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News Briefs: Duluth woman pleads guilty in stabbing death

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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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MINNESOTA

Duluth woman pleads guilty in stabbing death

DULUTH -- A Duluth woman has pleaded guilty to her role in the 2012 killing of her former landlord.

Joella Lee Tucker, 32, entered the plea Wednesday in State District Court to an amended charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder. The plea was the result of an agreement with prosecutors.

Judge Mark Munger ordered a presentence investigation of Tucker’s background. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

In entering the plea, Tucker admitted that she assisted in the stabbing death of Kevin Tyman, 54, who was killed in his duplex in December 2012.

Her co-defendant, Raymond Charles Weeks, 43, of Two Harbors, also appeared in court Wednesday. He is charged with intentional second-degree murder, and his next hearing is set for May 13.

Tyman died at a Duluth hospital after being stabbed at his apartment Dec. 21, 2012. A medical examiner concluded that he died of a single stab wound to the right side of his abdomen, resulting in a laceration of his liver.

Businessman pleads guilty to swindling collection agency clients

HASTINGS, Minn. -- Four years after the state shut down his collection agency and nearly two years after he was formally charged with stealing money from his clients, Rosemount resident Scott Schoaf has pleaded guilty to charges of theft and theft by swindle.

According to the Dakota County Attorney’s Office, Schoaf, 50, failed to pay out more than $72,000 he collected through his business, Alternative Receivables Solutions Inc., between June 2009 and March 2010. He used the money for personal expenses, including lawn care and vehicle payments.

Schoaf would collect money owed to his clients and put it into a trust. At the end of the month, he would make payments from that trust, keeping a commission for himself. But a police investigation showed Schoaf had transferred trust money to an account used to pay rent, postage, payroll, taxes, multiple credit cards and loans. At least 128 clients were owed money.

Judge Shawn Moynihan sentenced Schoaf to 30 days of sentence to serve, probation for up to 20 years and restitution that has not yet been determined. He will serve an additional 25 days of sentence to serve each year until the restitution is fully paid. He is also prohibited from volunteering or being employed in any position that requires handling of money.

Pet breeder inspection in bill

ST. PAUL -- A long-discussed bill to regulate pet breeding made some progress Wednesday.

The House Agriculture Policy Committee approved the measure, which includes a provision that requires commercial pet breeders be inspected and licensed. The Animal Health Board would be in charge.

“It’s my firm contention that based upon the compromises that were reached in this bill, that after several years, even folks who were nervous about it, or suspicious about it, will be happy with it and recognize that it affords them to be seen as the good actors that they are and that there are not other onerous conditions placed on them to operate their business,” Rep. John Lesch, D-St. Paul, said.

A previous version of the bill required unannounced inspections, but that is not in the version that passed.

Pet breeders have concern about how the Animal Health Board would be able to deny a license.

Legislators have discussed regulating pet breeders for at least seven years.

Truck spills mattresses onto I-94

BARNESVILLE, Minn. – State troopers responded to a crash Wednesday afternoon along Interstate 94 involving a mattress delivery truck that left mattresses scattered along the road.

Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said the call about the rollover crash came in at around 3:50 p.m. Wednesday.

A Comfort King delivery truck went into the ditch on I-94 near Barnesville in western Minnesota. The cab rolled, leaking fuel and left an undetermined number of mattresses flung all over the scene.

MPCA seeks to add Wilmar sign company site to Superfund list

WILLMAR, Minn. -- The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is proposing to add the former Ace Sign company site in Willmar to the list of Superfund sites in the state.

The building on the half-acre, tax-forfeited property was contaminated with mercury, but indoor air levels are now acceptable after a partial cleanup of the property in 2007, directed by MPCA emergency responders.

The partial cleanup also included removal of debris and contaminated surface soils. Analysis of site soil samples last year by MPCA found mercury in near-surface soils. Since the site is in a residential neighborhood, the main concern is potential direct exposure to any remaining contaminated soils, according to the agency.

MPCA said on its website that the agency wants this site added to the list so it can have access to funds for response actions that protect human health.

The site was discussed in 2010 by the Willmar City Council’s Community Development Committee. A city official said at the time that nearly 1,000 pounds of fluorescent light bulbs -- the source of the mercury -- were removed from the property.

Suspect in crossbow killing to undergo evaluation

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- A man accused of killing a woman with a crossbow in his Detroit Lakes apartment last April will undergo a court-ordered evaluation by a licensed psychologist.

According to Becker County Attorney Gretchen Thilmony, attorneys for David Lee Stensrud, 57, have filed a notice of mental illness defense and a motion for an examination by a qualified psychologist.

Becker County District Court Judge Joseph Evans granted the motion Monday. According to court documents, once the exam is complete, a report will be filed with the court that includes a diagnosis of his mental condition at the time of the alleged offense.

Stensrud was charged in the death of Geraldine Kading, 69, of rural Dent. According to the criminal complaint, officers were called to Stensrud’s apartment April 10 for a welfare check after receiving a report of a potential murder-suicide.

