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Teen sentenced for vandalism at KMS school

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WILLMAR -- Dustin Joseph Woodworth, 18, of Marshall and formerly of Willmar, was sentenced Tuesday to 45 days in the county jail, a $500 fine and five years of probation on a felony damage to property charge for vandalizing the KMS Elementary School in Murdock last summer.

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The sentence, handed down by Judge David L. Mennis in Swift County District Court, also orders Woodworth to pay $5,000 in restitution, jointly with his co-defendant in the case, Cody Lee Friese, 18, of Willmar. The restitution amount was part of a plea agreement reached Jan. 2.

Also included in the agreement is the dismissal of a felony charge of second-degree burglary of a government, religious, historic or school building.

Woodworth entered an Alford plea to the property damage charge, meaning that he did not admit guilt but does admit there was likely enough evidence for a jury to find him guilty of the crime.

Woodworth was ordered to write a letter of apology to the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg school district, to be approved by his probation officer, have no contact or be on the property of KMS Schools, to undergo a psychological evaluation and follow the recommendations and get his GED within 12 months.

The sentencing was delayed about an hour Tuesday morning after Woodworth failed to appear for his hearing. Mennis had ordered that a warrant be issued for his arrest.

Woodworth declined to make any statement before the judge handed down the sentence or when questioned about his tardiness. He was given credit for nine days already served in the county jail.

Woodworth and Friese were both charged with two felonies after the Aug. 6 incident. Friese's next court appearance is a settlement conference scheduled for next week.

According to the complaint, a janitor arrived at the school around 6 a.m. Aug. 6 to find extensive damage, including broken windows, spray paint damage and exhausted fire extinguishers at the school. The Swift County Sheriff's Office was called and used a tracking dog and shoe prints to follow a trail from the school to a home along the town's main street. Officers obtained a search warrant, arrested Friese, Woodworth and two others, and found approximately $200 in a school cash bag and candy bars from the school at the home. The two others were later released.

Also seized were shoes that matched the prints left at the school where candy and soda vending machines were vandalized. Damage estimates were $50,000 or more.

Also included in the complaint is that the Sheriff's Office had been notified of people in black clothing that were breaking into a building in town that same night. A deputy had had contact with two men, also wearing black, several nights before. They had been identified as Friese and Woodworth.

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