NEWS FOR THE LAKES AREA
Tungseth Resigns From School Board Due To Health
Long time Fergus Falls School Board member Darrel Tungseth has tendered his resignation from the board due to health reasons. Tungseth's resignation is effective as of February 19th and will be acted on at this next Monday’s regular school board meeting. Beginning at the work session following the meeting, the School Board will start working on the process of how to fill the position.
In Minnesota, there is an application process and then the board interviews candidates. They would then appoint a candidate until a required election is held. Right now, the required election would be November 2017; however, there is a bill in the legislation this spring to allow districts to appoint until the next general election which would be November 2018 and would save districts the expense of running their own election. The School Board will communicate the process to the public when plans are final. Tungseth has served on the School Board since 2006 and also sat in the Chairman’s role.
BCA Missing Persons
A couple of missing persons from two separate communities are being sought...
Police in Bemidji are asking for help in locating a missing 13-year-old boy.
Gary Tilander was last seen on the 600 block of Mississippi Avenue in Bemidji Wednesday morning around 8:30. Tillander is six-foot-one, 160 pounds with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing a black Flight Jordan Jumpman hoodie and has a charcoal grey backpack with numbers 23 in small print all over it. He was also wearing black high-top Nike shoes. Police say Tilander’s usual home is in International Falls. Anyone with information is asked to contact Bemidji Police.
The Wadena County Sheriff's Office is asking for the Public's help locating an 89-year old Verndale man. Richard Giles was last seen at the Super 8 in Grand Rapids after spending the night after getting lost. Giles is described as five-foot-nine inches tall, 165 pounds, hazel eyes, gray, balding hair and a gray mustache and beard. The Sheriff's office says Richard is driving a 2012 burgunday GMC Traverse with MN license plate 276 GYZ. Authorities are concerned about his welfare because of his age. The Wadena County Sheriff's office says he may be lost and are asking the public to keep an eye out on roadsides, in ditches and other areas for his vehicle or for him. They say if he asks for directions, do not give him directions and send him on his way. Call law enforcement to assist. If you have any information on Richard Giles whereabouts or if you may have seen him, call the Wadena County Sheriff's Office at 218-631-7600 or dial 9-1-1.
Walmart Theft Charges
A 39-year-old Fergus Falls woman has been arrested in connection with merchandise stolen from the Fergus Falls Walmart Tuesday.
According to police, the woman and two other suspects were seen on video stealing items from the store, including a TV, a computer, and other household items valued at $1,000.
The woman arrested was then seen in the store Wednesday morning allegedly trying to return the stolen items for cash.
The woman was arrested on probable cause charges of possession of stolen property and theft. Police are still looking for the other suspects.
Charles Gilbert Sentenced
A Birchwood, Wisconsin man has already been convicted and sentenced in a Fergus Falls trespassing case from February 18th.
A resident of the Country Manor Mobile Home Park south of Fergus Falls awoke early the morning of February 18th to an unknown drunk man inside the house. Charles Wesley Gilbert reportedly refused the homeowner’s request to leave the premises and police were contacted.
Gilbert was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing. He was convicted of the disorderly conduct charge and the trespassing charge was dismissed.
It was learned through the arrest and investigation of Gilbert that he is charged with a felony crime in Wisconsin and had fled the state to avoid prosecution. He has waived extradition to Wisconsin. Gilbert was sentenced to time served in Otter Tail County and will be handed over to Wisconsin authorities.
Mental Health Grants
State Representative Jeff Backer of Browns Valley is the chief author of a House bill to provide state mental health grants for treatment for school age children.
The mental health grant program was first funded in 2007. Backer says schools that have implemented the program have seen significant reductions in suspensions and other problems caused by mental illness.
The bill also would fund transportation for children using school-linked mental health services when school is not in session.
