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News Briefs: Day care provider in Farmington pleads guilty in child’s death

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

NORTH DAKOTA/MINNESOTA

Cass County administrator faces domestic assault charges

MOORHEAD, Minn. – Keith Berndt, the county administrator for North Dakota’s Cass County, faces two charges of fifth-degree domestic assault in Clay County.

Both charges, involving an alleged physical assault on a minor, are misdemeanors, according to documents filed at the Clay County Courthouse and the Moorhead Police Department.

Berndt, 53, is charged with committing an act with intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm or death, and intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm.

According to the police report, a Moorhead school resource police officer at Horizon Middle School was contacted Feb. 4 by a person who is required to report any alleged physical assault on a minor. A police officer was assigned to investigate.

The citation says the offenses took place at the Berndt residence Feb. 2.

Police Lt. Tory Jacobson said the investigation is open and follow-up interviews and reports are still being taken. Berndt was not arrested.

A court date has been set for March 25 in Clay County District Court.

Berndt was on the job Wednesday, a Cass County human resources staff member said.

NORTH DAKOTA

District won’t release name of student pulled from pool

FARGO – The Fargo School District will not release the name of the male student who was hospitalized after being pulled unconscious from the pool at Fargo South High School on Tuesday, district officials said in a news release Wednesday morning.

The student remains at a local hospital, where he is receiving treatment, district officials said in the news release. The hospital wasn’t identified.

The student was found unconscious in the pool about 11 a.m. Tuesday while taking part in a physical education class, district officials said.

After he was pulled from the pool, the class teacher administered CPR until an emergency response crew arrived, according to the news release from district spokeswoman AnnMarie Campbell.

Tuesday, Superintendent Jeff Schatz said there will be more investigation, but so far it seems like class activities were very routine.

Schatz said there were no indications of horseplay with other students. He said he did not know whether the student was classified as one of the strong swimmers in the class. The district was not aware of any physical concerns regarding the student before the incident.

Deadly shots in Belcourt fired in self-defense, Purdon says

BELCOURT, N.D. -- Nobody will be charged with homicide in the shooting death of a Belcourt man in November at a house in Belcourt, U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon said Wednesday.

Joel Sherman, 29, was killed by gunfire Nov. 27 at a Belcourt residence, sparking a lockdown at area schools and a search for two men.

But the federal investigation found that Sherman had threatened another man and entered the residence and fired more than once before others shot back, killing him, Purdon said.

In December, William Marcellais, chief prosecutor for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, charged Justin Keplin, 31, with reckless endangerment and assault leading to death in the shooting.

Those charges are the most serious that can be brought by tribal court.

Keplin and his brother were the subjects of the search. Keplin’s brother was not charged.

Federal prosecutors investigate homicides on Indian reservations.

In this case, Purdon said the investigation showed Sherman began a gunfight and the shots that killed Sherman were fired in self-defense.

The investigation remains open, but no homicide-related charges will be filed, he said.

UND may vacate eight buildings

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The University of North Dakota has identified eight buildings that may no longer be used because of their poor condition and maintenance and repair needs, according to a message from President Robert Kelley sent Tuesday.

The buildings include the campus Women’s Center, the multicultural services center, the Center for Community Engagement, office space and a student housing building.

According to Kelley, “no building will be removed from service until plans are approved for addressing the needs of the current occupants of that building.”

UND will gain new space for programs and services when the School of Medicine and Health Sciences moves into a building to be constructed on the northeast side of campus, but no decision has been made on what would move into the current med school building.

Four women charged with making meth near school

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Four Grand Forks women have been arrested on suspicion that they were manufacturing meth at an apartment across the street from Schroeder Middle School, according to court documents.

Kathy Joan Kielty, 56, Audrey Marie Morris, 65, Ashley Marie Brown, 24, and Tina Mae Metcalf, 51, are all charged with manufacturing meth within 1,000 feet of a school, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, the state's stiffest penalty.

Morris also faces charges of possessing meth and drug paraphernalia, and Kielty faces a charge of possessing drug paraphernalia, each with a maximum prison sentence of five years.

According to court documents, agents from the Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force followed Brown and Metcalf after they had bought an ingredient for meth to the homes of Kielty and Morris. A search of Kielty's home turned up equipment for making meth along with a glass tube with meth residue. Agents said Kielty told them how she used the equipment to make meth.

Pipeline spills 75 barrels of crude

CARTWRIGHT, N.D. – A contractor doing excavation work in McKenzie County struck a crude oil pipeline about noon Wednesday, causing about 75 barrels of crude oil to spill, said Tesoro High Plains Pipeline Co.

The release was stopped and the spill was contained to the immediate area, Tesoro said in a news release. The incident occurred in a grassland about 5 miles southwest of Cartwright, near the Montana state line.

About 70 barrels had been recovered as of late Wednesday afternoon, the company said.

Woman accused of stealing $2,000 from basketball tourney

FARGO – A Fargo woman was in custody for allegedly stealing about $2,000 in cash from a youth basketball tournament over the weekend.

