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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Mayor facing criminal charges

A Mayor in Steele County is facing allegations of taking money that was supposed to be used for a veterans memorial in southeastern Minnesota.  Ellendale Mayor Roger Swearingen faces several charges of misdemeanor theft. According to the criminal complaint, the secretary of the Ellendale American Legion Post discovered Swearingen had been withdrawing cash with only his signature, when the secretary's signature was also required.  Authorities say the 66-year-old is accused of withdrawing money from the memorial fund since late 2012.  If convicted, Swearingen could face up to a year in jail.


Investigators think they found the man responsible for murdering a couple in Minneapolis over 15-years ago.  Authorities announced that 35-year-old Jason Richard Preston has been charged in the murder of 20-year-old Dustin Baity and 18-year-old Carrie Richter.  The couple was strangled to death on Christmas Eve in 1998.  Investigators believe DNA evidence found at the scene links Preston to the crime.  He is currently in a California prison on a home invasion charge.


Counterfeiters will have a tough time peddling fake Major League Baseball All-Star Game merchandise and tickets in Minneapolis.  MLB General Counsel Ethan Orlinsky says fans shouldn't see a lot of activity, but they're prepared for the worst.  He says a group from Major League Baseball will be in town to help identify counterfeit items and officials are working closely with city and state leaders.  Orlinsky says they've had several experiences with counterfeit merchandise at different venues  He says they've seen a dozen items at one ballpark and up to a thousand at another All-Star Game. 


A statewide speed enforcement campaign kicks off today in Minnesota (7/10-27).  State Patrol Sergeant Jesse Grabow says around 400 law enforcement agencies are participating in this effort.  Grabow says the goal is not to write a bunch of speeding tickets, it's to help prevent crashes on our roads.  The Department of Public Safety says speeding was attributed to 235 traffic deaths and 666 serious injuries the last three years.  


Recent deaths caused by distracted driving have prompted state officials to make a plea for safer, more responsible behavior behind the wheel.  A young mother bicycling with her children was struck and killed by a motorist in Rock County last week.  Police say the driver admitted to checking his cell phone right before the crash.  Officials with the state health, public safety and transportation departments are reminding motorists that texting while driving is illegal in Minnesota--including at a stop sign or stop light.  And it's also illegal for drivers under 18 to use a cell phone while driving.  Officials say drivers who tend to children, eat, drink or groom while behind the wheel are also distracted drivers.  


 Minnesota will receive up to fiberfill dollars in relief funds from the U-S Department of Transportation to help fix the state's flood-damaged roads.  The money will go towards reimbursing the state for emergency repair work done in the aftermath of recent statewide flooding.  Governor Dayton says the funds will help speed up important repairs on roads, highways and bridges throughout the state.  Just yesterday(WED) the governor requested a Presidential Disaster Declaration to help with federal funding for public infrastructure repairs in 51 Minnesota counties.