News Briefs: Washington woman identified as fire victim

Editor's note: The following is a collection of news briefs from Forum Communication Company newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. NORTH DAKOTA Washington woman identified as fire victim WILLISTON, N.D. - Authorities here believe the woman wh...

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


Washington woman identified as fire victim

WILLISTON, N.D. - Authorities here believe the woman who died in a camper fire last week is DeeAnna Nerland, 46, of Washington state, but are waiting for DNA evidence to confirm the identification.

Sgt. Detective Caleb Fry with the Williams County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday that circumstantial evidence indicates the woman's identity, but authorities are waiting for DNA results that can take up to eight weeks to complete. Fry declined to elaborate on what circumstantial evidence investigators have.


Two people died from smoke inhalation in the RV fire reported at 1:30 a.m. March 29 in the 600 block of Riverside Drive near Williston. One victim was identified last week as Lawrence Norman, 47, of Kelso, Wash.

A propane heater tipped over and caused fire, according to Fry.

$44,000 worth of pot found on train

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- With the help of a dog and tip about a suspicious passenger, Grand Forks Sheriff's Department deputies and Border Patrol agents busted a Portland, Ore., man and confiscated $44,000 worth of high-quality marijuana from an Amtrak train that was stopped in Grand Forks early Wednesday.

Authorities arrested Andrew Sorenson, 22, of Portland.

According to a news release from Sheriff Bob Rost, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol informed his office that agents had information about a suspicious passenger who had boarded the train in Portland.

Sheriff's deputies used a dog to search the eastbound train during its stop just west of Grand Forks. The dog alerted authorities to two pieces of luggage.

Sorenson consented to a search and deputies found 7.5 pounds of hydroponically grown pot worth an estimated $44,000 on the street, according to Rost.


Essentia plans $80 million expansion in Fargo

FARGO -- Essentia Health is embarking on an $80 million construction initiative highlighted by a new wing on its hospital.

The new, four-story wing will open with 28 new beds in January 2015. Plans allow for the quick addition of another 28 beds when needed.

"This is something that I think is long overdue," said Dr. Greg Glasner, president and chief medical officer of Essentia's west region. "The campus has reached its capacity in infrastructure."

Hospital occupancy in the 105-bed hospital has been running at 85 percent at midnight, but often is full during the day, he said.

Design work for the 105,000-square-foot tower has a price tag of $50 million and will be finished this spring; footings and foundation work will follow this summer.

The new tower will have suites for imaging, endoscopy, interventional radiology and heart catheterization procedures, as well as pharmacy, nutrition services and an auditorium.

Peak flooding in Fargo-Moorhead to be after April 15


FARGO -- Peak flooding on the Red River in Fargo-Moorhead will likely occur after April 15, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Weather Service.

USGS stream gauges indicate that the Red River still had not begun its spring rise as of Wednesday. That means this year's flood will be much later than the major floods of 2009 and 2011.

The large floods at Fargo that have occurred in past Aprils - 1952, 1965, 1969, 1979 and 1997 - peaked from April 15 to April 19, said Gregg Wiche, director of the USGS North Dakota Water Science Center.

A cold front that came in over the weekend stalled the thaw. Tom Grafenauer, a meteorologist with the weather service in Grand Forks, said it doesn't appear there will be a significant warm-up soon.

In late March, the weather service said there is a 50-50 chance of the Red River topping 38.1 feet in Fargo and a 10 percent chance of a record-setting 40.9 feet.

A flood of 38.1 feet would be the fifth-highest recorded in Fargo-Moorhead. The record is a crest of 40.84 feet on March 28, 2009.


Defendant pleads guilty in 38-mile chase

OLIVIA, Minn. -- A man who led law officers on a 38-mile, high-speed chase in Renville County entered guilty pleas Wednesday to charges resulting from the Dec. 3 incident.

Brian Noel Hester, 46, of Redwood Falls, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle and a gross misdemeanor charge of driving while impaired.

Hester is expected to receive 35 months in prison as part of a plea agreement, according to Renville County Assistant Attorney Laurence Stratton. Sentencing is expected in May.

As part of the agreement, a second DWI charge and charges of second-degree assault, open bottle and driving after cancellation were dismissed.

According to the complaint, an officer who recognized Hester and knew that his license was canceled began the pursuit when Hester drove by him near Franklin.

The complaint says the chase reached speeds of 75 to 80 mph. Hester struck a squad car placed in a field approach to block his escape, the complaint says, and directed or aimed his vehicle at an officer while driving around a roadblock. No officers were injured.

Hester was apprehended after officers executed a maneuver to stop his vehicle in Redwood Falls.

What To Read Next
Ebacco's operating manager, Len Worthington, is so concerned about the issue, he brought it to the attention of administrators at Alexandria Area High School.
The warrant was issued after Cole Michelson failed to appear for a hearing at Douglas County District Court on Wednesday, Jan. 25.
Tonya Bakewell Dreher will be honored during an online ceremony March 8.