Melissa Jane Beckman, 32, of Fargo, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of theft of property greater than $1,000, a Class A misdemeanor.

Organizers from the Spartan Youth Basketball Association, which hosted the tournament at Woodrow Wilson High School on Saturday, called police about 8 p.m. to report that an unattended money bag of the day’s admissions earnings had been stolen, said Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel.

Using surveillance footage, Vettel said Fargo police were able to identify Beckman. Police believe she was attending the tournament as a fan.

He also said they are working to recover the basketball league’s stolen cash.

WDAY/WDAZ to launch first N.D. statewide newscast

FARGO – WDAY/WDAZ News will launch the first North Dakota statewide newscast Sunday.

The 5:30 p.m. newscast will also be the first and only one in that time slot for Red River Valley viewers.

The program will be taped at the WDAY studio in Fargo, and can be seen on all North Dakota ABC affiliates: WDAY Channel 6.1 in Fargo, WDAZ channel 8.1 in Grand Forks, KBMY Channel 17.3 in Bismarck and KMCY channel 14.3 in Minot.

Radio station WDAY-AM 970 will make the program available live at 5:30 p.m. for radio listeners.

The news will be anchored by Drew Trafton and Katie Lange, with meteorologist Aaron White and sports with Jody Norstedt.

Mari Ossenfort, general manager for WDAY/WDAZ, said it was an easy decision to start the new newscast.

“We had multiple requests from our viewers to start an early Sunday newscast and we thought the time was right to make it happen,” Ossenfort said.

The new newscast will start at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

WDAY/WDAZ is a property of Forum Communications Co., which also owns Forum News Service.

MINNESOTA

Lake Park-Audubon teacher contract approved

LAKE PARK, Minn. -- After several months of negotiations, a settlement has been reached between representatives of the Lake Park-Audubon School Board and Education Minnesota-LPA on a two-year master teaching contract.

The school board unanimously approved the contract Tuesday night.

The negotiated package includes a 4 percent increase in the base salary for all teachers in fiscal year 2014, and another 4 percent base salary increase in fiscal year 2015.

The package also includes an increase in the 403(b) lifetime contribution from $15,000 to $20,000, as well as provisions for a formal progressive discipline policy, according to negotiations committee member Bryan Anderson.

"It (the contract negotiation) was a long process this time around," said LP-A Superintendent Dale Hogie.

Day care provider pleads guilty in child’s death

HASTINGS, Minn. -- A Farmington day care provider pleaded guilty last week to second-degree manslaughter in the death of a 3-month-old child left in her care.

Kaiden Robert Staebell died July 31, 2012, after Rebecca Lynn Graupmann, 46, left him to nap on her daughter’s bed. According to a criminal complaint filed last May, Farmington police responded that day to a call of a child who had stopped breathing.

Graupmann initially told police Staebell had fallen asleep in his car seat after she fed him. But when police found a wet spot and blood on a comforter in an upstairs bedroom, she admitted she had laid him on his back on the bed and left him there while doing chores. She checked on him later and he had rolled onto his side. She left him there, and later found him with blue lips and blood around his nose.

Staebell’s mother told police she had repeatedly told Graupmann her son should sleep on his back and had given her the message in writing.

A presentencing hearing for Graupmann is set for April 15 in Dakota County District Court. 

Babbitt man to undergo second mental evaluation in strangling case

DULUTH -- A Babbitt man accused of strangling his mother’s boyfriend to death has been found mentally ill by one psychologist, but must undergo a second evaluation, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Shawn Russel Doherty, 25, will enter pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness, his court-appointed attorney, Bruce Williams, told the Duluth News Tribune.

Doherty is accused of killing Paul John Bulen, 55, of Mahtomedi, on Jan. 13. Bulen, who was in a relationship with Doherty’s mother, was staying at the Dohertys’ Babbitt home temporarily.

Doherty underwent a competency evaluation after his initial court appearance on a second-degree murder charge Jan. 16. While the report is not public, Williams said the evaluation found that his client is suffering from mental illness and is not competent to participate in his own defense.

But Judge Gary Pagliaccetti granted a prosecution motion for a second evaluation. Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Michelle Anderson said she requested it because the initial psychologist had recently evaluated Doherty for a civil commitment case.

“We we wondered whether it was appropriate for him to do another evaluation,” Anderson said. “There’s not any particular reason why we’d have an issue with his evaluation.”

WISCONSIN

Ellsworth voters reject school measures

ELLSWORTH, Wis. -- Ellsworth School District voters rejected two referendum questions Tuesday.

A facility referendum failed with about 60 percent of voters against -- 1,379 opposed, 901 in favor.

The operational referendum, which would have allowed $800,000 in additional revenue for the next three academic years, was closer at 54.5 percent against, 45.5 percent in support. The vote was 1,243 opposed, 1,038 in favor.

The results are unofficial until the district canvasses the results at 4:15 p.m. Monday.

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