A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.
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BENSON, Minn. — Lack of proper communication by a staff member at a Benson residential facility that provides therapeutic programs for girls — including those who have been sexually exploited — may have contributed to the criminal sexual assault of a 15-year-old program participant who ran away and was found in Iowa three days later. In an amended investigation memorandum issued last week, the Department of Human Services said an unidentified staff member at Heartland Girls Ranch was responsible for "serious" maltreatment of the victim.
RAYMOND, Minn. — After explaining how technology-driven, prescription fertilizer methods make economic and environmental sense because fewer chemicals are applied to farmland, Noah Hultgren invited Matt Dean to climb into the cab of a John Deere combine. Even though there was too much snow to harvest corn and the combine was in a heated shop, Dean got the rundown on how the mammoth machine operates and then followed Hultgren outside to see a grain dryer that was reducing the moisture content of already harvested corn.
LITCHFIELD, Minn. — The termination of a former Litchfield police sergeant — who was charged last year with DWI while off-duty — has been upheld. In the binding arbitration decision published earlier this month, it was determined the Litchfield Police Department was justified in firing Bryant Blackwell, a veteran peace officer who had at one time been a finalist for the job of Litchfield police chief. Blackwell was fired from his job as police sergeant in January as a result of the 2016 DWI arrest.
PAYNESVILLE, Minn. — Crews were finishing up the final details and getting ready to demobilize equipment Wednesday afternoon at a 108-acre solar farm by Paynesville. With about 48,600 solar photovoltaic panels tilted to the west, the Paynesville farm started producing 10 megawatts of direct current in June. It was one of the last of 16 sites in the Aurora solar project to go online in what is currently the state's largest solar project that will produce a total of 150 MWdc of renewable energy that is being sold to Xcel Energy.
WILLMAR, Minn. — A Willmar man was sentenced Monday to 45 months in prison for a long list of felony theft and burglary charges for taking nearly $30,000 worth of items from farm sheds and garages in his rural Kandiyohi County neighborhood and pawning or selling them on Facebook. Jordan Anthony Brede, 23, cried in court Monday as he pledged to change his ways while in prison. "I want to take this time to apologize to the community and victims of my crime," Brede said.
PENNOCK, Minn. — A family dairy operation west of Willmar was hit hard by a powerful storm that rolled through west central Minnesota early Sunday morning. Nearly every barn on the Carlson Dairy was damaged by the high winds that punched the early morning with a wallop around 7 a.m. According to the National Weather Service, a trained spotter estimated winds at 60-70 mph in the Pennock area, where the farm is located.
GRANITE FALLS, Minn. — A corrections officer who supervised Yellow Medicine County jail prisoners on a Sentence to Service work crew is facing charges of coercing a prisoner to have sex with him in exchange for special privileges. Michael John Martin, 47, of Wood Lake, faces six felony counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. During a bail hearing Tuesday in Yellow Medicine County District Court, unconditional bail was set at $100,000 and conditional bail was set at $10,000.
NEW LONDON — Objections from several parents about the content of a book assigned to eighth-grade English students in the New London-Spicer School District could result in the removal of the book from the school's curriculum. Others who praised the book hope to keep it in the classroom. The decision to review the book will be up to the district's advisory committee, but at the very least, the school district will try to better inform parents when their children may be exposed to sensitive material. At issue is the book "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian."
NEW LONDON, Minn. — Funeral services for a New London woman and a Spicer man killed this week in a Florida plane crash are being planned as family and friends mourn their deaths. The crash Tuesday night of the 2009 single-engine Epic LT plane — which left the Willmar airport earlier that day — killed the pilot, Daryl Ingalsbe, 67, of Spicer, and Deb Osborn Solsrud, 51, of New London. The two were traveling to Ingalsbe's second home in Spruce Creek, located near Daytona Beach, Fla.
WILLMAR, Minn. — The driver of a runaway horse-drawn wagon that was carrying passengers as part of a local Christmas light celebration Saturday, Dec. 10, is in critical condition after the wagon crashed in yard. Some of the 15 passengers in the wagon were also transported by ambulance to Rice Memorial Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Most were treated and released, according to a news release from the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office.