Kading was found unresponsive with an arrow protruding from her chest. Officers also found Stensrud lying on a bedroom floor with an arrow protruding from his chest. A crossbow was lying on the bed next to him.

Stensrud’s bail was set at $1 million after his appearance on charges of first- and second-degree murder last May. He remains in the Becker County Jail.

Committee approves synthetic drug bill

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday approved a bill to further cut into the sale of synthetic drugs.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is in reaction to the problems associated with synthetic marijuana and other drugs produced from bath salts and other chemicals. It goes beyond lawmakers’ efforts in 2011 to curb the sales of synthetic drugs at places such as Duluth’s infamous Last Place on Earth, shut down last year by federal authorities.

The bill calls on the state Board of Pharmacy to order businesses to stop selling synthetic drugs. It also calls for a statewide educational campaign, expanded drug definitions and training for prosecutors.

The bill, HF 2446, next must clear the House Health and Human Services Committee. A Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, awaits committee action.

NORTH DAKOTA

Two killed in I-29 rollover near Hillsboro

HILLSBORO, N.D. -- Two women were killed Wednesday afternoon in a one-vehicle rollover near Hillsboro.

A Fargo woman, 23, was driving a 1995 Ford Explorer SUV north on Interstate 29, two miles north of Hillsboro, at about 3:15 p.m. when the SUV entered the median and rolled several times. The woman and her passenger, a 20-year-old Grand Forks woman, were ejected and died at the scene from their injuries, according to the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

The roadway had ice and compacted snow, and snow was blowing across it, the patrol said in a news release.

Warming temperatures contributed to icy, slippery roads in the region.

Principal’s bond set at $500,000 in school arson case

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Trinity High School Principal Thomas Sander will be held on $500,000 cash bond at the Southwest Multi-County Correctional Center, Judge Dann Greenwood ruled Wednesday.

Sander, 30, is charged with arson and endangerment by fire after he allegedly set fire to a file cabinet in the office vault at the school. The fire early Monday spread and caused serious damage; classes can't be held at the building for the rest of the school year.

The endangerment charge is based on the fact that Sander knew a resident, Trinity religion teacher Robert Storey, was living in a second-floor apartment in the school.

Greenwood said the severity of the alleged crimes, combined with Sander's lack of ties to Dickinson and the "dramatic impact" the community has felt from the fire warranted the high bond. Sander won't be able to bail out, based on financial data he outlined to Greenwood.

"That seems to me to be a lot of money, Your Honor," he said to Greenwood at the Stark County Courthouse via video from the jail.

But Assistant Stark County State's Attorney Rhonda Ehlis said the bond, which she recommended, was fair considering the crime.

"We could've very easily had a loss of life," she said.

Body found in remains of Minot truck fire

MINOT, N.D -- A body was found in the burned remains of a semi-tractor parked at a Minot truck stop, authorities say.

Minot Rural Fire Department officials said firefighters responded to a call of a fire at the Pilot Flying J on U.S. Highway 2 just west of Minot shortly after midnight Wednesday morning.

The fire was isolated to the engine and cab of a truck that was parked in a parking lot away from the gas tanks.

After the fire was extinguished, a man’s body was found inside, according to the Ward County Sheriff’s Department.

An autopsy will be conducted by the State Medical Examiner’s Office, and the investigation is ongoing with the state fire marshall and the sheriff’s department.

Fargo businessman to run for Public Service Commission

FARGO – A Fargo businessman is running for a seat on the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

Todd Reisenauer is seeking his party’s endorsement to run for the seat that’s been held by Commissioner Brian Kalk since he was elected to a six-year term in 2008.

Reisenauer will officially announce his candidacy Thursday during stops in Bismarck, Fargo and Grand Forks, according to a statement from the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party.

Reisenauer is a graduate of North Dakota State University and has a master’s degree in management from the University of Mary. He currently is the business development manager at DFC Consultants in Fargo and previously worked as market development manager at Pedigree Technologies in Fargo.

Democrats will endorse their slate of statewide candidates at the party’s state convention March 28-30 in Fargo.

In the other PSC race, Commissioner Julie Fedorchak, who was appointed to the commission in 2012 to take the place of now-U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, is running to fill out the remaining two years of the six-year term. First-term state Sen. Tyler Axness is seeking the Democratic endorsement for the seat.

Williston truck bypass clears environmental hurdle

WILLISTON, N.D. – A 13-mile truck bypass around Williston would have no significant impact on the environment, according to a finding from the Federal Highway Administration.

The preferred route for the truck bypass begins at the west junction of U.S. Highway 2 and U.S. Highway 85, known as the four-mile corner, and general head north and east to connect with U.S. Highway 2 at its junction with Williams County Highway 6.

Rapid growth in truck traffic related to oil development prompted the need for the bypass, which is expected to be under construction later this year.

The Highway Administration’s findings can be viewed at http://www.dot.nd.gov/projects/western-nd/truck-routes/williston-truck-b....

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