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Minnesota-Wisconsin roundup: Western Wisconsin teen killed in crash, Cottage Grove driver ID’d in bridge crash

Boy hit by car while walking on interstate bridge

SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A 14-year-old boy was hit by a car and seriously injured while walking on an interstate bridge over the Mississippi River late Wednesday.

Eric Poe of Inver Grove Heights was walking in the center lane of eastbound Interstate 494 on the Wakota Bridge when he was struck by a 1992 Buick LeSabre driven by Caitlin M. Fitzgerald, 22, of Cottage Grove, the Minnesota State Patrol reported.

Poe was hit at 11:05 p.m.

Fitzgerald was wearing a seatbelt and was not injured. There was no alcohol detected in her system, according to the State Patrol report.

The boy was transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul.


Teen dies in New Year’s Day crash

NEW RICHMOND, Wis. -- A Hudson teen died in a one-vehicle crash early New Year’s Day.

The St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office reported that Taylor J. Casey, 19, died in a rollover at 5:18 a.m. Wednesday just south of New Richmond in northwest Wisconsin.

Casey was driving a 2002 Mercedes Benz SUV south on County A. He apparently lost control of the vehicle and it entered the east ditch and rolled over. Casey was partially ejected and pronounced dead at the scene by the St. Croix County medical examiner. A passenger, Antonio L Bloomquist, 19, of Hudson, was not injured.

Casey was not wearing a seatbelt; Bloomquist was wearing a seatbelt.


Contract deal averts strike at oil refinery

ST. PAUL PARK, Minn. -- Contract negotiators struck a deal for St. Paul Park oil refinery workers hours before a threatened strike was to begin.

Northern Tier Energy, which owns the refinery, and Teamsters Local 120 reached agreement on a new three-year contract, said Chris Riley, the union’s business manager.

The deal came about 5 p.m. Tuesday. The union had planned to strike Wednesday if there was not a settled contract.

The agreement calls for 3 percent annual raises for the union’s roughly 190 workers, Riley said. It doesn’t include any job or pay cuts that Riley said were part of an earlier company proposal.

“We really didn’t take any concessions,” Riley said.

Union members are expected to vote on the deal next Wednesday.

A Northern Tier Energy spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.

The refinery produces gasoline and diesel fuel and other petroleum-based fuels and products. Northern Tier Energy also owns SuperAmerica gas stations and the SuperMom’s bakery line.

In November, Texas-based Western Refining bought a controlling share of Northern Tier Energy.

Body found in ruins of Minneapolis apartment building

MINNEAPOLIS -- A day and a half after an explosion and fire gutted a Minneapolis apartment building, injuring 14, authorities recovered a body from the ruins Thursday.

Officials also said the New Year’s Day conflagration in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, the heart of Minneapolis’ East African community, was potentially caused by a natural gas explosion.

The fire left the 10-unit apartment building and its first-floor Otanga Grocery store a charred, frigid shell. On Thursday, crews began methodically demolishing the brick building, whose roof and floors had collapsed.

One body was found in the three-story building just before 2 p.m. and turned over to the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office for identification.

Fourteen people were hospitalized immediately after the three-alarm fire, six of them in critical condition, said Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel.

There were conflicting reports about how many people were still missing. Before the discovery of the body Thursday, Fruetel said two people were officially unaccounted for. He also said one of the people hospitalized had yet to be identified.

However, family members and friends of residents who gathered Thursday at the Brian Coyle Community Center identified at least three missing people.

They were Ahmed Ali, 57; his 9-year-old son, Abdirahman Ali; and Mrimri Farah, an out-of-town visitor who was staying with Ahmed Ali.

(St. Paul Pioneer Press)


Moorhead police forward case on TV reporter to prosecutors

MOORHEAD, Minn. – Moorhead police have forwarded the case of a Valley News Live reporter, who entered three area elementary schools without permission last month, to county prosecutors to decide whether to file a criminal charge.

On Dec. 11, reporter Mellaney Moore wore a hidden camera as she walked into schools in Moorhead, West Fargo, N.D., and Fargo without checking in at the main offices. The story, meant to expose gaps in school security, led police in all three cities to investigate the reporter’s actions.

