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News Briefs: Crash in NE Minnesota kills driver

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


Few same-sex marriage licenses issued in southwest Minn.

WORTHINGTON, Minn. -- One month after same-sex couples could legally wed in Minnesota, the six counties in the far southwest corner of the state have recorded just seven applications for marriage licenses.

Statewide, at least 1,640 applications for licenses from same-sex couples have been recorded since the process opened, according to The Associated Press.

Rock County, whose western border is shared with South Dakota -- a state that does not allow same-sex couples to marry and whose southern border is shared with Iowa, which legalized gay marriage in April 2009 -- led the tally with three same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses in August.

Pipestone County, which also borders South Dakota, has issued two marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In Nobles County, Recorder Lynn Wilson also reported two requests for marriage licenses from same-sex couples. One couple was from South Dakota; the other was from Oklahoma.

Cottonwood, Murray and Jackson counties were among at least 29 counties across the state that didn't have any requests from a same-sex couple seeking a marriage license.

Crash in northeast Minnesota kills driver

PENGILLY, Minn. -- A 25-year-old man was killed in a car accident in Pengilly in northeast Minnesota early Monday.

The Itasca County Sheriff’s Office reported Tuesday that Charles Meador, the driver, was killed in a crash reported at 2:15 a.m. Monday. He and his passenger, Loren Cline, 22, are both from Pengilly.

Police say it may have involved alcohol, speed and no use of seatbelts.

Meador was partially ejected from the vehicle and pinned by it. He died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.

Cline was ejected from the car and suffered minor injuries, police said.

Pengilly is 17 miles west of Hibbing on U.S. Highway 169.

Wind farm proposed in Pipestone County

PIPESTONE, Minn. -- EDF Renewable Energy of Minneapolis has begun moving forward with plans to construct a wind farm on Buffalo Ridge in southwest Minnesota.

The majority of the project will in Pipestone County and a small amount in Murray County.

Planning for the Stoneray Wind Project began several years ago. Depending on the turbines selected, up to 59 will be installed. When completed, the Stoneray Wind Farm station will connect to the Chanarambie station, also owned by EDF, and produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 30,000 homes.

Like the wind farm slated for construction by Xcel Energy in Jackson and Cottonwood counties, the project is advancing as the deadline for the the U.S. Department of Energy's wind production tax credit program draws closer. If EDF begins construction before Dec. 31, or if it spends a minimum of 5 percent of the project's total cost, it would qualify for the program. Projects of similar size to the proposed Stoneray Wind Farm generate about $5.2 million in revenue from the production tax credit program.


Deputy wounds Park River man in shooting

LANKIN, N.D. -- A Park River resident was injured when he was shot Tuesday night by a Walsh County deputy sheriff who responded to a call about a man threatening suicide.

Nathan Paul McNelis, 25, initially was taken to First Care Health Center in Park River, before being airlifted to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks. Authorities said his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

A Walsh County deputy sheriff, who has not been named, has been placed on administrative leave, according to protocol, while the investigation is conducted, Sheriff Lauren Wild said.

The sheriff’s office received a call Tuesday evening about a man threatening suicide on a farm about 10 miles west of Lankin.

When deputies arrived, officers heard shots being fired in the farmyard, and McNelis was found in the backyard of the house with a shotgun, Wild said.

“The suspect came out from a darkened area with the shotgun,” Wild said. “He refused to drop the weapon and it appeared that he was going to point the weapon at my deputy. (The suspect) was shot as a result, to neutralize the situation.”

The deputy fired three rounds, striking the man one time, knocking him to the ground, authorities said.

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation is investigating.

Sex offender charged with raping 14-year-old

FARGO -- A convicted sex offender faces charges of raping a 14-year-old girl after police say he posted status updates on his Facebook page stating he was engaged to the girl and planned to marry her.

Tyler Howard Graening, 20, who has no recent address listed, was charged Aug. 21 in Cass County District Court with one count of Class A felony gross sexual imposition, one count of Class C felony failure to register as a sexual offender and one count of corruption of a minor, a Class A misdemeanor.

Court documents say West Fargo police Detective Derek Cruff began investigating Graening, a sex offender from Minnesota, after he failed to register locally.

On Graening’s Facebook page, Cruff found what a police report describes as several posts about Graening’s relationship with the 14-year-old, including that they are in a complicated relationship and are going to get married.

The report says the girl told Cruff she and Graening had been in a sexual relationship. A witness told Cruff he had been in a West Fargo hotel room with the girl and Graening when they were having sex.

Graening is in the Clay County Jail in Moorhead, Minn., awaiting extradition.

Man killed in motorcycle crash identified

BELFIELD, N.D. -- The name of the motorcycle driver killed in a crash north of Belfield on Tuesday was released Wednesday by the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

Mark Engel, 57, of Auburn, Wash., was driving a 2007 Harley-Davidson motorcycle north on U.S. Highway 85 about 13 miles north of Belfield. The motorcycle drove off the edge of the road, into the east ditch and hit a dirt embankment. Engel was not wearing a helmet. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The patrol said the accident occurred in a construction zone, but the roadway was in normal condition as the construction work was being completed in the ditches at this location.


18-year-old student found dead in apartment

MITCHELL, S.D. -- An 18-year-old man was found dead Wednesday afternoon in a Mitchell apartment.

Police did not release the man’s name, but a Mitchell Technical Institute official confirmed that the man was Paul Jackson, an MTI student and graduate of Brandon Valley High School. Jackson was a student in MTI's power line construction and maintenance program.

The deceased man's roommate reported the death, said Detective Lt. Don Everson.

Police released few details.

"There is no obvious cause of death," said a police statement.

The visible emergency response to the apartment sparked calls from the public, which is why police released limited information, Everson said.

An autopsy will be conducted at the Minnehaha County Coroner's Office in Sioux Falls.

Everson said police notified the man's immediate family.

"We want to give the immediate family time to notify other extended family members before we release more information," Everson said. "We don't want them to read about it on the Internet."


Woman accused of forging ex-boyfriend's paycheck

MITCHELL, S.D. -- A Mitchell woman is charged with forgery for allegedly cashing her ex-boyfriend's paycheck.

Hollie Gramling, 29, picked up a paycheck from Ruby Tuesday for her ex-boyfriend, Jesse Whitebull, and was to mail it to him, according to court documents. It never arrived and Whitebull later discovered through bank records it was cashed in Mitchell.

Gramling told police she signed the check, gave it to a friend to cash and received the full amount. She said she used the money to take care of the son she and Whitebull have together, according to police.

The forgery charge carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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