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News Briefs: Man turns himself in as driver in fatal hit-and-run

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


Candidates named for Eighth Judicial District judgeships

WILLMAR, Minn. -- A panel has recommended four candidates to fill two vacant judgeships in Minnesota's Eighth Judicial District.

The candidates announced Friday by the Commission on Judicial Selection are:

-- Jennifer Fischer, Kandiyohi County attorney. Fischer prosecutes crimes and serves as the legal adviser to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.

-- Rodney Hanson, a partner with Anderson, Larson, Hanson and Saunders PLLP, where he practices primarily in civil litigation.

-- Jeffrey Kuhn, president of the law firm of Nelson, Kuhn and Nordmeyer Ltd. of Glenwood. His practice includes real estate, probate, business and civil litigation. Kuhn is also a part-time assistant public defender for the Eighth Judicial District.

-- Antonio Tejeda, owner and attorney with the law office of Tejeda Guzman PLLP. His primary practice is in workers compensation, Social Security disability and veteran affairs appeals. Tejeda also is a staff judge advocate with the Minnesota Army National Guard.

The four candidates will go through an interview process over the next few weeks. Appointments by Gov. Mark Dayton will be announced when the process is complete.

The Eighth Judicial District covers the counties of Big Stone, Chippewa, Grant, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Meeker, Pope, Renville, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Wilkin and Yellow Medicine.

Man turns himself in as driver in fatal hit-and-run

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- A 58-year-old man turned himself in to police Friday morning, admitting he was the driver in the fatal hit-and-run that killed Christopher Lee Strong, 25, on Wednesday morning.

The red Monte Carlo police identified Thursday as being involved in Strong's death was seized and taken to the Law Enforcement Center, according to Beltrami County Emergency Management Director Beryl Wernberg.

The identity of the man who surrendered to police has not been released, and he was not listed as being in custody on the Beltrami County Jail's website Friday night.

Strong's body was found at Grange and Nature roads just before 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. A newspaper carrier made the discovery and called police.

Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said Thursday he had "pretty well nailed down" Strong's whereabouts in the 24 hours that preceded his death.

Bemidji man gets three years in prison for third DWI

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- A 50-year-old Bemidji man convicted of criminal vehicular homicide in 1990 was sentenced last week to three years in prison for driving drunk for the second time since the fatal accident 23 years ago.

Thomas Allen Gardner will serve his time at the St. Cloud Correctional Facility after being sentenced by Beltrami District Judge Paul Benshoof.

Gardner was arrested Jan. 12 after police pulled him over following a bar fight, according to court documents. A Bemidji police detective observed a vehicle in which suspects in the fight were said to be travelling make "an erratic turn." The detective pulled the vehicle over and found Gardner behind the wheel with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.14.

Twenty-three years and 12 days before he was arrested for this DWI, Gardner was responsible for a person's death in a drunken driving accident in Todd County, according to court documents. He was placed on five years' probation for the crime, and three years later was convicted of another DWI in Todd County.

Gardner's incarceration comes as a result of legislation that treats any DWIs accumulated after a conviction for criminal vehicular homicide or operation as felonies punishable with prison time.

Gravel pit where man drowned is part of public land

FELTON, Minn. -- Authorities may not be able to do much to tighten security at a water-filled gravel pit near here where a 26-year-old Fargo man drowned Thursday night, Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said Friday.

He said new information emerged Friday that indicates the gravel pit is not private property, as Bergquist previously believed. It instead belongs to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"On Monday, I'll be getting a map from the county to see where the boundaries are - there's still some private property out there," said Bergquist, adding that the section of land where 26-year-old Joel Berge died was state land.

Bergquist said because the Felton pit was part of state property, it would likely be open to the public now.

In a previous interview, he said the land where Berge and his friends were swimming Thursday night was private and they were there illegally. Bergquist also said he did not intend to cite anyone in the group.

Berge was swimming with about five friends when he disappeared underwater sometime before 7:30 p.m. Thursday. His body was recovered about 9 p.m.

Bemidji man sentenced on child porn charges

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- A Bemidji man was sentenced this week to 120 days in jail after police found more than 200 images of child porn on computers, seized last November from the man's home.

Michael David Walberg, 49, has five days credit for time served, according to court documents, and was sentenced Monday by Beltrami District Judge John Melbye. A sentence of one year and three months at the St. Cloud Correctional Facility was stayed for five years. Walberg was scheduled to be booked into the Beltrami County Jail on Friday.

Police initially targeted Walberg as part of an investigation into fraudulent money transfers through Western Union, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Beltrami County Attorney's Office.

On Nov. 9, police executing a search warrant entered his home and took several computers and an external hard drive for examination. Walberg "admitted possessing pornographic images of children under the age of 10," according to the complaint.

An analysis completed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found 208 images and several videos of child pornography.

Walberg was convicted of four counts of possessing pornographic work involving minors.

Four accused of firing at house are arrested

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. -- Four men were arrested Thursday in East Grand Forks on suspicion they fired a gun or guns at a house, police said.

About 3:30 p.m., a woman in a residential neighborhood told police she saw several young men in a van, shooting at a house with "a long gun," according to a news release Friday.

Officers soon stopped the van near where the caller saw it and spotted guns inside. They arrested the men on possible charges that include unlawful discharge of a firearm, and possessing illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia and stolen property. Two BB guns and two .22 caliber rifles were found in the van, police said.

From interviews with the men -- three from Grand Forks, N.D., and one from East Grand Forks -- and other investigation, police said they learned that on Wednesday, the men had stolen and damaged property in Pembina, N.D., and its neighbor, St. Vincent, Minn.

Two of the men were released pending possible charges, and two remain in the Tri-County Community Corrections center in Crookston and are expected to appear on charges Monday in state district court, a police spokesman said.

Police did not release the men's names, pending formal charges.


UND alum delivers commencement speech from space

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Astronaut and University of North Dakota alumna Karen Nyberg told graduates Friday that she wanted to give a speech that was "literally out of this world."

Nyberg, who hails from Vining, Minn., was orbiting some 230 miles above Earth aboard the International Space Station when she recorded the brief message last week for the 2013 summer commencement. She praised her alma mater for the educational opportunities it offered herself and other graduates.

"Global understanding is key to the survival of our planet," she said. "You are all lucky to be graduating from a university with such a strong international presence, with some 70 countries represented."

Nyberg, the first UND alumna and the sixth Minnesotan ever to go into space, is serving a six-month mission. Her speech played on a screen at the Chester Fritz Auditorium in front of a packed audience who had shown up to support the 157 or so graduates who appeared for the ceremony.

Nyberg's speech marks the second time UND graduates have observed a commencement delivered from space, according to university spokesman Peter Johnson.

Sean O'Keefe, a former top NASA administrator, gave a speech in 2005 that included a prerecorded message from astronauts.