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News Briefs: Starbuck woman charged with first-degree murder in boy’s death

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


Starbuck woman charged with first-degree murder in boy’s death

GLENWOOD, Minn. -- A Pope County grand jury has indicted a Starbuck woman on a 

first-degree murder charge in the death of a 4-year-old boy.

The grand jury issued indictments Nov. 14 against Amanda Lea Peltier, 32, on charges of first-degree murder while committing child abuse and second-degree murder while committing malicious punishment of a child.

Those charges are in addition to a charge of second-degree unintentional murder filed July 25.

The first-degree charge carries a possible maximum sentence of life in prison.

Peltier is accused of killing Eric Parker Dean, the son of Sommar Kemp of Glenwood and David Dean of Starbuck. Dean was Peltier’s live-in fiancé at the time of the boy’s death, according to published reports.

The criminal complaint alleges that Peltier told investigators she was upset with the boy and “launched’’ him across a room in her house Feb. 26 in Starbuck. He died at St. Cloud Hospital the next morning.

A medical examiner’s report found that he had suffered multiple injuries to his scalp, mouth, face and lower extremities. The boy’s bowel had been perforated from blunt force abdominal trauma, which was ruled the cause of his death.

Bail remains at $25,000 with conditions and $100,000 without conditions.

Dayton names broadband leader

ST. PAUL — Cook County’s information systems director will become the Minnesota Broadband Office executive director.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday named Danna MacKenzie to that post, charging her with the job of planning stateside broadband Internet efforts. She has worked in the field 18 years, most recently in the Cook County position in Grand Marais since 1998.

MacKenzie has been a member of several local and statewide broadband committees.

“Danna is an outstanding choice, with the leadership skills and experience to direct broadband growth in the state,” Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development said.

Sieben’s office said that broadband – or high-speed Internet access – is considered a key economic development tool.

State economic development officials say broadband gives rural areas similar chances for many advancements that big cities enjoy. And companies that are looking to move or expand often will not consider locations without good broadband connections.

The Legislature this year established the job MacKenzie is taking to coordinate broadband infrastructure development, plan strategy, find federal funding for expansion, recommend policies to improve access and report on progress.

MacKenzie grew up in the Twin Cities and has a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and leadership from Concordia University in St. Paul.

Duluth mayor turns down 25 percent raise

DULUTH -- Despite a City Council vote Monday evening to boost the salary for the mayor’s position from $78,000 to $97,500 — a 25 percent increase — Mayor Don Ness said he will refuse the raise.

“It’s been uncomfortable and a bit painful,” Ness said of the past week of discussion around the raise.

He chose to remain silent until the discussion was voted on by the council. He expected that whatever it decided would ease his comfort level around the topic.

“There wasn’t that sense of relief I was hoping for,” Ness said. “I couldn’t sleep.”

Any amount of a raise would have led to the same decision, Ness said. While he appreciates the council taking up the issue of mayoral pay, the first time it has been done in 14 years, he wants to see any raise come after his term is up.

“It’s been too long since this issue was addressed,” he said.

Chief Administrative Officer David Montgomery said after Ness’ announcement that the money Ness refuses simply will stay in the general fund.

Mississippi National golf contract advances

RED WING, Minn. -- The Red Wing City Council on Monday approved a detailed contract with Red Wing Municipal Golf Corp. finalizing the management of Mississippi National Golf Links.

RWMGC’s board was expected to review the contract Tuesday, and the council authorized President Lisa Bayley to sign the agreement if approved.

Mississippi National was shuttered this year, except for the driving range. Members of the group and city have been working to finalize an agreement so the 36-hole golf course can be ready to reopen for next season.

The five-year agreement says the course will be in playable condition by April 1.

The city will contribute $210,000 for next year, and funds are set to drop by about 25 percent annually after that.

The group must show by Feb. 15 that it has at least $400,000 between cash in the bank and receipts for expenses paid since the council agreed to work with RWMGC this month.

The council can cancel the agreement if those terms aren’t met.

Under the contract, RWMGC would agree to run a 36-hole public golf course and allow activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, hunting and sledding on the property to continue.


Online sex trafficking sting nets 11 arrests in Dickinson

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Federal and state law enforcement officers arrested 11 men over the weekend in Dickinson as part of an investigation where officers posed as online sex traffickers offering underage girls for sex.

The men were arrested in separate incidents, and are charged in federal court with attempted sex trafficking of children.

“Anyone who does not realize that our hometowns in western North Dakota are developing big-city crime problems has not been paying attention,” North Dakota U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon said.

“I’m very concerned with the number of arrests.”

A similar operation in Williston a month ago netted three arrests.

Small plane has rough landing at Fargo airport

FARGO – A small plane had a rough landing Tuesday morning at Hector International Airport, but the pilot walked away without injury.

