wrestling coach Marty Aho will serve as head coach while Barlund is on leave, Nudell said. Two other assistant coaches “will help as they can,” he said. “All three have done a nice job of stepping up.”

The Frazee-Vergas wrestling team is ranked No. 2 in state Class 1A.

The team sectional tourney starts Feb. 15 in Thief River Falls, and Frazee-Vergas will be looking to defend its section championship from last year.

Under Barlund’s leadership in the last half-dozen or so years, the Frazee-Vergas wrestling team has made multiple trips to the state tournament and clinched one state title.

Man accused of selling heroin with child present

DULUTH -- Police arrested a man Thursday at a downtown Duluth hotel after he allegedly sold heroin while a 5-year-old girl was in the room.

Carvell Nashun Robinson, 31, faces charges of second-degree sale of heroin and child endangerment.

According to police, investigators from the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force and the Duluth Police Department completed a search warrant at the motel and found an estimated 7 grams of heroin and more than $2,800 in Robinson’s possession.

Dorothy Irene Leoso, 25, whom police identified as an associate of Robinson, was arrested on a local warrant with additional charges possible. Authorities said Leoso’s 5-year-old daughter was staying in the room while Robinson allegedly sold heroin.

Robinson is on probation in St. Louis County for a previous drug conviction, police said, and is out on bail in Douglas County, Wis., where he faces charges of delivery/sale of heroin and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was being held at the St. Louis County Jail.

NORTH DAKOTA

Turtle Mountain Chippewa propose Grand Forks casino

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa is proposing a casino and entertainment complex in Grand Forks.

A committee of the Grand Forks City Council will discuss the proposal, similar to one that failed in town in 2009, at its meeting Monday.

The Turtle Mountain Band approved a tribal resolution in October to seek approval for a gaming complex on land that the tribe would acquire.

A city staff recommendation says the council members should “engage in a good faith dialogue and community conversation” with the tribe on the merits of the project.

The committee members Monday will recommend action by the full council.

Attorney charged with murder conspiracy hires lawyer

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Henry Howe, the Grand Forks attorney charged with conspiring with two convicted drug dealers to kill a witness in an earlier drug case, has hired David Thompson of Grand Forks to defend him.

Both have law offices downtown, about two blocks apart.

Howe, 72, was charged last week in state district court in Grafton with conspiring with a client, Paul Lysegen, and Wesley Smith, to kill a female undercover informant.

“Henry Howe did not commit any crime,” Thompson said Friday. “He is a fine lawyer and a kind and decent human being. There is absolutely no merit to these charges whatsoever.”

Howe plans to add at least one more attorney to his defense team, Thompson said.

At his initial appearance Jan. 30, Howe told Judge Richard Geiger the charge appeared to be “payback” from investigators and the prosecutor for his years defending clients charged with drug crimes.

Thompson’s first move in the case was to file a motion seeking the court remove Geiger as judge in the case.

A defendant is allowed one such “peremptory” challenge to a judge sitting on a case without giving a reason, and Thompson did not include any reason in his motion.

Grafton man faces 15 child porn charges

GRAFTON, N.D. -- Grafton man was arrested Friday on 15 counts of possessing child pornography, each count with a top penalty of five years in prison.

Tad Matcha, 24, appeared Friday in state district court in Grafton and was jailed after bail of $125,000 was set by Judge Richard Geiger.

Walsh County State’s Attorney Barbara Whelan praised the work of the North Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, headed by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

Matcha lives in his parents' home but had images and videos of children engaged in sexual activities stored on computers, one of which was registered to his mother, but with password protection so his parents did not have access to the images, Whelan said in her court complaint.

Matcha’s home was searched Friday, after the IP addresses of the computers he used were tracked to the home.

Matcha appears to have no serious criminal record in the state. He had misdemeanor traffic citations and a minor using alcohol charge years ago, according to state records online.

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