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MINNESOTA NEWS BRIEFS: State Fair opens today

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. - The 2013 Minnesota State Fair gets going today and officials are expecting good weather and attendance.

Fair spokeswoman Brienna Schuette says they hope to top last year's attendance total when nearly 1.8 million people attended the Great Minnesota Together. It was the second-best-attended Minnesota State Fair ever, second only to 2009. Admission is ten dollars for adults and seniors and five for kids on this Thrifty Thursday. Former Saturday Night Live comedians Dana Carvey, Dennis Miller and Kevin Nealon perform tonight at the State Fair Grandstand. 


A 20-year-old college student from Winger has been crowned the 60th Princess Kay of the Milky Way. MarJenna McWilliam of Polk County will serve as ambassador for thousands of Minnesota dairy farmers over the next year. She is an English education major at North Dakota State University. Rachael Rostad of Goodhue County and Katie Schmitt of Benton County, were runners-up. 


More details are expected today in a death investigation underway in Shorewood. South Lake Minnetonka Police say they searched a home there as part of an ongoing investigation that attempted to locate a missing person, and discovered a body in the home. They have not said whether the body is the missing man. Officers also say they are holding a suspect in custody while they investigate further.


The body of a missing St-Hilaire man was found Wednesday in a field in northwestern Minnesota. According to the Pennington County Sheriff's Department, 40-year old Thomas O'Hara was last seen August 8th walking along Highway 32 towards Thief River Falls. Authorities say the body has been sent to the UND pathology department in Grand Forks for positive identification. Foul play is not suspected.


The Minnesota State Supreme Court has ruled that an HIV positive man was wrongly convicted of passing HIV on to his partner under a law meant to regulate sperm donation, and 32-year-old Daniel Rick's conviction and sentence have been overturned. In 2011 Rick was convicted by a jury in Hennepin County of felony assault, but the jury believed that he told his partner that he was HIV positive and did not convict him under that section of the statute. Rick's lawyer argued that the law applied to medical procedures and not sex, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed and overturned the decision in 2012. The Supreme Court has now ruled that the wording of the law is ambiguous, and in the opinion Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote that while sperm might be characterized as an asset of property in a medical context, as in fertility treatments, that doesn't apply sperm transmitted to another through sexual conduct. 


An elderly woman who was hit by a squad car in St. Paul last Friday has died. Police say the officer was slowly backing away from the scene of an investigation when the woman was knocked down. She suffered a head injury, and died yesterday (Wed). Her name has not been released.


A Stillwater man makes a slithering find. The homeowner was on his deck early Wednesday morning and went to pick up what he thought was a towel, until it started to move. After turning on the outdoor light, he realized it was a five-foot-long boa constrictor and called police. A specialist from the DNR came to the home to remove the eight-pound reptile. Police are unsure how the snake showed up at the home. It is assumed the snake is someone's escaped pet. 


Police are searching for a driver that led them on a dangerous high speed chase in Bemidji. A Beltrami County Sheriff's deputy spotted a car driving recklessly in the north end of town and tried to pull the driver over when he sped off. Investigators say not only was the car stolen, but the chase reached speeds of more than 100 miles per hour and the suspect, 41-year-old Edwin Johnson of Bemidji, forced other cars off the road. Officers called off the pursuit near the Red Lake Reservation because it had become too dangerous. The car was found abandoned but Johnson was not located. A warrant has been issued for his arrest on charges that include driving on a canceled license, running from police, and unauthorized use of the vehicle.


The Minnesota cellmate of Oregon State Penitentiary prisoner has been identified as a suspect in his cellmate's strangulation death on Saturday. Oregon State Police say 53-year-old Craig Bjork is being held in segregation as the investigation continues. Bjork was sent to prison for the murders of his two children, his girlfriend, and a prostitute in 1982, and later was convicted of murdering a fellow prisoner in Minnesota in 1997. After the inmate's murder Bjork was held in Minnesota's state's maximum-security facility, Oak Park Heights, and Department of Corrections officials say he was transferred to Oregon in January. Oregon officials have not said why Bjork was housed with another inmate despite his prior conviction for killing another prisoner. Oregon is a death penalty state, and committing a murder while in custody is a capitol offense, so Bjork could be facing execution if he's convicted.


