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Suspect in bus stop incidents arrested in domestic assault case

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COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. -- A woman was arrested for alleged domestic assault just hours after police identified her as the suspect in recent suspicious school bus stop incidents.

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The woman, who police described as being in crisis in part due to a marital separation, allegedly bit her estranged husband Friday during an altercation at his Cottage Grove.

Shortly before that incident, police said, they provided her with crisis resource information after identifying her as the person who twice approached elementary school children at bus stops in Cottage Grove and interacted with a 10-year-old St. Paul Park girl outside her home.

The woman matched the description in all three incidents, and witnesses to one of the encounters identified her, but she denied involvement.

The woman used poor judgment when she approached the children but did nothing that could result in criminal charges, said Cottage Grove police Capt. Pete Koerner. It was possible she did not even remember the incidents, he added.

“Obviously she’s in crisis,” Koerner said.

Initial police contact with the Cottage Grove woman came overnight Thursday, when officers found her sleeping in a blue minivan in Hearthside Park. She and the van matched descriptions provided by witnesses in the bus stop incidents.

The first incident happened Sept. 4, when a woman in a blue minivan asked two students “if they were looking for their parents.” The woman then drove off.

A parent witnessed strange behavior Wednesday morning when she dropped off her daughter at a bus stop. An unidentified woman reportedly got out of a blue minivan and asked a student where he went to school and if he would bring a violin to another student at his school.

Witnesses to that second incident identified the woman police found in the park as the one who showed up at the bus stop.

Police said the descriptions were similar in the cases: a white woman in her 30s with gray hair who was driving a blue minivan. The woman police found at Hearthside Park is 39.

In the St. Paul Park incident, a woman called police to report that sometime between Sept. 17 and 19 a woman matching the suspect’s description approached her 10-year-old daughter in their yard. The suspect called the girl over to the minivan and asked if she knew the location of the closest library, according to a St. Paul Park police report.

The girl’s father saw the encounter from inside the home. When he went outside, the woman immediately drove away.

When police found the woman in the park Thursday night, she was told she could not sleep there. Then officers saw her van about 10 a.m. Friday in a parking lot. She denied involvement in the bus stop incidents and was not arrested.

“We don’t think there was a threat to any of the students,” Koerner said.

Around noon Friday, the woman’s estranged husband called police. The woman had returned to his home, they got into an argument and she bit him, police said.

The woman was arrested and transported to the Washington County jail. She was ticketed for fifth-degree domestic assault but had to appear before a judge because it was a domestic assault case.

The woman is on probation for prior criminal convictions, police said, and it was not immediately clear whether the recent incidents violated her probation.

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Scott Wente
Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
(651) 459-7600
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