Tree Trimming Scam Surfaces In Fergus Falls
A new scam is passing through the area. Two unknown males impersonating city of Fergus Falls workers started trimming branches of a tree on a property in the 200 Block of West Washington Avenue. The victim was approached by the pair and told they could finish what they were doing, but that the victim needed to pay a $250 fee for them to continue. The victim wrote them a check and when he returned back into his home and came back out they were gone and had not finished the work promised or cleaned up any the brush. The victim then called the Fergus Falls Police Department to see if the city had crews out doing this. One of the suspects used his ID to cash the check received at a local Fergus Falls bank. Police remind residents that the city never charges money at the door, but will instead send a bill in the mail.
Police urge residents to call City Hall to verify first, before writing any kind of check for services. Also just because a worker is wearing reflective clothing does not necessarily mean they are with the City of Fergus Falls. A suspect has been identified and Fergus Falls Police continue to investigate.
Jac Thorstenson Sentenced
A rural Pelican Rapids man has been sentenced to 30 days in jail after he was convicted of third-degree burglary.
Eighteen-year-old Jac Jerome Thorstenson burglarized a pole barn located north of Underwood in October and November last year. Many items were taken. Some were pawned and others hidden away.
Thorstenson will get credit for 18 days already served. He will required to pay restitution along with two others charged in Otter Tail County District Court.
Christopher Wynn Plea Hearing
A Fergus Falls man pled guilty Tuesday in Otter Tail County District Court to a felony stalking charge.
Thirty-two-year-old Christopher Lee Wynn, who is serving a 34-month prison term in St. Cloud, was accused of calling and mailing letters to a woman last summer, in violation of an order for protection. He demanded money from the woman and attempted to blackmail her.
A plea agreement calls for a 57-month sentence and restitution. The prosecutor has filed a motion saying Wynn is a danger to public safety based on his past criminal behavior and his current conviction justifies an upward durational departure.
Wynn was sentenced in March last year to 34 months in prison after his conviction for second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. In that case, he was accused of choking a woman several times until she passed out. He also threatened her with a kitchen knife during the same incident in Fergus Falls. Wynn has multiple domestic violence-related offenses on his record.
Wadena Highway 10 Crash
A Minneapolis man was injured when the SUV he was driving crashed on Highway 10 near Wadena Tuesday morning.
The State Patrol says 25-year-old Scott Shearer was westbound on Highway 10. When he was moving from the right lane to the left lane, he lost control of the vehicle on the frost-covered roadway and rolled the SUV into the median.
Shearer suffered non life-threatening injuries.
West Central Narrows Superintendent Search
West Central Area Schools have narrowed their Superintendent search to 4 candidates, down from an original pool of 24. The four candidates are Jon Ellerbusch, current Superintendent of Royalton Public Schools, Shane Laffen, a current Prinicipal with the Sleepy Eye School District, Charles “Chip” Rankin, who is the current Pequot Lakes High School Principal, and Barry Schmidt, who is the current K-12 Principal of the Butterfield-Odin School District. Interim West Central Superintendent Dr. Chuck Cheney is excited with the final candidates, but wants to make sure one is the best fit for the district. Candidates will start their final screening process with a brief site tour and then interview with the staff, administrative, community, and board teams prior to the board making its choice. The new leader is expected to be named by the end of February and is slated to begin in the district in July.
A Stewartville, Minnesota, man is in custody in the Otter Tail County Jail following a high-speed chase this morning.
Becker County authorities called Otter Tail County authorities about 3:30 this morning to ask for their help in stopping a vehicle whose driver may have been involved in an assault in Frazee.
A Perham police officer spotted the vehicle west of Perham about 3:45 am and attempted to pull it over. The vehicle instead took off and a 22-mile pursuit began. The vehicle was eventually westbound on Highway 59 toward Pelican Rapids. A Pelican Rapids police officer put out stop stix near Lake Lida and several of the vehicles tires were deflated. The driver, 50-year-old Steven Michael Current, pulled over and surrendered. A check with the registered owner of the vehicle determined the vehicle had been stolen from a residence northeast of Dunvilla on Highway 59.
Current was arrested on probable cause charges of fleeing in a motor vehicle, possession of stolen motor vehicle, cancelled license – inimical to public safety, fifth-degree controlled substance crime, and active warrants from Mille Lacs, Fillmore, and Olmsted Counties.