By city ordinance in Fargo and West Fargo and state law in Moorhead, a school visitor who fails to register at the office can face a misdemeanor charge.

On Thursday, Moorhead police Sgt. Robert Matheson said detectives had sent their investigation report to the county attorney’s office. A phone message left for the prosecutor handling the case was not returned.

In West Fargo, Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan said Thursday his department has finished its investigation, and school officials will decide whether to pursue charges.

Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel said his department is just finishing its investigative report and by Monday will likely forward it to the city prosecutor to review.

$1 million lottery tickets sold in Beltrami, Stearns counties

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Two $1 million Minnesota Millionaire Raffle tickets were sold -- one in Beltrami County and another in Stearns County -- in this year’s New Year’s drawing, lottery officials announced Thursday.

The tickets are two of the 150 winning tickets from this year's New Year's drawing.

The $1 million winning ticket numbers were 077692 and 566227.

Five other tickets worth $100,000 each were sold in Dakota, Hennepin, Morrison and Wright counties. Five tickets also netted $25,000 and 100 tickets won $500.

Winners of the $1 million have until Jan. 2, 2015, to claim the prizes, but they must do so at the Minnesota Lottery headquarters in Roseville.

Winners should call (651) 635-8271 to make arrangements to claim the prizes, officials said.

Former Chisholm priest won’t face abuse charges

DULUTH -- No charges will be brought against a former Chisholm priest who was being investigated on child sex abuse allegations, St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said Thursday.

Rubin had been investigating the Rev. Cornelius Kelleher, a retired priest who has been removed from ministry, for possible criminal charges after the Diocese of Duluth revealed in October that the priest had been removed from the ministry after abuse accusations.

While there may have been enough evidence to bring charges, the three-year statute of limitations for the disclosure has passed, Rubin said. Two other alleged victims of Kelleher also came forward during the investigation, Rubin said.

Rubin called the diocese’s initial decision to launch a private investigation rather than contacting authorities “unacceptable.” He said he has met with diocese officials to ensure that any future allegations are brought to investigators.

Bail raised for suspect in Itasca County church break-ins

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. -- Bail was increased Thursday for a Grand Rapids man facing 15 charges related to multiple burglaries at churches across Itasca County the past year.

Danny Edward Madsen, 42, faces nine counts of second-degree burglary and six counts relating to the church break-ins, including receiving stolen property and possession of burglary tools.

Madsen was arrested Dec. 26 and made his first court appearance a day later, with bail set at $50,000 without conditions or $25,000 with conditions, including constant contact with his attorney and no contact with churches in the county.

Bail was raised Thursday by $25,000 in both instances.

Madsen is accused of taking items since June from churches in Grand Rapids (Calvary Pine Baptist, Itasca Bible Church), Bigfork (Grace Community Church, Assembly of God), Deer River (Independent Apostolic Church, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church), Cohasset (West Cohasset Chapel), Bovey (Balsam Bible Chapel) and Pengilly (Crossroads Family Church).

He also is accused of burglarizing a cabin near Effie.

Madsen remains in the Itasca County Jail, awaiting his next court appearance Monday.

MNsure website crashes, leaving some users in limbo

ST. PAUL -- It’s a new year, but MNsure continues to struggle with old problems involving its website and call center.

The application and account services portion of the state health exchange website was down Thursday afternoon for technical reasons as people continued trying to acquire health insurance. The trouble connecting with MNsure was particularly annoying for consumers who still aren’t clear whether they have coverage.

Meanwhile, the average wait time for people calling MNsure for help Thursday was 62 minutes. The call center had received more than 2,500 calls as of 5 p.m.

The first website error was reported about 11 a.m. Thursday, and the application and account portion of the website went down about 20 minutes later, said John Schadl, a MNsure spokesman. It was still down after 5 p.m. Thursday

“A team is working to resolve the problem, but we do not have an estimate of when it will be repaired,” Schadl wrote in an email. “It is a networking problem with the state’s servers.”

MNsure is the state-run health exchange designed to implement the federal Affordable Care Act, which mandates that almost all Americans have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The law includes a three-month grace period, so people can sign up for coverage until the end of March to avoid a penalty.

(Reports compiled by Forum News Service, of which the St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner)