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News Briefs: Fargo police lieutenant kills himself

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


Fargo police lieutenant kills himself

FARGO – Fargo police Lt. Jeff Skuza, a 23-year veteran of the force, killed himself Tuesday morning, Police Chief Keith Ternes reported at a news conference.

Ternes said Skuza called dispatchers about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday and requested that officers be sent to Holy Cross Cemetery just outside Fargo.

When the officers arrived, they found that Skuza was dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

“Today was a bad day for the police department. Tomorrow won’t be easier. I suspect that in the coming days, we’ll have some real challenges to confront,” Ternes said.

Skuza is survived by his wife and two teenage children.

He joined the force in 1991 and was promoted to sergeant in 2001. After serving in a variety of capacities, including as the public information officer for the department for several years, he was made lieutenant in 2011.

The shooting is under investigation. Because it happened outside city limits, Cass County deputies are conducting the investigation.

Arizonan dies after crash near Watford City

WATFORD CITY, N.D. — An Arizona resident died late Sunday night after a two-vehicle collision about 3 miles east of Watford City on N.D. Highway 23, according to the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

Brand M. Patton, 56, was traveling west in a 2003 Buick Century just before midnight when, for unknown reasons, the car swerved into the eastbound lane and struck a 2001 Ford Excursion hauling a trailer and driven by 31-year-old Erick J. Atkinson of LaPrairie, Minn.

Patton went off the road and stopped in a private driveway. A passenger, whose name and age were not released, was not injured. Patton died at the scene.

Atkinson’s vehicle came to a rest in the eastbound ditch. He and his passengers, 18-year-old Joseph Eicher of Sandpoint, Idaho, and 35-year-old Mitchell Niverson of Nampa, Idaho, were not injured.

The accident closed Highway 23 for about 2½ hours. It remains under investigation.

Devils Lake cuts four activities

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. -- After months of debate, the Devils Lake school board voted Monday to cut four high school athletic programs.

The four activities being cut are girls soccer, boys and girls golf and cheerleading.

Officials said three of the programs were struggling, but one of them was well-supported.

“When you take something away from students, it’s really hard,” said school board President Steve Halldorson about the cuts.

Student board member and senior soccer player Mylasha Artis said she felt bad for her soccer teammates.

“To know that my younger teammates, peers aren’t going to be able to enjoy the sport that I love as much as I do, is really hard for me.”

Halldorson said shrinking enrollment made it harder to sustain sports teams.

“The student body is down 200 students, so that kind of plays into it too,” he said.

All the programs didn’t necessarily suffer from a lack of participation. Boys golf was eliminated along with girls golf so that Devils Lake would stay compliant with Title IX, which requires the same number of activities for boys and girls.

Man pleads not guilty to molesting girls at child care center

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- A man charged with sexually molesting four girls, ages 3 and 4, at a Grand Forks child care center pleaded not guilty Tuesday at his arraignment.

Timothy Tollefson, 31, remains free on bond, living with his parents in Manvel on electronic home monitoring.

Parents of at least one of the alleged victims also appeared at his arraignment in state district court in Grand Forks.

Tollefson worked at Immanuel Christian Children’s Center, which is attached to Immanuel Lutheran Church, until his arrest last fall.

Each of the four counts of gross sexual imposition carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

State District Judge Lawrence Jahnke granted a request from Tollefson’s attorney, Alex Reichert, that Tollefson be released from electronic home monitoring so he can more easily make medical and legal appointments. Tollefson doesn’t drive and his parents will accompany him at all times, Reichert said.

Theft of $65,000 in coins from UPS center nets jail time

FARGO – A Fargo man convicted in the theft of $65,000 worth of gold and silver coins was sentenced Monday to 60 days in jail and 1½ years of supervised probation.

Nickolas Pulicicchio, 36, can serve his time on school or work release if the Cass County sheriff approves it.

On Feb. 5, a jury found Pulicicchio guilty of one count of felony theft, following a one-day trial.

According to court documents, Pulicicchio’s stepsister told police he gave her some of the coins that had been reported stolen from a UPS shipping center in Fargo. The coins were being sent to Treasure Island Coins for a customer, court documents said.

Pulicicchio reportedly asked his stepsister to keep the coins and told her the FBI was looking for them. She told police that Pulicicchio was best friends with someone who worked at UPS, court documents said.

Radioactive waste discovered at abandoned gas station

NOONAN, N.D. -- Authorities are investigating the discovery of radioactive waste piled into an abandoned gas station in this small Divide County town.

The waste consists of hundreds of bags of “filter socks,” a byproduct of oil development that contains naturally occurring radioactive material.

Jody Gunlock, emergency manager for Divide County, received a tip Feb. 28 about the materials in the building, which he estimates has been abandoned at least 20 years.

