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Christine Swedell held a birthday card she received as a 16-year-old from her sister, Susan. She does this every year on Jan. 19, the date she last saw her sister 30 years ago. Susan Swedell vanished during a 1988 blizzard after finishing a shift at the Oak Park Heights Kmart.
Woodbury Public Safety Director Lee Vague welcomed new police officer Lauren Haefemeyer at the Jan. 10 City Council meeting. Haefemeyer has served as a paramedic with Public Safety since 2014 and recently earned her law enforcement certification from Metropolitan State University. She worked as Emergency Medical Services staff for several Twin Cities hospitals before starting with Woodbury Public Safety. "For me, this is just an example of how things should work," Vague said of Haefemeyer's journey to her new position.
A three-term state representative from Woodbury will not seek re-election in 2018. Rep. JoAnn Ward, a Democrat, announced Wednesday she plans to retire from the Minnesota Legislature after this year's session. "It has been a joy for me to represent these caring, compassionate and engaged communities," Ward said in statement. "I have met and worked with so many neighbors who actively seek a positive future for everyone in the East Metro and the state of Minnesota."
The Washington County Sheriff's Office recently created a new sergeant position to lead ongoing investigation efforts targeting sex trafficking in the east metro following County Board approval Jan. 9. A recent grant of $313,000 from the Department of Justice Programs with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety will fund the new position for two years. The new sergeant will head the East Metro Sex Trafficking task force, a seven-person team set to launch officially early this year. The person to fill the position will work undercover starting this month.
Jury selection for the trial of a Cottage Grove man accused of murdering his wife began today. A grand jury indicted Stephen Allwine, 44, in March of first-degree premeditated murder, a charge that carries a mandatory life sentence if convicted. Allwine was initially charged with second-degree intentional murder charge filed in November 2017 for the death of his wife, Amy, in their south Cottage Grove home. Prosecutors allege Allwine killed her and attempted to stage her death as a suicide after a murder-by-hire plot failed.
Farmington police are asking the public for help identifying two suspects in an armed gas station robbery earlier this week. The robbery happened around 3 a.m. on Jan. 9 at the Elm Street Kwik Trip in Farmington, according to police. Security footage from the store shows two people entering the store in hooded sweatshirts and face coverings. Authorities said the suspects displayed a handgun and left the store on foot traveling north. Police are also asking for the public's help identifying the logo on a red sweatshirt one of the suspects wore.
Tracy Reitman has listened to coyote calls just about every night for more than a decade. She grew accustomed to the sounds of wildlife, including the nightly coyote chorus, after moving to her home on the Pine Glen development 14 years ago. The proximity to nature is one of the features that drew her to Cottage Grove.
For the second year in a row, Belwin Conservancy in Afton invited the community to huddle up around a roaring bonfire marking the longest night of the year. The blaze ignited around noon on Dec. 21 as facilities specialist Eric Palman loaded on logs from fallen trees with a skid steer. "It's to get a nice bed of coals going," Palman said of the seven-hour process. "If I just throw all this stuff on a new fire, it may just go out." Hours after sundown, the stack towered over visitors' heads as embers shot into the sky to celebrate Winter Solstice.
The Afton City Council approved a 4.5 percent tax levy increase last week as part of the 2018 budget. The $2,133,786 total tax levy, which includes debt service as well as general fund and transfer levies, represents a $91,886 increase over the 2017 levy. Residents whose property values at $500,000 will pay about $80 more to the city's portion of property taxes for a total of $1,694. Commercial property of the same value will see a $127 increase to about $3,114 in city property taxes.
For many Japanese Americans, the trauma of World War II internment camps lingered long after their release. In her newest novel, "On Liberty's Wings: A Post-WWII Novel," Afton author Diane Dettmann chronicles Yasu Nakahara's journey to rebuild her life after her family's release from a camp in California. By 1948, Yasu has moved to Minneapolis. Although the 22-year-old newlywed found her calling as a teacher, Yasu still struggles with post-war prejudice and residual flashbacks to prison camps surrounded by barbed wire.