While investigating the case, it was learned that a second vehicle had been stolen from the same owner and that a burglary may have been committed. Authorities are looking for a white 2007 Volkswagen Beetle with Minnesota license number 518TCW.
It appears the original assault reported in Becker County was unfounded.
Two Fergus Falls residents were injured in a motorcycle crash at 4:14 pm Sunday.
The Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office says the driver, 44-year-old Lonny Stundahl, was westbound on County Road 1 west of Otter Tail Lake. An equipment issue caused Stundahl to lose control. The motorcycle flipped and ended up in the north ditch.
Stundahl suffered a head injury. His passenger, 41-year-old Linnea Henry, suffered back and leg injuries. Their injuries did not appear to be life-threatening.
Both were taken by ambulance to Lake Region Hospital.
Mitchell Vipond Arrested
A 25-year-old man is in custody in the Douglas County Jail after leading law enforcement on a chase in Alexandria early Friday afternoon.
The sheriff’s office was contacted by the West Central Drug and Violent Offender Task Force regarding a Department of Corrections warrant on Mitchell Gordon Vipond.
Deputies attempted a traffic stop on Vipond but he accelerated with law enforcement in pursuit. Due to traffic congestion and dangerous speeds, law enforcement broke off the pursuit.
A short time later, an alert citzen called 911 to report a male party was running on foot in the area of Carlos Avenue and Nokomis Street. Deputies responded to the area and located Vipond walking towards Nokomis Street. He was taken into custody without incident.
During a search of Vipond’s vehicle, methamphetamines were found. Vipond is being held on probable cause charges of fleeing police in a motor vehicle, controlled substance crimes, and various traffic offenses related to the pursuit.
One Douglas County Sheriff’s vehicle sustained minor damage trying a PIT maneuver.
Rental Resort Owners Required To Take AIS Training
Lake Service Provider businesses like resorts, outfitters, and campgrounds that rent or lease boats or other water-related equipment are required to take Aquatic Invasive Species Training and have since 2012. DNR Training Coordinator April Rust says that while the overall compliance rate has been pretty high, there are still some that have not taken the training. Registration deadlines for in-person training are one week prior. To Register visit the DNR website and the Lake Service Provider webpage. In person training for this area will take place April 6th from 3 to 5 pm at Thumper Pond Resort in Ottertail.
Elbow Lake Council To Make Decision On Police Department Soon
About 30 Elbow Lake residents showed up for a special meeting last Thursday to provide public input and have discussion on the fate of Elbow Lake’s Police Department. Police Chief LuVerne Sik is retiring, with his last day on the job being April 1st. At this point, they will either hire a new Chief, or assign all law enforcement duties to the Grant County Sheriff’s Office. New Elbow Lake Mayor Deb Engel is aware of the magnitude of the decision.
Mayor Engel is most concerned with the most fiscally financial decision. She says that the other communities in the county that contract with the sheriff’s office go on a 3 year term or cycle. For the county’s position, they feel like most, if not all duties would be covered seamlessly, with better training being offered as well.
Three Moorhead Men Charged in Audubon Store Hold Up
The three men arrested in a Tuesday morning hold up at the Orton's Convenience Store in Audubon face aggravated robbery charges. The men each face a count of first degree aggravated robbery. Charged last week in Becker County District Court are 22 year old John Greywind, 23 year old Stephen Golden and 23 year old Dylan Beckman, all from Moorhead. According to court complaints, the three had plotted to rob the store, then travel the backroads back to Moorhead. Court records allege two of the men, Greywind and Golden, entered the store around 1:15am Tuesday with bandanas over their faces and knives in their hands and told the store clerk to open the register and to get on the floor. The men also asked for a key to the safe which the employee said she didn't have. The men left, the employee hit the alarm button and law enforcement arrived. Records state the driver of the get-away vehicle, Beckman, said the men had a plan to rob the store and take the backroads from Audubon to Moorhead. A Becker County Sheriff's Deputy happened to be in the vicinity of the car and was able to locate the suspect vehicle traveling south from the scene on Highway 11 about 15 minutes later. The employee was not injured in the incident. Bail was set for each man, 100-thousand for Golden; 150-thousand for Greywind; and 75-thousand for Beckman.
