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Minnesota roundup: Remains found near Brainerd identified as disabled man missing for 2 years

Marc Welzant

BRAINERD, Minn. — Human remains found Saturday night in a wooded area off Business Highway 371 south of Brainerd have been identified as those of Marc Welzant, a developmentally disabled man who went missing over two years ago, ​Brainerd​ ​Police​ ​Chief Corky McQuiston stated in a news release.

McQuiston stated the cause of death has not yet been determined but there are no preliminary indications that foul play is involved. Police said Welzant's remains were located on private property not far from the Mississippi River in a undeveloped wooded area about 2 miles south and west from where he was last seen.

Welzant was last seen the afternoon of Oct. 26, 2014, when he left his group home. Brainerd police received a report at 4:30 p.m. from a group of people who saw Welzant heading west on the walking trail at Kiwanis Park.

Welzant, who is the youngest of 11 siblings, was diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome at 2 years of age, a rare genetic disorder that can result in a range of physical, mental and behavioral problems.

Welzant's birthday was celebrated on March 17. He would have turned 50.


Two men, 77 and 82, go through ice while fishing on western Minnesota lake

BECKER COUNTY, Minn.—Two men riding an ATV fell through a frozen lake in this western Minnesota county Tuesday evening.

The Becker County Sheriff's Office responded to the accident at 6:10 p.m. on Tuesday, March 28, according to a press release from Sheriff Todd Glander. The incident happened on Height of Land lake, about a half mile from the south access.

Norman Bradow, 77, of Fergus Falls, and Jermoe Genz, 82, of Detroit Lakes, were returning to shore when their ATV went through the ice. One of the men was able to call dispatch to report the emergency.

The Becker County Sheriff's airboat was used to reach the men at 6:34 p.m., according to the release. Both men were taken by ambulance to St. Mary's Hospital in Detroit Lakes. The condition of Bradow and Genz were not included in the release.

North Memorial Air Care, St. Mary's Emergency Medical Services, Frazee Rescue, Detroit Lakes Fire Department and sheriff's deputies responded to the scene.


Private management taking over northern Minnesota public ski, golf resort

BIWABIK, Minn.—Giants Ridge, the Biwabik ski and golf resort complex owned by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, now has its first private management team.

IRRRB Commissioner Mark Phillips on Tuesday said the agency has awarded the management contract to Guest Services Inc., in partnership with Billy Casper Golf, set to start May 1.

Phillips has been working toward the private management team for more than a year, saying the public facility has had a convoluted management structure that had limited growth and marketing.

State lawmakers who sit on the IRRRB oversight board approved moving to a private management team last month.

The effort is seen as a compromise between critics of the agency who say the IRRRB should not be operating a tourism facility, and Iron Range lawmakers who wanted to keep the operation publicly managed with unionized state employees.

The IRRRB, a state agency assigned to distribute taxes on taconite iron ore production as well as spur economic development, will continue to own all Giants Ridge physical assets and property.

Giants Ridge in Biwabik includes two 18-hole championship golf courses, hiking trails, award-winning bike trails, alpine and nordic ski operations, and wedding, banquet and conference facilities. The resort draws more than 100,000 visitors each year.


Driver in crash that killed Litchfield woman to serve 50 months

LITCHFIELD, Minn. — Noelle Anise Pridgen, 29, will serve a 50-month prison sentence for a fiery vehicle crash that killed a Litchfield woman.

District Judge Stephanie Beckman sentenced Pridgen on Monday in Meeker County District Court to 50 months in prison on a felony conviction for criminal vehicular homicide.

She is currently held at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee for Women.

Pridgen pleaded guilty to the charges Jan. 5. She told the court she was driving to Willmar and believes she fell asleep when she went through a stop sign in Darwin. She also admitted that she had ingested cocaine two days earlier, according to the court records.

Christina L. Crottier, 36, died in the crash and her husband, Billy J. Crottier, 35, suffered a traumatic brain injury. Their children, 3-year-old Alexis Crottier and 7-year-old Zachary Crottier, were also seriously injured.

Pridgen and her passenger, Tamya D. Hill, then 20, of Kittery, Maine, also suffered serious injuries.


Vehicle hits building just behind Minnesota Capitol

ST. PAUL—A driver struck the Minnesota Department of Administration building on Tuesday afternoon, according to St. Paul police.

People described the situation as "possibly an erratic driver" and there was no indication the situation was anything more than that, said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a St. Paul police spokesman.

Preliminary information suggests the driver was trying to make a U-turn, hit the gas and drove into the building, which is behind the Capitol on Sherburne Avenue near Cedar Street, according to Ernster. He walked away afterward and was not immediately found.

No bystanders were injured in the 1:30 p.m. crash.

Officers found minor damage to the building, Ernster said. A light pole was also damaged.