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MINNESOTA NEWS BRIEFS: Investigation of Cook County DA continues

GRAND MARAIS, Minn. -- The investigation continues into a Minnesota county attorney's relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell gave the girl guitar lessons and coached her in a summer tennis program, according to restraining order documents. The case came to light after the girl's mother told authorities that Scannell showed up at her job last September and told her he loved her daughter and that his relationship with her became physical last summer. Scannell has been accused of harassing the teen with phone calls and stalking. Former U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger was appointed special prosecutor in March and says there is nothing he can comment on, other than it's still being investigated. Scannell was shot and seriously wounded in 2011 at the Cook County Courthouse by a sex offender he had prosecuted. 


A Cokato man admitted to driving drunk and causing a crash that killed three people east of Willmar last summer. 22-year-old Paul Wickenhauser pleaded guilty to three counts of criminal vehicular homicide and will be sentenced August 9th. Prosecutors say Wickenhauser was drunk last August when his pickup crossed the center line and collided head-on with a car on Highway 12. The crash killed 68-year-old Marta Stoffers of Atwater, her daughter-in-law 40-year-old Michelle Hoffman of Eden Prairie and Hoffman's eight-year-old Daughter Julia. Five-year-old Jason Hoffman was injured in the crash. A bottle of liquor was found in Wickenhauer's truck, and he was initially found just under the legal limit for driving, but a later test showed he was just over, at point-oh-nine.


A northern Minnesota dog breeder is facing animal neglect and other charges after more than 130 animals were seized from her property. A nine-count complaint has been filed against 60-year-old Deborah Rowell of rural Pine River. Cass County Attorney Christopher Strandlie says Rowell's dogs and puppies were kept in unsafe kennels, overcrowded and without proper ventilation. Strandlie says temperatures were extremely warm inside the kennels when the dogs were seized July 16th. All of the animals are expected to survive. 


While thousands of people have responded to the recent emergency call for blood and platelet donations, the need is still there. Sue Gonsior  with the American Red Cross says blood donations are going out to hospitals as quickly as they are coming in. Gonsior says they need to collect about 800 units of blood per day to keep up with demand in the region which includes Minnesota, eastern South Dakota and western Wisconsin. To make a donation appointment, call 1-800-red-cross or go on-line to red-cross-dot-org.(


In the same week that same-sex marriage becomes law in Minnesota, a new Gallup poll shows the majority of Americans would support a law legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. 52 percent said that they would back a national law if given the opportunity to vote on it, while 43 percent said that they would vote "no." The poll comes after a major Supreme Court ruling found that portions of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from granting benefits to same-sex couples, was unconstitutional.