Ingebrigtsen Protests Bill
State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria will carry a bill to address protests that block highways, airports, and public transit. The Senate bill will be a companion bill to one introduced in the Minnesota House.
The bill increases the penalty for intentionally obstructing traffic entering, exiting, or on a trunk highway. It also increases the penalty at airports operated by the Metropolitan Airports Commission.
A gross misdemeanor crime is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.
Another part of the bill addresses public transit. Anyone who intentionally interferes with or obstructs the operation of a public transit vehicle would also face a gross misdemeanor charge. And if the violation is accompanied by force or violence, the penalty could be up to three years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.
Another bill Ingebrigtsen is carrying in the Senate is one authorizing governmental units to sue to recover costs for the public safety response related to unlawful assemblies and public nuisances.
Joshua Hunt Sentenced
A 20-year-old Fergus Falls man was sentenced Thursday to 12 months in the St. Cloud prison.
Joshua James Hunt was sentenced in Otter Tail County District Court for several crimes, including failure to register as a predatory offender.
Among his crimes, Hunt failed to report his new address when he changed living arrangements. He was caught with Adderall tablets in his pocket. And he stole a car from his landlord.
Hunt will get credit for 333 days already spent in jail. He’ll be on probation for five years.
Terry Kadel Warrant
An arrest warrant has been issued for a rural Erhard man who failed to show up for his sentencing in Otter Tail County District Court Thursday.
Thirty-three-year-old Terry Dean Kadel was scheduled for sentencing on charges of fifth-degree controlled substance crime, a felony, and misdemeanor trespassing.
A plea agreement had called for a 60-day jail sentence and five years probation. Kadel was found to be trespassing at a Fergus Falls residence in December, 2015. Methamphetamine and marijuana pipes were found on his person.
City Of Fergus Falls Reminds Residents To Keep Sidewalks Clear
Even with warmer temperatures, the city of Fergus Falls asks property owners to be vigilant about remaining ice or snow on their properties and the city right-of-ways. April Zumach with the city says public safety is the top priority of the City of Fergus Falls and says that they will send a letter to the property owner, but at that point if they do not respond a city crew will be dispatched and the property owner will be billed by the city to take care of those issues. It is also the property owner's responsibility to clear the snow and remaining ice from the bottom of driveways. Animal droppings and debris need to be removed from sidewalks as well.
Grant County Crash
A two-car crash near Elbow Lake Thursday injured three people. The State Patrol says a car driven by 19-year-old Rachel Wagner of Morris was southbound on Highway 59 approaching the intersection with Grant County Road 4.
Another car driven by 35-year-old Carla Benson of Elbow Lake was westbound on County Road 4. Benson didn’t stop for a stop sign and the cars collided in the intersection.
Wagner was not injured. Benson and her passengers, 12-year-old Devon Benson and six-year-old Summer Benson, were taken to Prairie Ridge Hospital for treatment.
The crash happened shortly after 5:00 pm.
Fergus Falls police received a report Wednesday of a theft of electrical cords at Mark, Sand & Gravel on Highway 210.
Sometime between last fall and Wednesday, some cut three separate electrical cords off of two trailers.
The cords are valued at $1,000. There are no suspects.
A rural Vergas man reported to the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday that he was a victim of a scam.
The man told authorities he was contacted by a person claiming to be a jailer in Greenbay, Wisconsin. The caller said the victim’s grandson was in jail and needed $3,000 for bail. The victim said he sent money using Walmart gift cards.
Most of the people seeking asylum and crossing the border from Minnesota and North Dakota into Canada are in the U-S legally. The Border Patrol has seen a significant increase in immigrants from muslim-dominated countries leaving this country, fearing they could eventually be deported by the Trump administration. Aaron Heitke is the Chief Border Patrol Agent with the Grand Forks Sector and says those going across the border are eventually taken to a processing center in Winnipeg, Manitoba where they are typically granted permission to remain in Canada. Some immigrants have flown into U-S airports and then crossed the border. The Border Patrol is working with Canada's Border Services Agency and The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in identifying those crossing the border.