When Gunlock and representatives from the sheriff’s office and state Department of Health got in the building, they found hundreds of bags containing filter socks.

At about five times the radioactivity level of natural background soil in the area, the socks registered at twice the radioactivity of the filter socks discovered stockpiled near Watford City last month, said Scott Radig, director of waste management for the Health Department.

There is no public safety risk if no one roots around in the building, which will be fenced off and properly cleaned up, Gunlock said.

Spill near Killdeer gets into stock pond

KILLDEER -- A six- to 10-barrel oil spill from a well pad has reached a stock pond near Killdeer, the North Dakota Department of Health reported Tuesday.

Continental Resources owns the well pad, which sits 14 miles northwest of Killdeer. The company has begun cleaning the spill and is working on a remediation plan with the state, the Health Department reported.


Former state senator, Red Wing mayor to run for secretary of state

RED WING, Minn. -- John Howe, a former Red Wing mayor and state senator, has announced he is seeking the Republican endorsement for secretary of state.

“I certainly enjoyed my time when I served in the Senate and also when I served as mayor,” Howe said. “It’s a great opportunity to get back into public service.”

Howe announced his decision just after the sole GOP candidate, Dennis Nguyen, dropped out of the race, but Howe said that did not affect his decision and he already had planned to run.

Howe was elected Red Wing’s mayor in 2008 and to the state Senate in 2010. He ran for the Senate again in 2012 but was defeated by DFLer Matt Schmit.

Howe said maintaining election integrity is the most important aspect of the Secretary of State’s Office.

He said he would abide by the party’s endorsement if other Republicans entered the race. Former Sen. Ted Daley, R-Eagan, also is considering running, sources say.

Reps. Debra Hilstrom of Brooklyn Center and Steve Simon of Hopkins are seeking the DFL nomination for secretary of state.

Howe and his wife live with their three children in Red Wing. He owns and operates a real estate management company.

Video store robber ties up clerk, customer

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- Police here are investigating an armed robbery in which the robber tied up a video store clerk and a customer late Monday.

According to police, a white man in his mid-20s entered the Premiere Video on North Nokomis Street about 10 p.m. Monday holding a handgun. He reportedly took an undisclosed amount of cash from a cash drawer and store safe.

The man then bound the wrists and ankles of a store clerk and customer.

The robbery was interrupted by a customer dropping off a video in the outside drop box; that person called 911.

Officers responded within one minute of the call, but the robber fled.

The robber was wearing a dark-colored hooded jacket, dark pants, brown shoes and a black facemask and gloves.

Police Chief Rick Wyffels reported that they are following up on leads and determining whether there’s a connection to an armed robbery at Subway on Feb. 23 in downtown Alexandria.

FBI investigating death of Red Lake tribal councilman

RED LAKE, Minn. -- The FBI is investigating the weekend death of a member of the Red Lake Tribal Council.

"The FBI received reports of a suspicious death on the Red Lake Indian Reservation," Kyle Loven, chief division counsel for the FBI in Minneapolis, said in a phone interview. "The individual was later confirmed to be Donald May."

Donald "Dudie" May, 58, was a Red Lake District representative for the council.

Loven could not confirm whether a suspect has been taken into custody or the manner of death. He did confirm that the FBI was contacted Saturday evening.

"We are working this matter with the Red Lake Tribal Police," Loven said.

According to May's obituary on the Cease Family Funeral Home website, May was elected as Red Lake representative for the tribal council in 2004, 2008 and 2012. He grew up in Red Lake, where he worked as a commercial fisherman and in logging, owned an electrical business and most recently was director of Red Lake Sanitation.

A wake will begin at 4 p.m. today at the Red Lake Humanities Building and will continue until funeral services at 10 a.m. Friday at the same location.

South Dakota

S.D. man faces murder change in infant son’s shaking death

BURKE, S.D. -- A 20-year-old Gregory man is accused of shaking his 3-month-old son so hard that the infant died from the resulting injuries.

Adam Joel Bruns is charged with alternate counts of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, as well as alternate counts of aggravated assault and child abuse. He was indicted by a Gregory County grand jury Friday, authorities said Tuesday.

According to an affidavit prepared Feb. 26 by Jason Jares, an agent with the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, Bruns told investigators he was taking care of his 3-month-old son, Levi Bruns, on Feb. 25 and that he became frustrated with the child’s vomiting. The affidavit says that when Bruns pulled his son out of the swing after the boy vomited, the boy's head shook back and forth multiple times.

Bruns later noticed the boy was unresponsive and took him to the Gregory hospital, the affidavit says.

On Feb. 26, Jares was made aware of test results that showed the infant had suffered a brain hemorrhage and severe retinal hemorrhages in both eyes, the affidavit says.

He died March 2 at a children's hospital in St. Paul, Minn., according to a death notice in The Daily Republic of Mitchell.

Bruns was being held on $50,000 bond.