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News Briefs: Fatal shooting in New York Mills started as girlfriend tried to pick up dogs

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


Fatal shooting started as girlfriend tried to pick up dogs

NEW YORK MILLS, Minn. -- A shooting here last month that authorities are calling a murder-suicide occurred after a woman and her boyfriend arrived at her ex-boyfriend's home to pick up her dogs, the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office said.

Ethan Honer, 20, of Perham, was shot to death July 31 by Jacob Geiser, 23, who then shot himself, authorities said. Geiser died a day later.

Honer was currently dating Geiser's ex-girlfriend, and on the night of the shooting Honer, the girlfriend, who was not identified, and a relative of the girlfriend went to Geiser's residence on County Highway 56 three miles east of New York Mills to pick up the dogs, sheriff's Lt. Matthew McGuire said.

Just after 9 p.m. July 31, police received a call reporting gunshots at Geiser's residence. When authorities arrived, they found Geiser and Honer with gunshot wounds. Honer died on scene, and Geiser was taken to a St. Cloud hospital, where he died.

McGuire said Thursday no charges will be filed, but the investigation remains active as authorities continue to interview those with relevant information and wait on a final autopsy report from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's office.

Both Honer and Geiser appeared to have no history of violent crimes or felonies.

Former city clerk sentenced for embezzling

PINE CITY, Minn. -- A former Willow River city clerk who pleaded guilty to embezzling from the city to support a gambling problem was sentenced Friday to pay restitution.

At a sentencing hearing in Pine County, Mary Angela Leonard, 56, of Willow River, was ordered to pay $67,560.65 of the $167,560.65 that she admitted to taking between May 2009 and August 2012.

Judge James T. Reuter also sentenced her to 21 months in prison but stayed the time for 20 years of supervised probation, which includes paying restitution and not gambling.

Leonard, who had been the city clerk for about 11 years, pleaded guilty June 21 to theft by swindle.

Leonard told investigators that she spent all the money she took at Grand Casino in Hinckley, Black Bear Casino in Carlton or to pay bills, with the bulk going to Grand Casino.

Cut cable interrupts phone, Internet services

WORTHINGTON, Minn. -- A cut fiber optic cable near Mankato caused outages Friday to some phone and Internet services in the southwest corner of Minnesota.

According to Frontier Communications Solutions General Manager Todd Van Epps, the outage affected most of the area.

"A good portion of southwest Minnesota is experiencing difficulties in or the inability of making any outgoing or incoming 1+ type long distance calls from various telephone companies in the area," Van Epps said Friday in a news release. "This is the result of fiber damage and outage in a fiber optic connection company near Mankato. Frontier has been in contact with that company as they have progressed with their efforts."

Regular service was expected to be restored by 9 p.m. Friday.

The outage was affecting phone calls, some cellphone services and some Internet service.

Cokato man gets 67 months for triple fatal crash

WILLMAR, Minn. -- A 22-year-old Cokato man was sentenced Friday to the expected 67 months in prison for causing a crash that killed three people last summer near Willmar.

As part of his sentence handed down by District Judge Donald M. Spilseth in Kandiyohi County District Court, Paul Anthony Wickenhauser was also ordered to pay $3,000 in fines and restitution, which has not yet been determined.

The felony charges for criminal vehicular homicide or operation with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more include one charge for each of the three victims: Martha Stoffers, 68, of Atwater; her daughter-in-law, Michelle Hoffman, 40, of Eden Prairie; and Hoffman's 8-year-old daughter, Julia.

They were killed Aug. 17, 2012, near where U.S. Highway 12 intersects with Kandiyohi County Road 127. Hoffman's 5-year-old son, Jason, also suffered injuries in the crash.

Wickenhauser entered a plea agreement last week to the 67-month sentence and was immediately taken into the custody of the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office, which will transport him to prison.


Bowman woman charged with murdering newborn

DICKINSON, N.D. -- A Bowman woman charged with murdering her newborn child made an initial appearance Friday in Southwest District Court in Dickinson.

Stephanie J. Lindstrom, 42, was charged Wednesday with Class AA felony murder after allegedly giving birth to a baby girl in a toilet in Bowman on July 23, according to court records.

Lindstrom, who had not retained an attorney as of Friday morning, appeared before Southwest Judicial District Judge Dann Greenwood via video conference from Southwest Multi-County Correction Center, where she is being held.

When asked by Greenwood whether she understood her rights and the charges being levied against her, Lindstrom responded by saying "yes." Bowman County State's Attorney Andrew Weiss asked for a $100,000 cash bond for Lindstrom, which was granted.

Citing the nature of the ongoing investigation, Weiss and Bowman Police Chief Charles Headley declined to comment on the case.

A preliminary hearing for Lindstrom is scheduled for Sept. 12.

If convicted, Lindstrom, who declined the opportunity to apply for a public defender, faces a possible life sentence under North Dakota law.

Search begins for Minot State leader

MINOT, N.D. -- The vice president of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education has been tapped to lead the search for the next Minot State University president.

David Fuller plans to retire in June 2014.

The search committee charged with replacing Fuller will be led by Terry Hjelmstad.

Search committee members have been recruited from the Minot community and the MiSU campus, and community listening meetings will be a key part of the process, according to a statement posted Friday on the University System website.

"Board members also approved a list of leadership characteristics that are important for the next MiSU president, which will be included in a job description that the search committee will build," the statement says.

A professional search firm has been chosen to assist with the process.

Groundbreaking held for ethanol plant

SPIRITWOOD, N.D. -- Officials broke ground here Friday for the first grain-based ethanol plant to be constructed in the U.S. since 2007. Once completed, the $150 million plant will produce 65 million gallons of ethanol each year from 23 million bushels of corn and employ about 36 people.

The Dakota Spirit AgEnergy project is being constructed by Great River Energy. It will power by steam from Great River Energy's Spiritwood Station coal-fired generating plant. Spiritwood Station was completed in 2011 but has not been brought online due to low demand for electricity.

When the ethanol plant is completed in early 2015, Spiritwood Station will also begin operations.

Dakota Spirit AgEnergy plant construction will begin as soon as the contractor can bring in equipment. The $150 million plant will employ about 275 people during the construction phase.


911 caller on reservation says he shot uninvited man

HAYWARD, Wis. -- A Hayward man told officials he shot James A. Hamilton on Wednesday after Hamilton came uninvited to his apartment on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation.

Hamilton, 26, of Stone Lake, died Wednesday night after being shot twice -- once in the head and once in the abdomen -- in the apartment, according to the Sawyer County Sheriff's Office. Officials responded about 11:30 p.m. on a 911 call reporting that someone had been shot, and found Hamilton deceased.

The 29-year-old resident of the apartment is the one who called 911, authorities said. The caller told officials the shooting happened after Hamilton came to the apartment unwanted and assaulted him.

The caller was transported to a local hospital after the shooting and then taken to the Sawyer County Jail before being released, officials said.

A third man, Kevin Crone, 25, of Hayward, allegedly entered the caller's apartment with Hamilton and was involved in the altercation, the sheriff's office reported. He was arrested Thursday by the Lac Courte Oreilles Police Department on a probation violation. Additional charges are pending.

An autopsy was performed on Hamilton by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner.

The case remains under investigation and will be forwarded to the Sawyer County District Attorney's Office for possible charges against either of the two men.