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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Teen found guilty of killing newborn gets retrial

OAKDALE, Minn. -- A former jailhouse friend took the stand in the retrial of a Washington County woman accused of killing her newborn. Emily Frye told the court that she shared the cell next to Nicole Beecroft, and that Beecroft told her that she had disposed of her newborn in the trash soon after giving birth in April of 2007. The medical examiner say the tiny body was stabbed 135 times, but Beecroft's lawyers maintain that the baby was stillborn. She was 17-years-old at the time, and was previously found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. But the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed Beecroft's conviction because they believe the actions of state officials interfered with Beecroft's right to present a complete defense. The retrial is expected to continue into next week. 

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A half-dozen same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses at the Clay County Courthouse in Moorhead yesterday -- the first day they could do so. Gay couples can legally get married in Minnesota starting August 1st. Jan Titus and Robert Stone have been together for 3 years, both were previously married. Stone says he was married for 37 years and loved his wife but knew he was gay when he was young. He says in Fargo, back then, to admit you were gay was like suicide. The couple plans to get married in a mass wedding at the Clay County Courthouse August 1st 

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A leading U.S. oil executive urged lawmakers in D.C. to relax a requirement to use renewable fuel in gasoline, blaming an "out of control" market in biofuel credits for adding to fuel costs in a recent run-up in gasoline prices. The Senate Energy Committee hearing was meant to gather answers behind the reason the surge in domestic crude oil production to the highest level in over two decades had failed to bring down fuel prices. Valero Energy Corp Chief Executive Bill Klesse said the government's renewable fuel mandate is affecting prices in the refined fuel market. Minnesota U.S. Senator Al Franken disputes that, and says recent refinery closures are just the tip of the iceberg. Franken says there are also geopolitical issues, hurricanes, speculation, supply-demand factors, and it's not fair to blame the Renewable Fuel Standard. In the last week, gasoline prices have jumped, on average, 15-cents a gallon. 

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The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has now officially amended the findings in a St. Louis Park baby's 2009 death, saying 3-month old Alexander Casey was murdered. The report says the findings were changed after a renewed police investigation. 25-year-old Ashleigh Casey was charged this week with second degree murder in her son's death, after St. Louis Park detectives questioned her after her 8 month old daughter stopped breathing during a recent hospital visit. The baby was resuscitated. Casey admitted during the interrogation to smothering her son with a blanket, but said she didn't mean to kill him. She also claims to suffer from the disorder Munchausen by proxy syndrome. The National Institutes of health describes Munchausen's by proxy as a form of child abuse in which a parent induces real or apparent symptoms of a disease in a child,and calls it an attention-seeking behavior. Mothers are almost always the perpetrators. 

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Minnesota's June employment numbers come out later this (Thurs) morning. In May, Minnesota employers added 84-hundred jobs, holding the unemployment rate steady at five-point-three percent. State job analyst Steve Hine says those increases were largely driven by seasonal jobs -- like construction and hospitality -- which were delayed by the late spring. Hine notes the weather has turned more summer-like in recent weeks, and June's numbers could reflect that. 

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Governor Dayton is asking the president for federal disaster assistance to help cities and counties repair infrastructure damaged by June's storms and flash floods. But at this point it appears officials do *not* plan to ask for individual assistance for homeowners and others. The state Public Safety Department's Doug Neville says it's tougher to get individual assistance and the state has to demonstrate widespread impact. Neville says when individual assistance is not part of the federal declaration, they work with communities to see what their needs are and what might be available. 

(Affected counties: Benton, Big Stone, Douglas, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Grant, Hennepin, Houston, McLeod, Morrison, Pope, Sibley, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Traverse and Wilkin) 

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Another round today (930am) in the continuing battle over unionizing home-based day care providers in Minnesota. A group is in federal court in Minneapolis, asking a judge to block a union election ordered by the legislature. Attorney Doug Seaton contends it conflicts with federal law. He says private employers can't be forced to submit to an election under a state statute, when those matters are the exclusive purview of the federal government. Backers say a recently-passed Minnesota law simply allows home-based day care providers to decide whether they want to have a union. 

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A mid-summer reminder for Minnesota bicyclists after a 17-year-old girl went to the emergency room after she ran a stop sign and collided with a mini-van in Fergus Falls Police Chief Kile Bergren reminds Minnesotans that although bicycles are not motor vehicles, they still are required to obey all regulatory signs. The teen in the Fergus Falls crash was wearing a helmet but had scratches and a possible broken collarbone. The mini-van driver was shook up but uninjured. 

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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