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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Austin standoff ends; Carjacking suspect still sought

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Pierce County Herald
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AUSTIN, Minn. -- A nine-hour standoff in Austin ended without injuries and police have searched the home, but the carjacking suspect they were searching for has not been caught. Officials believe the 22-year-old man was involved in a carjacking in Mankato yesterday (Tue) morning. The gun investigators believe was used in the car theft was recovered during the search of the home. Two teenagers and a child left the home several hours into the standoff and the 15-and-17-year-old were arrested. They have not yet been charged with any crimes. KAAL-TV reports that the suspect on the run has a criminal history, with convictions for aggravated robbery, burglary, and tampering with a motor vehicle.

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The medical examiner has ruled that the 55-year-old Mahtomedi (MAH-toh-mee-die) man found injured in the street near Babbitt died at the hospital after being strangled. Babbitt Police Chief Chad Loewen says a 24-year-old Babbitt man has been arrested in the murder of Paul Bulen and is expected to be charged later this week. Bulen was apparently discovered unconscious near the suspect's home.

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A substitute teacher at a charter school in Chaska has been charged with molesting two students and investigators fear there could be more victims. Court papers show that 34-year-old Matthew VanHecke admitted to touching two girls at before-and-after-school programs last school year at World Learner School, a elementary and middle charter school. VanHecke told police that he has always had thoughts about "little kids" in his head. The Star Tribune is reporting that he also worked as a substitute paraprofessional in various schools in the Eastern Carver County School District for the past several months. School officials say VanHecke passed a criminal background check.

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Top House Ag Democrat, Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson - embroiled in a farm bill dairy spat with the Speaker of the House - says it's not dairy, but payment limits that are holding up the farm bill. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley was irritated by the claim, and says he's not even sure why language that has vast bipartisan support in both chambers is even a point of discussion in the farm bill conference. Peterson says he isn't relenting - and claims that House Ag Chair Frank Lucas, who first supported Peterson on dairy, is now waffling under pressure from Boehner.

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Moorhead police say what apparently started out as a fun night on a party bus ended badly for nearly a dozen people. Authorities from three different agencies responded to a report of a large fight at the Stop-N-Go in Moorhead early this morning.(wed) Police say the bus had stopped there after a night of bar hopping to get some food and use the restrooms and that's when tempers flared, with fights taking place inside and outside the store. Six people were taken to jail for disorderly conduct. Another was charged at the scene with disorderly conduct and then released. Four were cited for minor consumption. One juvenile was cited and released to his parents. Store displays were damaged in the melee.

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The Cold Spring City Council unanimously approved an off sale liquor license for Cold Spring Brewing Company Tuesday night. Officials say the brewing company now has the ability to sell liquor to customers who intend on taking the brew home. Previously the brewery had a license that only allowed them to give samples to their customers during tours. The license is in effect now through June 30, 2014.

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The father of the missing woman who likely drowned in the Chicago River says he was uneasy about his daughter traveling to Chicago. Ben Li tells the Chicago Tribune that he didn't want her to go, and that he lent her a safer car to make the trip from the University of Minnesota. Police say Lauren Li ended up in the icy river to help her friend who fell in while trying to retrieve a dropped cell phone. Li is still missing and presumed dead and her friend that dropped the phone near Lake Shore Drive early Monday also died.

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A 17-year-old is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of several charges in the beating of Ray Widstrand last year in St. Paul. A jury in Ramsey County found Cindarion Butler guilty yesterday of aiding and abetting first-degree aggravated robbery and aiding and abetting first-degree assault. The verdict came down around 8:30 last night. Widstrand suffered a severe brain injury in the beating at the hands of as many as ten young men, several of whom are still facing charges.

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A deal is in place to end a 15-month lockout involving Minnesota Orchestra musicians. KSTP-TV reports the musicians are taking a 15-percent cut to their base salaries from 2012 and will pay more for their health insurance. The average salary for the musicians when the lockout started in October 2012 was 135-thousand dollars. The three-year contract takes effect February 1st.

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State health officials are concerned about the first-ever results on indoor tanning in this year's Minnesota Student Survey. The Department of Health's Michelle Strangis (STRAN'-jiss) says despite warnings about serious health dangers the survey found 34 percent of 11th-grade white females tanned indoors in the last year, and more than half did indoor tanning ten or more times in the year. Strangis says that's a high number of teens exposing themselves to ultraviolet radiation which is a risk factor for melanoma skin cancer. She's urging Minnesota parents *not* to give teens under 16 permission to use indoor tanning beds.

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Two Minnesota Senate committees this afternoon (1230pm) review a special task force's recommendations as the legislature prepares to make changes to the state's Sex Offender Treatment Program. It comes as a federal judge considers whether to order changes. Mankato Senator Kathy Sheran says lawmakers have to do "something sincere and serious" for the court to allow the state to solve the problems on its own and not intervene. Minnesota has been civilly committing sex offenders to the program after their prison terms end if they're judged at high risk of re-offending. But the report by the court-appointed task force concludes the current system "captures too many people and keeps many of them too long."

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