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News Briefs: Woman charged in girl's exposure death found incompetent

The following is a collection of news briefs from Forum Communication Company newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota.


Woman charged in girl’s exposure death found incompetent

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The woman charged with manslaughter in her 6-year-old cousin’s death has been found incompetent to stand trial.

Rachel Stacey Downer, 22, of Bemidji was charged with second-degree manslaughter in March after her cousin, Mercedes Mayfield, was discovered dead from hypothermia outside a south Bemidji apartment complex Feb. 27. Mayfield was in Downer’s care the night before she died.

Beltrami County Attorney Tim Faver said Downer’s case has been suspended at this time. The court ruled Downer incompetent based on a court-appointed examiner’s report. Examiners are usually local psychologists, Faver explained.

The report was distributed July 29. Faver said the findings will not be challenged.

“If the court finds a person not competent, law requires (the) court to institute civil commitment proceedings to restore a person to capacity,” Faver said. “We don’t convict people who are not competent.”

If Downer is committed, her case will resume when she has completed treatment. Downer’s next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday

Boy on bike hit and killed by car

DULUTH -- A 6-year-old Duluth boy died Saturday afternoon when his bicycle was struck by a vehicle.

The Duluth Police Department reported Sunday that officers were called to Clark Court at 3:42 p.m. Saturday. The boy, Daniel Joseph Borisovich Nektalov, was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Authorities said the driver, Bridgette Marie Tyson, 45, of Duluth, reported she did not see him until the collision already had occurred, according to a police report. The boy apparently was crossing the street on his bicycle when he was struck. He was wearing a helmet, police spokesman Jim Hansen said.

Police reported Tyson showed no signs of impairment, but the incident remains under investigation.

Interior secretary to visit Indian school BENA, Minn. -- Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will visit the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School on the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe reservation in Bena on Tuesday.

Jewell, along with Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, will tour the school to see first-hand the need for additional funding for replacement school construction as well as meet with school officials, teachers and students.

The visit will follow Jewell’s visit Monday with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to the Beatrice Rafferty School in Perry, Maine, which is another school funded by the Bureau of Indian Education.

In 2013, Jewell and Duncan convened an American Indian Education Study Group to assess issues with BIE-funded schools – one of the lowest performing set of schools in the country – and to propose a reform plan to ensure students receive quality education that also honors their heritage.

The Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig high school originally was built to house an auto mechanic school and bus garage and has served as a school since 1984.


Police arrest man in courthouse vandalism case FARGO - A 28-year-old man caught vandalizing the Cass County Courthouse early Monday is responsible for two other recent cases of damage to the building, according to the sheriff's department.

Christopher Wagar, of Fargo, was booked into the Cass County Jail on a misdemeanor count of criminal mischief and a felony count of criminal mischief.

Shortly after midnight, Fargo police Sgt. Tom Morris was providing extra patrol around the courthouse because of the recent vandalism, and he spotted Wagar by the building. He was writing a message on the main doors that had been boarded up after glass panels were broken, the sheriff's department said.

Morris took Wagar into custody, and during an interview, the sergeant learned that Wagar was to blame for the two prior instances of vandalism, the sheriff's department said.

Early Wednesday morning, two fist-sized rocks wrapped in paper, with the words “facism” and “nazism” written on them, were used to break two glass panels at the main entrance. On Sunday morning, deputies discovered that glass at the main entrance had been shattered again.

Drowning victim identified MANDAN, N.D. -- Mandan Police have identified Blake Allen Johnson as the man who drowned at Lakewood Marina Saturday night.

Mandan Police Lt. Lori Flaten said an autopsy determined drowning was the cause of death. Johnson, 23, of Mandan, had not hit his head as initially suspected.

“He had no trauma whatsoever,” Flaten said.

Johnson had been swimming with friends and jumping off a pontoon into the water when the accidental drowning occurred.

Emergency responders were called shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday.

The Mandan Police suspect alcohol may have been a factor in the drowning, Flaten said it would be some time before lab test results could confirm or dispel that suspicion.

(Courtesy of Bismarck Tribune)

Police ID man killed after reportedly pointing gun at kids BISMARCK – Police have identified a man who was shot to death during a struggle that ensued after he reportedly pointed a handgun at three young children Saturday in a south Bismarck apartment.

Kelly Carrol Smith, 54, lived roughly one block south of the apartment building where the shooting took place, Bismarck Police Sgt. Mark Buschena said Monday.

Police are still investigating and haven’t released any information about whether Smith knew the people who lived in the apartment, he said.

Officers responded at 8:45 p.m. Saturday to 131 E. Bismarck Expressway for a report of a man who had been shot. Smith was found with a single gunshot wound to the head.

Investigators learned that Smith had entered the apartment and pointed a handgun at three young children, according to police.

A man in the children’s family confronted Smith, and during the struggle for the handgun a single round was discharged, striking Smith in the head.

The other man wasn’t injured, Buschena said.

An autopsy will be performed, and the case remains under investigation, he said.