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News Briefs: Woman found in snowbank died of overdose

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


Willmar teen gets life sentence for murder

WILLMAR, Minn. -- As expected, a Willmar teen was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday morning for killing an elderly woman last summer at her rural Willmar home.

Brok Junkermeier, 19, read his own statement before Judge Donald Spilseth handed down the state-mandated guideline sentence for first-degree premeditated murder. Junkermeier said he’d found God in jail, and realized the victim’s last words, that she could help him, that God could help him, were true.

“If I had listened to her kind words, I wouldn’t be sitting here,” Junkermeier said to the hushed courtroom at the Kandiyohi County Courthouse. “I regret not using his (God’s) help when she offered it.”

Lila Warwick, 79, was found strangled and stabbed July 29 in her home.

Junkermeier’s trial came to a halt last week when he changed his plea to guilty.

Warwick’s grandson Robert Warwick, 18, who is accused of planning the murder with Junkermeier, also faces first-degree murder charges. His next court hearing is April 23.

A third teen charged in the case, Devon Jenkins, 16, of Willmar, was sentenced as a juvenile after pleading guilty in December to aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

8th District Republicans to meet in Park Rapids

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. -- Republicans from the 8th Congressional District will meet Saturday morning in Park Rapids to endorse Stewart Mills as the candidate to take on U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan in this fall’s election.

District chairman Ted Lovdahl of Effie said that along with the Mills endorsement, a number of resolutions will be discussed. Speeches will be made by candidates for governor and other state positions. Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt of Isanti County is also scheduled to speak.

Lovdahl said county party leaders in the district are asked to submit requests to host the convention, and this year it was Hubbard County’s turn. It’s as far west as you can get in a district that stretches 230 miles north and south from the northern Twin Cities suburbs to International Falls and from Duluth to Park Rapids, 160 miles west.

Mills, 42, lives in the Brainerd Lakes area and is part of the family that founded the retail store Mills Fleet Farm, in which he serves as a vice president. Mills announced his campaign in 2013 saying he wants to “return our government to the people” and with messages against gun control measures.

The convention begins at 9 a.m. at Park Rapids High School.

Death in Cloquet ruled accidental

CLOQUET, Minn. -- A possible “suspicious death” investigated Tuesday by Cloquet police has been ruled accidental, due to an apparent fall, according to an autopsy by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Cloquet police reported that officers were called to a residence just after noon Tuesday and that a body was discovered inside.

The deceased man was identified as Dan Engebrecht Roen, 61.

Woman found in snowbank died of overdose

MOTLEY, Minn. -- A 36-year-old woman who was found dead in a snowbank in late February in Motley died from a prescription medication overdose, Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel reported Tuesday.

Anna Eakle was found dead Feb. 25 near the Country Terrace Apartments. Wetzel said earlier suspicions that Eakle had died of exposure to the cold were proven to be incorrect.

“It is precisely for this reason that we wait until an investigation is completed before determining an exact cause of death and whether foul play may have been a factor,” Wetzel said. “In this particular case, no foul play is suspected and the cause of death was prescription drug overdose.”

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted the autopsy.

Park Service holds off on new wolf introduction at Isle Royale

DULUTH -- The National Park Service has opted against conducting an emergency genetic rescue of wolves on Isle Royale, and will instead conduct a long-term environmental review on the park’s diminished wolf population.

Isle Royale Superintendent Phyllis Green announced Wednesday that she won’t allow the introduction of transplanted wolves onto the Lake Superior island at this time – an effort some wolf researches have suggested to revitalize wolf genetics and bolster the population.

Instead, Green said she has begun the formal environmental impact statement process, an action that could take up to three years to reach a conclusion.

The environmental review will look not just at why wolf numbers have declined in recent years – and whether their inbreeding has doomed the small population -- but will include a review of the island’s entire ecosystem. Most important is how wolves relate to moose on the island, how moose relate to vegetation, and how the entire system is being affected by climate change, Green said.

Isle Royale is about 18 miles off Minnesota's North Shore at the Canadian border. Last spring, researchers reported only eight adult wolves remained on the island, down from 24 in 2009 and the lowest level since 1958.

North Dakota

Minot voters approve school construction bond

MINOT, N.D. -- Voters here have approved a $39.5 million bond referendum to ease crowding at Minot’s elementary schools.

Nearly 67 percent of voters said yes Tuesday to a proposal from Minot Public Schools to build a new elementary school in southeast Minot. The funding also will allow the district to construct additions and renovations to Edison Elementary and Perkett Elementary and add safety enhancements for all district buildings.

In complete but unofficial results, 3,977 voters said yes while 1,962 voted against the bond. It required 60 percent approval.

Minot Public Schools has 7,430 students enrolled, with 475 attending class in makeshift, temporary classrooms, Superintendent Mark Vollmer wrote in a letter explaining the district’s proposal.

An election in December for a $125 million bond for new and remodeled schools in Minot did not pass. The district then proposed the $39.5 million bond to address immediate crowding at elementary schools, but it does not address future growth at middle school and high school levels.

Tank overflow reported at oil well near Alexander

ALEXANDER, N.D. -- An unexpected increase in well pressure caused a tank to overflow and release 1,100 barrels of liquids at an oil and gas well about 4 miles southwest of Alexander, the Department of Mineral Resources said Wednesday. 

An estimated 650 barrels of oil, or 27,300 gallons, and an estimated 450 barrels of brine, or 18,900 gallons, spilled Monday and were contained and recovered at a well owned by Oasis Petroleum North America.

A state inspector has been sent to the site.

N.D. Petroleum Council offers help applying for Outdoor Heritage Fund grants

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Petroleum Council says it has hired a consultant to help wildlife chapters that want to apply for grants through the state’s Outdoor Heritage Fund.

Habitat Unlimited of Bismarck will work with wildlife chapters, many of which rely solely on volunteers, to develop habitat projects and offer professional grant-writing services, the Petroleum Council stated in a news release Wednesday.

Council President Ron Ness noted the Outdoor Heritage Fund is funded by revenues from oil and gas taxes and “is a great resource for improving habitats and access to the outdoors now and for future generations.”

North Dakota grassroots groups and chapters that lack local full-time paid staff or resources will be given priority, the release stated. Interested groups may contact Habitat Unlimited President Dave Nehring at for more information.

Created by the 2013 Legislature, the Outdoor Heritage Fund is capped at $30 million for the 2013-15 biennium. The application deadline for the next grant period is Aug. 1.

Fire causes power outages in Dunn County

DUNN CENTER, N.D. -- A fire about six miles east of Dunn Center led to multiple power outages in Dunn County on Wednesday morning.

Denise Brew, the county’s emergency manager, said there were outages to nearly every community in Dunn County, which is served by Montana-Dakota Utilities, Roughrider Electric Cooperative and McKenzie Electric Cooperative.

“We had a couple of poles that were burned and a wire that went down,” said MDU Resources spokesman Mark Hanson, though he didn’t know the cause of the fire.

Brew said the fire burned 30 to 35 acres and affected some power poles. The fire was fueled by a 30- to 40-mph wind as temperatures reached into the 70s for the first time this year.

“They did stop it, which is a miracle,” she said.

Hanson said power was restored to MDU customers by 1:50 p.m.

MDU customers in Killdeer, Dunn Center and Werner were without power, and Brew said the entire city of Manning, which is served by Roughrider, was also down.

Leonard Hibl, director of key accounts for Roughrider Electric, said the lines connecting cities and different areas are interspersed despite being served by both utility providers.

He said Roughrider “switched some stuff around” to get power back to its customers.