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Watkins man receives prison term for assault on girlfriend in Willmar

WILLMAR -- Edward A. Ruchti was sentenced to 21 months in prison Tuesday for assaulting his girlfriend and trying to strangle her during an argument this past February.

Judge Kathryn N. Smith ordered him to serve at least 14 of those months in prison. The remainder can be served on supervised release, as long as Ruchti commits no other offenses either in or out of prison.

Ruchti, of Watkins, will receive credit for two days he has already served in the Kandiyohi County jail. He also must pay $190 in fees and fines.

As part of a plea agreement, additional charges of terroristic threats and gross misdemeanor domestic assault were dismissed.

The judge also agreed to dismiss an order that had barred Ruchti from having contact with his girlfriend.

Both Ruchti's girlfriend and ex-wife appeared in the courtroom to plead for leniency.

His girlfriend, Alissa Grams, read tearfully from a letter she wrote, describing Ruchti as "a decent caring person" who struggles with alcohol and wants to become a better person.

"I don't believe that sending Ed to prison is the answer. That is not rehabilitation," she said.

Ex-wife Melissa Lang called him "a wonderful dad" who will be missed by the couple's two children while he serves his time in prison.

Ruchti, who turns 30 next Tuesday, spoke briefly during the sentencing hearing today, telling Grams and Lang he was "deeply sorry" for his actions.

The assault took place on the night of Feb. 4. According to the court record, Ruchti and Grams had been arguing on and off during the day. Ruchti also had been drinking.

The fight escalated as the two of them, with Grams behind the wheel, drove up to Eagle Lake, north of Willmar, to retrieve a cell phone Ruchti left behind at a friend's fish house. Court records said Ruchti pulled out tufts of her hair, wrapped his arm around her neck to choke her, and threatened to kill her and her 5-year-old child.

When Grams managed to stop the car on North Business 71 and throw the keys out the window, Ruchti got out, retrieved the keys and drove away, leaving her coatless.

Ruchti is already on probation until 2021 for a first-degree assault conviction on Lang while they were still married. She sustained life-threatening internal injuries.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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