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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: IDs revealed in murder-suicide in Olmsted County

The Olmsted County Sheriff's Department has determined the deaths of two college students at a rural home near Pine Island were the result of a murder-suicide. Investigators believe that 19-year-old Nicholas Roecker shot and killed 18-year-old Kayla Koranda inside a heated barn at the young man's home late Monday afternoon and then turned the gun on himself. She was pronounced dead at the scene and he died at the hospital. The young woman was a student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, while the young man attended college at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Both were on winter break. Sheriff David Mueller says Koranda's family has told investigators that she paid a visit to Roecker Monday afternoon to help him through a bout of depression when the incident occurred.


A bill extending longterm unemployment benefits passed a procedural hurdle in the Senate and is moving forward. Minnesota Senator Al Franken says he's heard from many Minnesotans that say unemployment checks have helped them keep food on the table and remain in their homes while they've looked for work. Franken says it's a critical lifeline affecting about 3.6 million Americans, including 65,000 Minnesotans. Those emergency unemployment benefits expired on December 28th. Passage in the Senate is nearly assured, but majority House Republicans want the $6 billion dollar cost offset by other cuts -- so the odds of passage there are murky at best.


Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is now home after spending several days hospitalized being treated for a heart attack. He suffered chest pain while cross-country skiing on Saturday and had two angioplasty procedures at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. Doctors also inserted six stents. He will be starting work as the executive director of Generation Next after a few weeks of rest.


Minneapolis police crime statistics show the city is a fairly safe place. The 2013 numbers were released yesterday, showing overall crimes climbed less than one percent from 2012 --although violent crimes like aggravated assault, robberies and homicides were up by four-percent. Even though those rose, police say they are at their lowest levels since the 1960s. Burglaries fell by over three-percent and juvenile crime dropped by almost five-percent from the year before.


There is light at the end of a long, cold tunnel, but Minnesotans will again face dangerous cold temperatures when they venture out today (Wed). A wind chill advisory is in place until noon for all but the far southwest corner of the state, and forecasters with the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen say the areas along and north of Highway 2 will experience wind chills of 35-to-45-below-zero feels-like temps this morning, and areas south will encounter minus-25-to-35 readings. Conditions are expected to gradually improve late morning, and even more significant relief is expected later in the week when daytime highs reach the teens and low 20's tomorrow (Thu) and Friday.


A woman found dead outside of her home in Lakeville yesterday (Tue) afternoon may have frozen to death. A statement from Lakeville police says that family members found her outside, and while officers aren't certain if the extreme cold played a role they did observe evidence of possible hypothermia. The identity of the woman has not been released; she was in her 30's. Investigators are trying to track the woman's activities over the last several days and an autopsy has been scheduled for today (Wed).


Officials say key parts of the state's Public Health Laboratory are operating again after the heating system failed Monday, causing burst pipes that damaged equipment. The state Health Department's Doug Schultz says most operations have resumed in the infectious disease laboratory, with the rest expected back on-line in a day or two. And Schultz says since Monday, they've been sending samples from the newborn screening program to a contract lab. He says those tests must be done within 24 hours to protect newborn babies' health, and there has been no delay. Schultz says hardest-hit was the environmental health lab, which tests drinking water and analyzes soil, water or blood for heavy metals. He says it will be at least several days before that is back on-line.


The end of May will be busy for political pundits in Minnesota, because Republicans and Democrats will hold their state conventions the same weekend, for the first time in recent memory. Republicans announced Tuesday their convention will be May 30th and 31st at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, where they plan to endorse candidates for governor and U-S Senate. At the same time, Democrats will meet at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center May 30th through June 1st, where they'll likely endorse Governor Mark Dayton and Senator Al Franken for re-election.


Scrutiny of the state's troubled MNsure health insurance exchange has now increased, with the legislative auditor's investigation underway and a report expected in a few months. Carleton College political science Professor Steven Schier says, depending on what happens in the intervening time, the issue could be one of the deciding factors in the 2014 election. Schier says Governor Dayton has been reassuring people that Mnsure would work well -- and if that's not the case by fall, it could be used against him in campaign ads. All seats in the Democratically-controlled Minnesota House are also up for election.


The state Agriculture Department is gearing up for the 2014 Minnesota Organic Conference this weekend in St. Cloud. Program coordinator Meg Moynihan says they're expecting about 500 people at River's Edge Convention Center Friday and Saturday. Moynihan says it's an educational conference geared toward farmers of all kinds -- beginning farmers and experienced farmers, as well as those who have been organic for a long time. Moynihan says Minnesota is the only state Ag Department in the U-S to offer an event like this. There are more than 700 certified organic farms in the state.