State health officials say at least 81 people went to the hospital with severe gastrointestinal symptoms after eating guinea-pig meat and other items August 11th at an Ecuadorian festival in Minneapolis. Investigators suspect salmonella poisoning and the state Health Department says a number of ill individuals tested positive for it. The bad food came from a vendor at the festival, but officials won't say which one.


Police are investigating after a resident at a nursing home in Saint Louis Park died after he was tased and suffered serious facial injuries. The Star Tribune reports 76-year-old Zheng Diao was seriously injured while he was being subdued at Park Health and Rehab on July 14th, and died about two weeks later. The facility issued a statement extending condolences to the family and saying staff responded "quickly and appropriately at the time of the incident by immediately contacting the local authorities for assistance."


A special session for storm relief is set for September 9th at the State Capitol. Lawmakers are expected to approve state matching money for federal assistance granted to 18 counties following June's severe storms and flash flooding. Governor Dayton also wants Nobles and Rock counties included because of damage from last winter's ice storm. Dayton says the state just received a letter last week indicating that local expenditures there exceeded the limit they received federal funding for. The state and federal assistance goes to local governments to repair storm-damaged infrastructure.


The state housing market is starting to look like a "seller's market" after several years of low home prices. Chris Galler of the Minnesota Association of Realtors says now is a good time to sell because the median sales price is up nearly 14 percent for the year. In July that figure was $183,500 dollars. Galler says closed sales were up more than 13 percent last month and pending sales rose over eight percent.


The family of slain Cold Spring-Richmond Police Officer Tom Decker hosts a public dedication ceremony this afternoon for the Tom Decker Memorial Highway. It's at 1 p-m at Cold Spring Lions Park. 31-year-old Decker died last November after he was shot behind a Cold Spring bar while responding to a call. The state legislature voted in April to name a portion of Highway 23 between Cold Spring and Richmond in honor of Decker. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said earlier this month they've gathered enough evidence to show that Eric Thomes was likely behind Decker's murder -- and Thomes would have been arrested had he not committed suicide in January. Although Ryan Larson was arrested early in the investigation, detectives now say there is no reason to believe he participated in the murder.


A former Moorhead man who's admitted to molesting more than 30 children is being recommended for release from Minnesota’s sex offender program. Kirk Fugelseth was civilly committed after pleading guilty in 1999 to having sexual contact with a victim under 16. State Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson wrote a letter saying she would not oppose Fugelseth’s conditional release. Clay County Attorney Brian Melton says he's disappointed but "there's really no other position that we can take at this point." Melton says Fugelseth would be subject to covert surveillance, GPS monitoring, and would live in a halfway house in St. Paul. 


Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for a 61-year-old Ham Lake man accused of swindling a woman out of $200,000. According to the criminal complaint, Kent Meyer met the 66-year-old St. Paul woman online and promised to invest money left to her by her late husband. Investigators say Meyer instead spent the money at Macy’s, Home Depot and Sears. Meyer, who’s been dubbed the “sweetheart swindler,” has a history of similar crimes and in 2005 was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for swindling another woman.


A northwestern Minnesota man is accused of threatening a former neighbor in an attempt to extort half-a-million dollars. Prosecutors say 52-year-old Gerald Sunsdahl of Thief River Falls left a letter in the former neighbor’s mailbox demanding the money and indicating three sharpshooters were watching the house. He's charged with making terroristic threats and attempted coercion. Further charges are expected against Sunsdahl, who's also accused of misusing his power of attorney for his parents and taking hundreds of thousands of dollars for his own use.


Saint Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg of Duluth says he intends to run for U.S. Senate next year. The 51-year-old Republican plans to formally announce his candidacy just before his October 1st retirement from the U.S. Army Reserve. Dahlberg says he realizes he's not well-known outside of northeastern Minnesota, so the only way to change that is to meet as many people as he can during the coming year. He's the fourth GOP hopeful looking to challenge incumbent Democratic-Farm Labor Senator Al Franken of Minneapolis. The others are state Senator Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen, state Representative Jim Abeler from Anoka and Twin Cities businessman Mike McFadden.