Man Walks Away From Sentence To Serve
Fergus Falls Police along with the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s office responded to a local business in Southeast Fergus Falls on a report of an inmate that had left his Sentence To Serve work crew on Tuesday at approximately 12:14pm. The inmate was identified as James Fitzpatrick Helps. Helps was working with the assembled crew when he slipped away, unseen. The Sentence To Serve Crew Leader immediately checked the surrounding area and did not locate Helps. Police and Sheriff’s officials also searched after they responded and also did not locate Helps. They state that Helps is not a danger to the community, but ask the public to contact either the Sheriff’s Office or Police Department if they have any information about Help’s location.
Dustin Defiel Opening Statements
A jury of 10 men and five women heard opening statements this morning in the Otter Tail County murder trial of Dustin Michael Defiel.
The 29-year-old Defiel is charged with first and second degree murder in the death of his 56-year-old father Rick Defiel June 1st at the family’s Fergus Falls home.
The prosecution’s first witness was Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Dispatcher Jason Karlgaard, who took the 911 call reporting the shooting about 10:30 pm, and stayed on the line with Dustin’s mother Tammy for about 20 minutes.
The state’s first exhibit was a recording of that 911 call. Tammy Defiel had been in the shower and heard two gunshots. She went into the bedroom and noticed her husband covered in blood. She grabbed her cellphone and went back into the bathroom, locking the door and calling 911.
Tammy told Karlgaard that her son had just shot her husband. In between conversations between Tammy and Karlgaard, Tammy can be heard saying over and over, “Oh my God.” At one point, she could be heard saying, “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.”
As the minutes ticked by, Tammy became panicky because it was taking so long for lawmen to enter the home. Police were being cautious because they didn’t know if Dustin was still in the home.
Tammy could also be overhead saying, at one point, “The government, they should have helped him.” Dustin served in the military and apparently had some PTSD issues. The 911 call ended after police breached the home and came to Tammy’s rescue in the bathroom.
During this morning’s early proceedings, Dustin was nervously shaking. His attorney, Christopher Cadem, it his opening statement, said “Dustin was at the home. His father was killed. But he did not commit this murder.” Cadem contends the state failed to properly investigate the case and gather evidence. He says investigators never considered one other suspect.
The trial is expected to take two to three weeks.
Nils Njus Charges Dropped
Charges against a St. Cloud man filed in Traverse County District Court have been dismissed.
Fifty-two-year-old Nils Anthony Njus had been charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. During a federal narcotics investigation in Browns Valley September 21st, authorities were told by an informant that Njus was living at the home where a no-knock search warrant was executed. Duffel bags were packed and waiting by the door. A .22 caliber rifle was propped near the bags.
Authorities were told that Njus was packing to leave the residence and that the gun was his, in violation of his probation for past crimes of violence.
But Judge Charles Glasrud ruled that prosecutors had no proof Njus was staying at the home and no proof that the gun belonged to him. Therefore, Judge Glasrud ruled probable cause does not exist and a defense motion to dismiss the charges was granted.
Several area students are still in the running for $20,000 college scholarships from the Coca Cola Company.
There are just under 2,000 semifinalists around the country from an original pool of nearly 86,000 applicants.
Area students considered semifinalists include: Evan Aanerud of Dalton, a Fergus Falls High School student; Jill Maahs of Underwood, a student at Underwood High School; Dannah Nephew of Vergas, a student at Detroit Lakes High School; Heather Weller of New York Mills, a student at New York Mills High School; and Amber Johnson of Sebeka, a student at Sebeka High School.
The semifinalists will now participate in the next phase of the selection process, a 20-minute interview with a Regional Interview Committee comprised of a Coca Cola Foundation staff member and previous Coca Cola Scholars Program scholarship recipients.
After the interviews, 150 students will be named Coca Cola Scholars and receive a college scholarship.
Sergio Zapata Jury Trial
A Frazee man’s sexual conduct jury trial is underway in Otter Tail County District Court.
Thirty-one-year-old Sergio Alejandro Zapata is charged with three counts each of first and second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He is also charged with using a minor in a sexual performance.