The incident happened about 8:20 a.m.

According to airport Executive Director Shawn Dobberstein, the incident began after a Beechcraft King Air 100 dropped passengers off at the Fargo Jet Center and took off again.

The pilot noticed trouble with the landing gear not retracting correctly and flew back to the airport to land.

As the plane landed, the nose gear collapsed, causing damage to the plane.

However, the pilot was not injured, said Dobberstein, who added that the damaged plane was moved from the runway to the Fargo Jet Center.

Midcontinent expanding into Fargo

FARGO – Midcontinent is expanding into Fargo starting next year.

Pending regulatory approval by the city, the expansion will begin next spring when the ground thaws. Midcontinent service will be available to business and residential customers in phases over four years as it builds its network in Fargo.

Midcontinent Communications already serves customers in Moorhead and West Fargo. As of now, Cable One is the only cable provider in Fargo, other than the satellite services.

The company announced its plans to extend service to the city during a news conference in Fargo on Tuesday.

The expansion of Midcontinent into Fargo had long been the subject of speculation, but as recently as October company officials said a move into Fargo would be cost prohibitive.

Midcontinent is a cable television, Internet and telephone service provider based in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Federal laws require that a cable franchise “build out” to serve the entire city within a reasonable period of time, usually a few years.

Tickets for Luke Bryan’s Fargodome show go on sale next week

FARGO – Tickets for country star Luke Bryan’s concert at the Fargodome will go on sale next week, promoter Live Nation Entertainment announced Tuesday.

Bryan has sold more than 4 million albums and had seven No. 1 singles. His latest album, “Crash My Party,” sold more than 500,000 copies in its first week of release in August – the biggest sales debut for a male country artist since 2004.

Bryan, along with special guests Lee Brice and Cole Swindell, is set to perform here at 7 p.m. Feb. 28.

Reserved tickets for the all-ages show are $29.75 or $59.75 and will go on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 6. Tickets can be purchased at the Fargodome box office, online at or over the phone by calling (855) 694-6367.

Pipeline leak spills 17,000 barrels of saltwater

BISMARCK – A saltwater pipeline leak that occurred in Montana released 17,000 barrels of brine and the spill has flowed into a creek in southwest North Dakota, the North Dakota Department of Health said today.

The release reached the Big Gumbo Creek in Bowman County and has flowed down 1.4 miles of the creek into a rural area about 14 miles south of Marmarth. The creek is not a source of public drinking water.

The Department of Health has inspectors on site to monitor the response and cleanup activities.

The release was reported by Denbury Onshore.

A barrel is 42 gallons.

Former KFGO radio personality Larry Ristvedt dies

FARGO -- Larry Ristvedt, a longtime KFGO agriculture broadcaster and radio personality who suffered in recent years from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, has died. He was 71.

Ristvedt was one-half of KFGO’s popular “Tom and Larry Show” with partner Tom Wynn until he retired in 2010.

KFGO Operations Manager Joel Heitkamp said their show was like “waking up with a friend.”

“That’s why people called him ‘Uncle Larry,’ ” Heitkamp said Tuesday. “A lot of people saw him as a member of their family.”

Heitkamp said people like Ristvedt, who worked at the station for 34 years, helped build the station’s strong foundation.

Though he was fighting a form of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Heitkamp said he remained at the station for as long as he could before retiring three years ago.

After word spread through the station that Ristvedt had moved to the Fargo VA Medical Center, Heitkamp visited to say his goodbyes.

“It didn’t catch any of us by surprise, but everyone here was obviously disappointed,” he said. “The evil side of that disease is that I’d like to think he’s in a better place.”


Murder trial delayed until May

SUPERIOR, Wis. -- The trial date has been moved from December to May in the case of the shooting death of Terence Rodney Luukkonen of Duluth.

Juan Leonardo Padilla, 42, of Fort Mohave, Ariz., faces a first-degree intentional homicide charge in Douglas County Circuit Court.

Padilla’s trial had been set for Dec. 10 but was taken off the calendar last week after District Attorney Dan Blank and Chief Public Defender J. Patrick O’Neill indicated the case was not ready for a jury trial.

On Monday, Judge George Glonek scheduled the trial for May, with jury selection May 5 and opening statements beginning May 6. The trial is expected to take a week. A pretrial conference will take place April 28.

Padilla is accused of shooting Luukkonen on May 23 as Luukkonen sat in his vehicle in the parking lot of Genesis Attachments, the equipment business where he worked in Superior.

A vehicle owned by Padilla was seen casing the parking lot of the business two days before the shooting. Police learned from Luukkonen’s fiancée, Christin Weir, that Padilla, with whom she’d had a relationship that ended, had threatened to kill Luukkonen.