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News Briefs: Appeal filed in Little Falls murder case

The following is a collection of news briefs from Forum Communication Company newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota.


Appeal filed in Little Falls murder case

ST. PAUL -- An appeal has been filed in the case of a Little Falls man convicted of first-degree murder for killing two teenagers after they entered his home, a TV station reported.

KARE 11 in Minneapolis reported that the defense attorney for Byron Smith said the appeal documents were filed Wednesday in Minnesota’s Supreme Court.

Steve Meshbesher said he felt the Morrison County judge overseeing the case made several mistakes and that Smith was not granted a fair trial.

A jury convicted Smith in April. He admitted killing the two teens he says broke into his house on Thanksgiving Day 2012, but he did not immediately report a break-in or the shootings. 

The defense portrayed him as a frequent victim of break-ins who lived in fear.

Trucker in bus incident contacts state patrol

PAYNESVILLE, Minn. — The State Patrol says the driver of a tractor-trailer that illegally passed a school bus on the right last week along Minnesota Highway 23 has contacted the law enforcement agency.

The information was released via Twitter and Facebook. No further information was released.

The State Patrol released video from cameras inside the bus that showed the truck blow past the stopped bus — lights flashing and stop arm down — and continue along the highway between Paynesville and New London. The incident happened Friday and the young student waiting alongside the highway was not injured.

Several witnesses called 911 but were unable to provide enough details for authorities to locate the truck. The patrol had asked the public with assistance in identifying the truck and driver.

Duluth beats Minneapolis in ‘best outdoors town’ vote

DULUTH -- Duluth bested Minneapolis on Tuesday in an all-Minnesota battle in the latest round of voting in Outside magazine’s annual “Best Towns” contest.

Voters were clear on which city was the one with better outdoors options. Duluth toppled Minneapolis by about 20,000 votes as online polls closed late Tuesday.

Duluth advanced to face Asheville, N.C., in the next round. As of midmorning Wednesday, Duluth held a large early lead in Round 5; voting closes at 10:59 p.m. Sunday.

If Duluth advances to the final round, there will be a seven-day voting period ending June 15.

In its matchup against Minneapolis, Duluth owned more votes (60,000) than any of the seven other cities remaining in the contest, more than 10,000 votes ahead of second-place Provo, Utah.

The VoteDuluth campaign, a volunteer effort to see the city voted the “Best Place to Live” by Outside magazine, helped spur the upset over Minneapolis.

“This is exciting for the city of Duluth,” said Dan Hartman, VoteDuluth volunteer. “It’s our chance to tell the world what we already know: We’re the best outdoor city in the country. It’s why we live here.”

North Dakota

One teen dead, two injured after pickup rolls

BISMARCK – A 15-year-old boy from Steele is dead and two other teenage boys are injured after a rollover crash Tuesday night about three miles north of Robinson in south-central North Dakota, the state Highway Patrol said.

The teens’ names have not been released.

They were traveling south on a Kidder County gravel road on their way home from a local lake when the crash happened shortly after 9 p.m., the patrol said.

The 15-year-old driver had moved the 1990 Ford Ranger pickup to the right side of the road as he drove up and over a hill. The passenger-side tires hit a soft area on the right shoulder of the road, and the driver lost control of the vehicle, the patrol said.

The pickup veered across the road, entered the ditch and overturned. All three boys were not wearing their seat belts and were ejected from the vehicle, the patrol said.

The boy who died was a passenger in the pickup. The driver, who also is from Steele, and another passenger, a 13-year-old boy from Tuttle, were injured.

Fifth person charged in Fargo murder case

FARGO – A fifth person has been charged in connection with the drug-related killing of a 26-year-old man near a Fargo grocery store in March.

Lalece Althea Slack, 26, of Fargo, was charged Wednesday in Cass County District Court with one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, a Class C felony.

Court documents say police discovered through their investigation into the stabbing death of Rolandas House that Slack had lent her cellphone to another woman, Tamara Clapper, 23, in setting up a fake drug deal with House to lure him to the store parking lot, where he was murdered by Wade Garrett, 19.

Garrett pleaded guilty in House’s murder in April, followed by Tamara Clapper in May.

Garrett told investigators he and several others lured House to the fake drug deal to steal back money and drugs he had taken from another man, Alexander Clapper, Tamara’s brother.

Alexander Clapper and his father, Arlen, also have been charged in House’s murder.

Slack initially denied involvement in the sham drug deal but later admitted to lending her cellphone out the night he was killed, authorities said.

Court documents say Slack set up the fake drug deal and had contact with Clapper and House around the time of the homicide.

Construction worker dies at pump site

DICKINSON, N.D. -- A construction worker has died after being found unresponsive at a pump station in Dickinson, the site’s project manager said.

The man had slumped over Wednesday afternoon at a pump site south of Interstate 94 Exit 59 near U.S. Highway 10, said Arnold Branch, project manager for Williams Civil Construction of Bozeman, Mont. The man was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center in Dickinson, Dickinson Fire Chief Bob Sivak said. Branch was later informed that the man had died at the hospital, Branch said.

Co-workers noticed the man was not feeling well during lunch, Branch said, adding that a preliminary examination showed the death was not work-related.

Funnel cloud spotted in southwest North Dakota

NEW ENGLAND, N.D. -- A funnel cloud was spotted near New England on Wednesday, but there was no confirmation that a tornado touched down.

Photos sent to The Dickinson Press showed funnel clouds appearing in the Hettinger County town.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for parts of Adams and Hettinger counties after reports of a funnel cloud just before 4 p.m. Mountain time.

“We’ve received multiple reports of a funnel cloud, looks like 6 miles west of Regent,” meteorologist Adam Jones said.

The weather service expected that winds could damage or destroy mobile homes, and flying debris would become dangerous to those without shelter.

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