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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A jury trial was set this week for a Pierce County sheriff's deputy who pleaded not guilty to child-sex charges. Allen J. Wojcik, 31, entered the pleas Monday, Oct. 29, to four felony charges against him alleging sexual assault of a child. The Spring Valley man, now living in River Falls, had been placed on paid administrative leave from the sheriff's office amid an investigation into the case.
A Prescott man accused of sexually assaulting and stabbing a woman earlier this year allegedly violated his bond conditions Oct. 19 by driving her in his car, which authorities say he then used to flee police into Minnesota. Jason J. Kulla, 46, was charged with two felonies — bail jumping and fleeing an officer — after being arrested Thursday, Oct. 25. He made his initial court appearance Monday, where Pierce County Court Commissioner Jorv Gavic set Kulla's cash bail at $100,000.
State Sen. Leah Vukmir downplayed polling that showed her trailing by double digits in the race for U.S. Senate, saying she expects a visit Wednesday by President Donald Trump to give her more steam as Election Day nears. Vukmir, of Brookfield, met with supporters Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Hop and Barrel in Hudson, where she was joined by fellow Republican Sean Duffy, a congressman from Hayward. A Marquette University Law School poll conducted earlier in October showed Democrat incumbent Tammy Baldwin with a 10-point lead over Vukmir ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
Fire in a field near the St. Croix-Pierce county line was extinguished Tuesday after a combine caught fire. United Fire Chief Gary Newton said fire crews responded to a minor fire Oct. 16 in a field on County Road Y in the town of Rush River. A small fire began near a bearing on the combine's corn head, which threw sparks that ignited some corn stalks, Newton said. Firefighters from United's Baldwin station, along with River Falls fire department crews extinguished the flames. Newton said damage to the combine was minor.
Authorities arrested a teenager outside Hudson last week after the SUV he was in lurched across Interstate 94 traffic into a ditch, where an officer found a woman inside mouthing the words "help me, help me." The woman later told officers the suspect, her passenger, said he "would rather be handicapped" before grabbing the steering wheel, eventually overpowering her and sending the vehicle into the ditch.
A Hammond woman and a horse were killed Friday morning after the animal was struck in the middle of a St. Croix County road. The St. Croix County Sheriff's Office identified the victim as 53-year-old Diane G. Johnson, the driver of a 2009 Chevy Impala.
Four people were injured after a two-car crash early Wednesday in rural Hudson. St. Croix County Sheriff Scott Knudson said deputies responded at 5 a.m. to McCutcheon Road and County Road A for a crash. The driver and two passengers of a 2008 Toyota Prius were extricated from the vehicle and transported by ambulance to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Knudson said. He said the driver was a 45-year-old Hudson man, who had a 56-year-old Hudson man as his front-seat passenger and a 61-year-old woman as a back-seat passenger.
An alleged animal fighting operation discovered last month in Pierce County turned up an example of a bloodsport awash in cash, cruelty and crime that experts say generally flies under the public's radar. The Spring Valley-area bust resulted in more than 1,700 chickens and 20 dogs being seized, while the residents of the property now face dozens of animal fighting-related charges in Pierce County Circuit Court.
Aging facilities and a growing demand for science-related studies are among factors UW-River Falls officials say warrant a new building on campus. University officials on Monday unveiled a $111 million proposal for a Science and Technology Innovation Center, slated to be built on the footprint of Hagestad Hall on East Cascade Avenue.
Authorities responded to the scene of a second collision Thursday within hours of a fatal crash at the same St. Croix County intersection. St. Croix County sheriff's deputies were called at 4:11 p.m. Oct. 4 to Highway 63 and County Road G in the town of Emerald for a two-vehicle crash. The intersection was the scene of a fatal crash at 7:28 a.m. the same day. Sheriff Scott Knudson said one person was injured in the afternoon crash, but that person's injuries did not appear to be life-threatening.