A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.
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GRANITE FALLS, Minn. — A former baseball coach was sentenced to 60 days in the Yellow Medicine County Jail after pleading guilty to a 2013 sexual assault of a girl he was coaching at the time. Jose Rodriquez, 22, of Hanley Falls, was also placed on 10 years of supervised probation and ordered to pay fines and fees of $575. The court granted a stay of adjudication, under which no conviction will appear on his criminal record if he successfully completes the terms of his sentence.
SPICER, Minn. — Wearing ice-covered boots and wiping away icicles from beards and noses, a crew of about 40 people were busy Wednesday, Jan. 3, harvesting massive ice blocks from Green Lake near Spicer. Prized for the crystal-clear ice that reflects a blue hue as the sun filters through the bitter cold air, the 573-pound blocks of Green Lake ice will be the jewels used to build a 70-foot-tall ice castle in St. Paul for the Winter Carnival.
BENSON, Minn. — Lack of proper communication by a staff member at a Benson residential facility that provides therapeutic programs for girls — including those who have been sexually exploited — may have contributed to the criminal sexual assault of a 15-year-old program participant who ran away and was found in Iowa three days later. In an amended investigation memorandum issued last week, the Department of Human Services said an unidentified staff member at Heartland Girls Ranch was responsible for "serious" maltreatment of the victim.
RAYMOND, Minn. — After explaining how technology-driven, prescription fertilizer methods make economic and environmental sense because fewer chemicals are applied to farmland, Noah Hultgren invited Matt Dean to climb into the cab of a John Deere combine. Even though there was too much snow to harvest corn and the combine was in a heated shop, Dean got the rundown on how the mammoth machine operates and then followed Hultgren outside to see a grain dryer that was reducing the moisture content of already harvested corn.
NEW LONDON, Minn. — Julia Iverson figures she's been painting since she was 5 years old. While those early pieces of artwork are long gone and over the years she's given away and sold scores of original pieces — mostly watercolors — the 81-year-old New London artist and retired art teacher still paints nearly every day. She has had quite a stash of her work hanging on walls and stored under beds in her roomy, three-story home.
HECTOR, Minn. — A Willmar, Minnesota, man is in jail after leading law enforcement on a 21-mile, high-speed chase in a stolen vehicle Saturday, Oct. 7. Jeremy Nordberg, 25, was arrested four hours later in a cornfield near Hector after officers used a drone, a K-9 officer and State Patrol helicopter to get him to emerge from the field. He is being held in the Renville County Jail pending a court appearance on charges of theft of a motor vehicle, fleeing a peace officer, driving after revocation and possession of drug paraphernalia.
ATWATER, Minn. — After taking a "little vacation" to Las Vegas last weekend to listen to country music at the Route 91 Harvest concert, Justin Schroeder is back at work this week at Central Counties Cooperative in rural Atwater. That should have been an unremarkable transition. But while working at his job as an agronomist with the farm cooperative, Schroeder is also processing the harrowing experience of escaping a barrage of gunfire that killed at least 58 and injured more than 500.
LITCHFIELD, Minn. — The termination of a former Litchfield police sergeant — who was charged last year with DWI while off-duty — has been upheld. In the binding arbitration decision published earlier this month, it was determined the Litchfield Police Department was justified in firing Bryant Blackwell, a veteran peace officer who had at one time been a finalist for the job of Litchfield police chief. Blackwell was fired from his job as police sergeant in January as a result of the 2016 DWI arrest.
SPICER, Minn. — Sweeping his arm across as he viewed the sprawling property — 71 acres of thick woods, sandy beach, rolling prairie, trails, campsites, a 6,600-square-foot gym, a house, numerous cabins, a dining hall, shower house and shop — Pastor Steve Bakke said his congregation members at Open Door Christian Church are not the new owners but the new "caretakers." The possibilities for using the land and facilities are exciting and overwhelming, Bakke said.
WILLMAR, Minn. — A growing market for industrial hemp as food, fiber and nutraceuticals is gaining ground in west central Minnesota and could find a place in Kandiyohi County. There's at least one field of hemp planted this year in Chippewa County and a food-grade processing facility is being established in Olivia—about 25 miles south of Willmar. Yes. It is legal. And, no, industrial hemp is not intoxicating.