Zapata is accused of having sexual contact with an adolescent female on multiple occasions in June, 2016.
The trial is expected to last three to four days. Zapata is being held in jail on $200,000 bond or $50,000 cash bail.
Jarid Gutzmer First Appearance
A 36-year-old Fergus Falls man is being charged in Otter Tail County District Court with two counts of fifth-degree drug possession.
Jarid Allen Gutzmer was arrested February 9th during a traffic stop in Fergus Falls. An officer stopped Gutzmer’s vehicle on an active state apprehension and detention order. During a search of Gutzmer and his vehicle, police allegedly found methamphetamine and heroin.
Gutzmer has a previous third-degree felony controlled substance conviction in Otter Tail County.
Man Dies in Weekend Snowmobile Accident
A Mahnomen man was killed in a snowmobile crash Sunday in Clearwater County. According to the Sheriff's Office, they received a call at 12:50 p.m. about an accident along McKenzie Lake Road in southern Clearwater County. When deputies arrived, they found 59 year old Daniel John Stock, dead at the scene.
The accident remains under investigation by the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office.
LREC Natural Gas
Lake Region Electric Co-op in Pelican Rapids is getting into the natural gas business. Construction of natural gas distribution infrastructure will begin this spring, with gas flowing in the Deer Creek and Parker’s Prairie areas by August 1st.
Lake Region CEO Tim Thompson says the company did a feasibility study before deciding to pursue the venture. He says it was imperative that large natural gas users indicated their interest.
The $1.6 million investment by Lake Region Electric will be recovered over time. Greater Minnesota Gas will provide the intrastate pipeline. Once installed, Lake Region staff will operate the gas line in their service territory.
A man was injured when the tree he was cutting down fell on him. The unidentified victim says while cutting down the tree in the 1800 block of Connell Drive, the trunk shifted and the tree fell on top of his legs. The Fergus Falls Fire Department assisted with lifting the tree and the victim was taken by ambulance to Lake Region Hospital.
Fergus Falls police will wait for some time before considering charging a suspect in a reported motor vehicle theft. A resident in the 400 block of East Cherry Avenue called police Friday to report her 2008 Chevy Malibu was stolen between 1 am and 3 am Thursday. She named a suspect. Police will hold off filing charges as the Malibu is now known to be at the Grant County Sheriff’s Office storage facility pending a search warrant.
Fergus Falls police are investigating a report of a woman who allegedly trashed a rental home and stole a computer, a TV, a shotgun, and cash from the home. The home is owned by a person currently living in Texas. The renter had kicked the woman out before the incidents happened Friday or Saturday.
Two people were injured, one seriously, in a single vehicle rollover Saturday night south of Fergus Falls. A 16-year-old boy was driving westbound on County Road 15 at River Oaks Boulevard at an estimated 60 mph. The vehicle went off the roadway and rolled three or four times. The driver suffered minor injuries. A 15-year-old male passenger had to be extricated from the vehicle. He was taken to Lake Region Hospital but was later lifeflighted to Sanford Hospital in Fargo.
No injuries were reported after a four wheeler with three passengers went through the ice on the south side of Otter Tail Lake Friday night. The parties were able to climb out of the water and walk to a nearby cabin. The sheriff’s office says there were no signs of impairment. The ATV has already been recovered from the lake.
Ramsey Kettle Threat Charges
A Fergus Falls man serving time at Stillwater Prison is making his first court appearance today in Otter Tail County after allegedly making terroristic threats.
Twenty-five-year-old Ramsey Louis Kettle has allegedly sent threatening letters to people who testified against him and to Fergus Falls police. He is charged with one count of first-degree tampering with a witness and four counts of terroristic threats.
Kettle is serving prison time after an Otter Tail County jury found him guilty in 2015 of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, terroristic threats, and two counts of fifth-degree assault.
In his letters sent from prison, Kettle eludes to having learned in prison how to build bombs and that 50 pounds of explosives should be enough to take out the Fergus Falls Police Department. He eludes to strapping on a bomb some day when he feels he doesn’t want to go on and walking into the police station. He targets three officer