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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Hennepin, Ramsey counties added to federal disaster declaration

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WASHINGTON, DC -- Hennepin and Ramsey counties in the Twin Cities have been added to the list of counties on President Obama's federal disaser declaration, prompted by severe storms and flooding in June and July.  37 counties in Minnesota plus three tribal governments can now apply for assistance to repair damaged public infrastructure.  Officials have been holding briefings all week for local governments in northern Minnesota.  They're in Wadena County this morning (830am) and in Long Prairie this afternoon (1pm), after meetings earlier this week with the Red Lake Tribe and with officials in Beltrami, Marshall, Roseau, Lake of the Woods and Koochiching counties.  It's too early to know whether a special legislative session will be needed for flood and storm relief.  Lawmakers put three million dollars in a special fund which would leverage another nine million in federal assistance.  Statewide total damage is estimated at 30 million dollars but experts say it's possible the final numbers could be lower. 

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Chisago County authorities continue to search for a missing southeastern Minnesota fisherman, after his boat washed ashore on the north end of East Rush Lake.  51-year-old Kendahl Jochumsen of Austin is the registered owner of the boat, and he was last seen fishing alone.  His family has reported him missing.

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A 41-year-old Little Canada man has been arrested after police say he deliberately pushed another man in front of a car during a fight.  The victim was hit by the car and died at the hospital.  Ramsey County sheriff's officials have not said what the fight was about or released either man's name.  The suspect was booked on suspicion of homicide but has not been charged.

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 Police are awaiting the final reports from police and the medical examiner in the case of a Duluth man accused of suffocating his 14-month-old daughter to death.  Christopher Peterson agreed yesterday (Thu) to waive a 28-day window for an omnibus hearing, and will be back in court in October.  He is accused of suffocating Layna Peterson in early July in an attempt to get her to stop crying.  The Duluth News Tribune reports that Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Jessica Fralich says convening a grand jury to consider first-degree murder charges against Peterson still has not been ruled out.  Peterson's criminal history includes a domestic abuse conviction and other allegations that he abused his children.

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 A former Minneapolis middle school teacher will be sentenced today (Fri) on charges of trying to lure young girls to have sex with him by posting ads on Craigslist.  Former Olson Middle School social studies teacher Joel Fowler pled guilty to one count of "Engaging in Electronic Communication Relating or Describing Sexual Conduct with Child" in June.  Prosecutors say Fowler posted a Craigslist ad trying to solicit sex with girls who were younger than him, and an undercover officer responded to the ad posing as a 14-year-old girl.  Fowler was arrested after he showed up at a designated meeting point to have sex.

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A Missouri man wanted on 50 felony sex abuse charges was arrested in Cloquet, after Missouri police contacted local authorities.  James Swett was wanted for 14 counts of first-degree statutory sodomy, 14 counts of child molestation, 14 counts of forcible sodomy, three counts of sex abuse and five counts of sodomy. He was arrested without incident and is in the Carlton County Jail, waiting to be sent back to Andrew County, Missouri.

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A St. Paul man is charged with attempted murder charges in Monday's drive-by shooting in West St. Paul.  The Ramsey County Attorney's Office says witnesses identified the shooter as 35-year-old Jorge Vasquez, who had recently been released from prison.  Investigators say the victim had been involved with Vasquez's girlfriend.  Vasquez is charged with first-and second-degree attempted murder, second-degree assault and being a felon in possession of a gun.

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The trial of a Cloquet man accused of taking part in a plot to kill his ex-wife's estranged husband has been pushed back to October.  Investigators say 39-year-old John Bemis III faces charges of conspiracy to commit murder and aiding in an assault in a case involving Bemis' ex-wife, Marie Majerle.  Marie Majerle admitted to shooting her estranged husband Richard in the chest and is serving time in prison for assault but had agreed to cooperate with the prosecution in its case against Bemis so her exact sentence has not been determined.  Bemis' trial was moved due to a scheduling conflict.

