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News Briefs: UND students charged in synthetic drug case

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

Minnesota/North Dakota

UND students charged in synthetic drug case

FARGO - Four University of North Dakota students pleaded not guilty Tuesday in federal court here to conspiracy charges in the wider-spreading synthetic drug case in which prosecutors say they distributed hallucinogens that caused two people to die and five more to be hospitalized.

Only hours after they were arrested or turned themselves in, Casey Rosen, Peter Hoistad, Allyson DeSantos and Steven Bucher all appeared with lawyers in federal court to enter initial pleas of not guilty. The count they are facing carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $1 million.

The grand jury indictment unsealed today also upped the drug distribution conspiracy against Andrew Spofford, 22, the Grand Forks man and former UND student who prosecutors say cooked forms of ecstasy and what he marketed as "acid." Spofford now faces five new counts specifying that the drugs he allegedly made and sold led to the deaths of Christian Bjerk, 18, Grand Forks, on June 11 and of Elijah Stai, 17, Park Rapids, Minn., on June 15.

Stai was in East Grand Forks, Minn., when he took the drugs and died at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks.

Judge Magistrate Karen Klein set a trial for Nov. 6 before U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo for Rosen, Hoistad, DeSantos and Bucher.

Prudential 'Spirit' awards sign-up now

FARGO - The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards seeks to honor top youth volunteers in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Through Nov. 6, students in grades five through 12 who have volunteered in the past 12 months can apply for the 2013 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards online at

North Dakota's top youth volunteers of 2012 were Hope Reis, 18, of Bismarck and Taytum Jones, 14, of Minot. Minnesota's top volunteers were David Schommer of Woodbury, and Michael Heim of Sartell.

Last year, two honorees from each state and the District of Columbia received $1,000 awards, engraved silver medallions, and all-expense-paid trips to Washington, D.C.

The awards are sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.


Man sentenced to more than 30 year for murder

WILLMAR, Minn. -- The rural Paynesville man charged with shooting and killing a man after an argument was sentenced Tuesday to the maximum allowed, more the 30 years in prison.

Delbert Edwin Huber, 82, of rural Paynesville was sentenced to 367 months for shooting and killing Timothy Richard Larson, 43, last October in Kandiyohi County.

Huber pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last month as part of a plea agreement.

Huber and his son, Timothy Huber, 46, were both indicted on first-degree murder charges for the Oct. 8 killing. The first-degree murder charge against Delbert Huber was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Before he was sentenced, Delbert Huber told a rambling story that included forbidding Larson from hunting on his land and being harassed by Larson. He said Larson threatening him by connecting the Hubers to the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling -- the boy who was kidnapped in 1989 near St. Joseph and has never been found. He said Larson also threatened the hunters whom the Hubers allowed on their land.

Huber alleged that Larson threatened to kill him and his son when Larson found the Hubers and their farm equipment at Larson's father's farm. Huber said he fought with Larson and then loaded the gun and was "fooling around" with the trigger when the gun went off.

Timothy Huber's case is still pending.

Alexandria manufacturer cuts 30 jobs

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- ITW Heartland in Alexandria, a precision manufacturing firm, is eliminating about 30 jobs and closing its assembly business segment.

ITW Heartland will continue to employ about 80 people in two other business segments, servicing the machining and specialty gearing markets.

The business informed employees of the cuts last week.

Clara City woman killed in collision

PENNOCK, Minn. -- A Clara City woman has been identified as the person killed in two-vehicle crash near Pennock on Monday.

Julie Bedel, 41, was pronounced dead at Rice Memorial Hospital after the collision north of Pennock, according to a release from the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office.

The driver of the other vehicle, Kaitlin Olson, 20, of New London was also transported to Rice Memorial Hospital.

Two passengers in the Bedel vehicle and one passenger in the Olson vehicle also were injured, but their names were not released.

The crash is under investigation by the Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota State Patrol.

UM Crookston sets enrollment record

CROOKSTON, Minn. - The University of Minnesota Crookston has a record number of enrolled students this fall.

A preliminary count released Tuesday puts the enrollment at 1,773 undergraduates, well above the previous record of 1,600 set last fall.

This fall's numbers include about 700 online-only students. The university offers 10 of its 26 degree programs entirely online, as well as through traditional on-campus courses.

The university said residence halls are at maximum capacity, and more than 30 students were being housed at a nearby motel. A new residence hall is now being built and is scheduled to open next January in time for the spring semester.

