Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
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Tears, laughs and a lighthearted dance tribute marked a ceremony held Thursday, Jan. 3, in honor of Andy Sommer, a Woodbury High School Spanish teacher who died in December. Audience members nearly filled the school's auditorium, where speakers shared memories of Sommer, who died Dec. 19 following a battle with esophageal cancer. Speakers included WHS social studies teacher Hank Freeman, who, in a playful tribute, told audience members she was able to connect with Sommer by going to her "happy place." "Tell the kids to laugh," Freeman said she believed Sommer would say.
A Woodbury woman noticed a white truck following her home, but it wasn't until she received a text message from a neighbor that she became truly alarmed. The woman, responding to a text reading "There is a dude looking in your windows," ran out of her apartment on Dec. 22 and confronted a man outside her residence who authorities said begged her not to call police. Officers later found the man, identified in a criminal complaint as Jeffrey Scott Hurst, at his Cottage Grove home, where he allegedly admitted to spying on the Woodbury woman. Hurst was charged Dec.
Lee Vague has never known a Woodbury Public Safety Department that didn't include Jay Alberio. The two stood shoulder-to-shoulder the day Vague was sworn in as a rookie cop and Alberio was promoted to sergeant. But for the first time in his career at Woodbury, Vague, now the city's Public Safety director, returns to work without Alberio at the police station. The 55-year-old investigative commander retired on Friday, Dec.
Woodbury made some noise over the holidays. The Royals won the title Saturday in the Rotary US Bank Holiday Classic tournament in Rochester with a 93-72 win over Rochester John Marshall, the No. 10 ranked team in Class 3A. Senior standout Renard Suggs led the way for Woodbury in the title game with 31 points. Fellow senior Robert Claypool added 19 points against John Marshall, while junior Matt Ambriz chipped in 17.
Witnesses said the gunfire sounded like a war zone. A tense situation Aug. 31 at the Red Roof Inn led police to open fire on a St. Paul man running out of a room where another man allegedly held several hostages at gunpoint and sexually assaulted teenage girls during the episode. When it was all over, the St. Paul man, Mark E. Henderson, was dead and a suspect, 24-year-old Demetrius Ballinger was arrested and charged with 27 felonies, including second-degree attempted murder and four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Fire destroyed the second Woodbury home in less than a week in an overnight blaze on Woodbury Drive. Four people at the home at 4540 Woodbury Drive were displaced as a result of the fire, firefighters said. All residents escaped without injury. Firefighters responded at 1:26 a.m. Thursday to 4540 Woodbury Drive for a house fire report. Todd Johnson, Woodbury's fire chief and deputy public safety director, said first responders arrived to find fire in the roof.
Firefighters were able to save a portion of a house and two pets in a Sunday blaze on Timberlea Drive. Crews responded at 2:20 p.m. to 2526 Timberlea Drive, where a passerby spotted smoke and flames near the home's front door. Woodbury Fire Department Cmdr. John Wallgren said the fire had spread to an attached garage and up into the home's rafters after running through the eaves. "They did a quick exterior offensive attack," he said. "That's something that we actually put emphasis on in our training this year.
Woodbury's cross-town rivalry lived up to its billing Friday night. An apparent laugher at one point with Woodbury up 22 points at the half, the Raptors chiseled away in the second half on its way to 72-67 home victory. East Ridge improved its overall record to 6-1 with the win and moved into first place in the Suburban East Conference at 2-0.
Washington County prosecutors alleged a man took aim at a female friend with a hammer at her Woodbury home. Marshall E. Bullis, 27, Lake St. Croix Beach, was charged Dec. 7 with one count of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of terroristic threats - both felonies. According to a criminal complaint, Woodbury police were summoned Dec.
Hank Freeman remembers Andy Sommer's first year at Woodbury High School. As temperatures dipped into the 40s by October, Freeman found the California transplant bundled up in warm clothes, his neck wrapped in a muffler. Though the weather took adjusting, Freeman said it didn't take long for Sommer to warm to the school - and vice versa. "He was just wonderful," the WHS teacher said of her friend and colleague who died Wednesday, Dec. 19, at the age of 54 after a battle with cancer.