Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
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The aftermath of a Super Bowl-timed sex crime sting revealed details from more suspects rounded up this month in St. Croix County. Criminal complaints against two Hudson men and a Woodville man outlined state and local efforts to target child pornography. Two of those cases were launched after Hudson police got word about suspected child porn being discovered by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The organization passed information along to the state's Department of Justice, which disseminated the complaints to local law enforcement.
Two people were hospitalized Monday after a suspected alcohol-involved crash in rural Hager City. Pierce County Sheriff's Office deputies responded at 4:47 p.m. Feb. 19 to Highway 63 near 830th Street for a single-vehicle crash. The driver, Mondovi resident Emily M. Kent, and her passenger, 40-year-old Crystal R. Sanders Mendez, were taken by ambulance to Mayo Clinic Health System-Red Wing with non-life threatening injuries.
Authorities said it took a costume, a comment and a cast of accomplices to pull off a con that fleeced Walmart out of thousands of dollars at various stores in western Wisconsin and Minnesota. According to court documents, the main suspect would enter a Walmart clad in a former employee's vest, then approach a cashier, who would be told it was breaktime. From there, the suspect would open up the cash register to allow a string of accomplices to buy thousands of dollars in gift cards. And then, according to authorities, it was off to the next store.
Fire destroyed a wood shop Tuesday in rural Spring Valley. Spring Valley Fire Chief Mike Fitzjarrell said firefighters were called at about 5:30 p.m. Feb. 20 to N8273 County Road I in the town of Gilman, where a resident reported the blaze. Pierce County land records state the property is owned by Thomas and Naomi McLeod.
A Roberts man was charged with drunken driving for the eighth time last week after a suspected hit-and-run crash in St. Croix County. Police arrested 37-year-old Jaason A. Bierschenk Feb. 12 after he was allegedly seen ditching his wrecked car and heading to the Willow River Saloon in Burkhardt. He was charged the next day with OWI-eighth offense — a felony — along with operating while revoked and hit and run, both misdemeanors. The felony charge carries a mandatory three-year minimum prison sentence.
Deputies responded at 12:46 a.m. Feb. 8 to W9405 830th Ave. in River Falls for a burglary in progress. Statements were taken and evidence was gathered. Traffic trouble • Deputies on patrol conducted a traffic stop at 8:47 p.m. Feb. 5 at 770th Street and Highway 35 in Hager City, where a vehicle was seen with a headlight out. The driver, a Newport, Minn., woman, was later arrested on suspicion of operating without a license, methamphetamine possession and a probation hold.
Wisconsin voters will see three state Supreme Court justice candidates on next week’s primary ballots.
The retirement of a longtime prosecutor has led to a new face at the Pierce County Courthouse. Pierce County Assistant District Attorney Bill Thorie retired Feb. 1 after 25 years with the office. "We wish Bill well on his retirement," Pierce County DA Sean Froelich said. "He'll be missed." Filling Thorie's role as Pierce County's full-time assistant DA is Kaley Walker, who until last week had been working on a limited basis with the St. Croix County District Attorney's Office.
St. Croix County firefighters responded to two structure fires between Saturday and Monday, one of which destroyed a Baldwin business. Gary Newton, Baldwin chief for United Fire Department, said a Saturday night fire at Baldwin Machine & Fab resulted in a total loss. Firefighters were called to the 1080 Sixth Ave. business at 10:06 p.m. Feb. 10.
A UW-River Falls building was temporarily evacuated Tuesday after a small fire in a heating unit. A campus spokesman said River Falls firefighters were called at 9:39 a.m. Feb. 13 to the Kleinpell Fine Arts building for the fire, caused by a burned-out motor in a heating unit in the north stairwell. The fire filled the building with smoke. Students and staff were allowed to re-enter the building just before 10 a.m., according to the university. No injuries were reported. Firefighters continued ventilating the building, where classes resumed.