The official enrollment count will be available in mid-October.


Minn-Dak to expand beet plant

FARGO -- The board of Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative of Wahpeton, N.D., voted Aug. 28 to go ahead with a $70.3 million plan to build a molasses desugarization plant as an add-on to its sugar beet factory.

The desugarization and load-out facility will be a major expansion of the plant, says David Roche, the company's president and chief executive. It will add 20 additional jobs. The two-year construction period will begin in September.

Roche says the project will have a five-year Richland County tax exemption at 100 percent, and another five years at 50 percent. It will have interest rate buy-downs from the state, and a use-tax exemption, among other assistance.

Man appeals murder-for-hire conviction

BISMARCK - The attorney for an Oklahoma man convicted of hiring a hit man to kill his son-in-law told the North Dakota Supreme Court on Tuesday that jurors may have found him guilty of a lesser charge if they'd been allowed to consider his extreme emotional distress.

The high court heard arguments in the appeal of Gene Kirkpatrick, 66, who is serving a life prison term without parole for the killing of Fargo dentist Philip Gattuso.

Gattuso was found beaten to death with a hammer in his home on Oct. 26, 2009.

Kirkpatrick wants a new trial. A Cass County jury convicted him in July 2011 of conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit burglary.

Prosecutors alleged that Kirkpatrick hired his former handyman, Michael Nakvinda, to carry out the murder because he didn't want Gattuso raising his 3-year-old granddaughter after Kirkpatrick's daughter, Valerie Gattuso, died in March 2009.

The high court will issue its opinion at a later date.

Dozen arrested, cited in party bust

WEST FARGO, N.D. - Police responding to a loud party complaint here Monday seized more than 50 pieces of drug paraphernalia and arrested or cited a dozen people, Assistant Chief Mike Reitan said.

Officers were called at 1:05 a.m. to 944 First St. W. Upon arriving, they heard loud talking and music, and smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the apartment, Reitan said.

Officers entered the house and seized 54 items of drug paraphernalia, all of it related to marijuana, including pipes and bongs, Reitan said. A small amount of a white substance believed to be ecstasy and a small amount of marijuana in a baggie also were recovered, he said.

Three people were arrested on suspicion of drug paraphernalia possession, one faces additional drug possession charges and one was arrested on a warrant. Eight minors were cited for consumption, and one of them also was arrested for allegedly fleeing police. He was caught at the scene, Reitan said.

Those arrested or cited were ages 18 to 20 and from West Fargo, Fargo, Moorhead or Perham, Minn.

Man gets two years for setting couch on fire

FARGO - A man who set a couch on fire in his north Fargo apartment after an argument with another tenant on Feb. 26 was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison.

Jesse Jonathan Miller pleaded guilty in Cass County District Court to one count of endangering by fire or explosion, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

He was sentenced to two years in prison and three years of supervised probation, with credit for 192 days in jail since his arrest.

A psychological evaluation was ordered, and the restitution claims period was left open for 60 days, Assistant State's Attorney Tracy Peters said.

According to court documents, a witness told police that another tenant in the building had earlier yelled at Miller about loud music from his basement apartment and struck Miller in the face.

The witness told officers that after the tenant left, Miller, who police said was intoxicated, set the couch on fire and left.

Miller raised suspicions when he returned to the scene with a fire extinguisher, Peters said. He initially denied setting the fire but then admitted to it, telling police he did it as a "joke," court records state.

No one was injured in the blaze, which caused major fire damage to the basement unit and moderate smoke damage to the other two units, displacing five people.


Virus blamed for deer deaths

MITCHELL, S.D. -- Whitetail deer are being found dead across South Dakota, and officials believe a virus is to blame.

"We are getting reports of dead deer almost daily from across the state," said Andy Lindbloom, senior big game biologist for the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks.

In Hutchinson County, the area with the worst of the problem in the eastern half of the state, about 50 dead deer have been found. It's believed the deer succumbed to Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, or EHD, though only one instance of the disease has been confirmed. The test for EHD needs to be administered within 24 hours of the death of the animal.

"It's possible that some of those 50 died of other causes as well, but it looks like EHD. We just won't know for sure," said Ron Schauer, GF&P regional wildlife specialist.

EHD is a non-contagious, insect-born viral disease that cannot be spread to humans.

The virus is transmitted by midges such as flies or gnats and primarily infects sheep but can also infect goats, cattle, antelope and whitetail deer and is more severe during times of hot temperatures and drought.