Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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ST. PAUL — Nearly a year after the Bemidji community discovered that Brandon Bjerknes had engaged in sexual conversations with his students, his victims and their families continue to suffer. One girl is currently in a state mental hospital due to multiple suicide attempts. At least two more have had to make trips to the emergency room after cutting themselves. Some have been bullied by other students. Some can't trust boys or men.
BEMIDJI—As the number of auto thefts creeps up each year, local law enforcement has taken to social media to combat the crime and attempt to return the vehicles to their owners. Auto theft investigator Ryan Riley said the Bemidji Police Department's recent posts asking the public to be on the lookout for certain vehicles have paid off. "A lot of people are on social media, and it gets out faster," Riley said. "If one person can see the stolen vehicle and make a phone call, then it gets back faster, obviously."
BEMIDJI—Two people accused of punching and robbing a woman in mid-January pleaded not guilty to the robbery Monday. Alexis Rae Rodriquez, 23, of Cass Lake and Jordan Lee Drouillard, 24, of Bemidji, both appeared in court Monday morning. Rodriquez pleaded not guilty to one count of simple robbery. Drouillard pleaded not guilty to one count of simple robbery and one count of second-degree possession of heroin.
BEMIDJI—A Minnesota environmentalist group that made itself known in Bemidji by protesting oil pipelines now has a local chapter with offices in the city, thanks to Nancy Beaulieu and other activists. Beaulieu, who lives just east of Bemidji, opened the doors to the local MN350 chapter Dec. 1. She now works out of an office at the Rail River Folk School in Bemidji and is in charge of community outreach, plans events and educates visitors about sustainability.
DEER RIVER—Two men accused of holding a store clerk at gunpoint during a robbery Wednesday were charged with felonies Friday. Montana Oshiki Ayaabe Cutbank, 18, of Cass Lake, and Norman Wayne Cutbank III, 22, of Duluth, both appeared in Itasca County district court. The pair is charged with one count of first-degree aggravated robbery each.
CASS LAKE—Leech Lake's longtime secretary/treasurer Arthur "Archie" LaRose was certified Tuesday as a candidate for the band's upcoming June election over the objections of an opponent and two other members of the tribal council. During an acrimonious meeting Tuesday morning held at the Palace Casino Hotel, District II Representative Steve White and District I Representative Penny DeVault voted against certifying LaRose. At issue is LaRose's criminal record. He was convicted of third-degree assault and trespass in 1992.
BEMIDJI—A Bemidji man who sexually assaulted a vulnerable adult while he was employed at an area REM home was sentenced to 180 days in jail Monday. Anthony Leonard Granger, 53, also received a stayed sentence of four years in prison. He will not have to spend any time in prison as long as he complies with the conditions of his probation for the next 15 years.
BEMIDJI—One of four people accused to punching and robbing a woman in mid-January pleaded not guilty Monday. Vincent George Cobenais, 30, of Red Lake, appeared in court Monday for the plea, and made a speedy trial demand. A pretrial hearing was set for Tuesday, Feb. 6. Cobenais—along with Jordan Lee Drouillard, Sr., 24, Ryanne Leigh Cook, 20 and Alexis Rae Rodriquez, 23,—was charged Jan. 19 with one count of simple robbery.
BEMIDJI—An assault charge against a Cass Lake man accused of stabbing an acquaintance was dismissed Monday. Court records show that Tyler John Cournoyer, 22, is no longer charged with one count of second-degree assault, though no explanation was immediately available. Cournoyer was charged in June. He was accused of stabbing Keanu Joseph Major, who then allegedly ran Cournoyer with a vehicle. The assault charge against Major was also dismissed.
WALKER—A Cass Lake woman police say was present for the shooting death of Brandi Shank—also known as Brandi Strong—was charged Friday with two counts of aiding another who they say committed second-degree unintentional murder. A criminal complaint filed Friday accused Sara Renae LaRose, 41, of giving investigators "false or misleading" information about the November shooting. Brandon Joseph Roy, 24, of Cass Lake, was charged in November with second-degree unintentional murder in Shank's death.