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Officials at Canterbury Park say a group of four elderly men used an elaborate cheating scheme to unfairly win $200 on 3-card poker just over a year ago, and now the men have been charged with felonies for swapping cards under the table and blocking surveillance cameras.  75-year-old Duane Racle of Lake City, Florida and 75-year-old James Minehan of Tamarac, Florida have already been arrested and charged.  Officials are still looking for 74-year-old Wildred Sanchez of Pembroke, Florida and 77-year-old Nicholas Crowder of Ferndale, Michigan.  Each man already has a prior conviction for cheating casinos from Washington state to Florida. 

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An extended passenger van transporting farm workers crashed near Cannon Falls Wednesday afternoon, injuring 16 people.  The Goodhue County Sheriff's Department says ten of the victims were hospitalized and six were treated at the emergency room and sent home.  Investigators say the driver of the van lost control on a curve on a gravel road.

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The Minnesota G-O-P's endorsed candidate for state Supreme Court says she'll show up every day during the State Fair at the Minnesota Republican Party booth, even though G-O-P officials have banned her from campaigning there.  Michelle MacDonald is charged with D-W-I and says her trial is September 15th and she expects to be exonerated fully -- but MacDonald contends she can't put her campaign on hold until then.  The executive committee of the Minnesota Republican Party revised its State Fair policy restricting access for candidates with pending criminal cases.  MacDonald says the party would probably have to get an injunction to keep her out of the booth -- something she contends no court in the state would even consider.  MacDonald is challenging Supreme Court Justice David Lillehaug (LILL-uh-howg) in the November election.

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Two Clay County prosecutors have been disciplined because of derogatory comments made about a jury on social media.  The remarks were posted on Facebook after a jury acquitted a man of sexual misconduct.  Following the verdict, prosecutor Pam Harris referred to the jury as "12 idiots."  Prosecutor Jenny Samarzja (su-mar-zhuh) replied in agreement with the words "wake up people."  Clay County Attorney Brian Melton says women's comments are indefensible, and his office began investigating the attorneys after he learned about the comments from a courthouse employee.  He says the attorneys have been given written reprimands, but says there's still the potential for more severe action, such as suspensions.

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The general manager of the Minnesota State Fair he's not concerned about breaking any attendance records this year.  G-M Jerry Hammer notes the 2013 Great Minnesota Get-Together drew just over 1.73 million people despite extreme heat -- but Hammer says what's important is the kind of job they do giving people a really good fair experience.  He says when they do that right, the numbers take care of themselves.  Hammer encourages everyone to check out the new West End Market and Minnesota State Fair History and Heritage Center.  The "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin performs on the Grandstand tonight (Fri) with special guest the Four Tops. 

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MN-DOT says it will remove infected trees near I-90 and Highway 63 after the first emerald ash borer infestation was found in Olmsted County, about 45 miles west of the nearest infestation in Winona County.  Olmsted now joins Houston, Winona, Ramsey and Hennepin counties in a quarantine that prohibits moving ash trees and ash limbs as well as hardwood firewood.  MN-DOT says it will wait until October to remove infested trees in Olmsted County because emerald ash borer is not very active at this time of year.

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There's a ceremonial groundbreaking today (Fri 10am) in Stillwater for a new 18-million-dollar National Guard Armory.  Colonel Larry Herke  says the new two-story facility replaces the 1922 armory and will house two Minnesota National Guard units.  Herke says it will serve as an administrative training center for 180 soldiers and 26 full-time staff.  The Guard will also share space with a new Stillwater fire station  The project is scheduled to be completed in March of 2016.

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A man is safe after being rescued from an abandoned Minneapolis grain silo.  Fire crews got the man out from the old Con Agra mill near the intersection of Thomas and Glenwood Avenues.  Authorities say he fell into the silo around 60 feet late Wednesday night.  He was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center. As of last night, his condition is not known. 

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A new wanted poster is up, displaying the man believed to be the suspect involved in the Arden Hills gas station murder.  The Ramsey County Sheriff's Department released the poster yesterday. It offers a ten-thousand-dollar reward for information leading to the arrest of Lyle Marvin "Ty" Hoffman.  He is accused in the shooting death of Kelly Phillips on August 11th.  Both Hoffman and Phillips are said to be former lovers and business partners.  

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