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Litchfield, Minn., man faces felony for fleeing deputy in 100 mph-chase

WILLMAR -- Benjamin Jeffrey Norlin, 25, of Litchfield, made his first court appearance Tuesday on a felony charge of fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle for allegedly running from a Kandiyohi County sheriff's deputy at speeds over 100 mph early Sunday morning.

Unconditional bail was set at $18,000. His next appearance is Aug. 6 in Kandiyohi County District Court.

Norlin also faces misdemeanor charges of fleeing an officer on foot, driving after revocation, reckless driving and speeding.

Lisa Marie Diegnau, 22, of Litchfield, is also charged in the case. She faces misdemeanor charges of fleeing on foot and obstructing the legal process. Her next appearance is Aug. 7.

According to the complaint against Norlin, a deputy was driving on County Road 10 near the intersection with County Road 9 and met a vehicle that crossed over the fog line. The deputy turned around and punched the license plate into his computer. The computer showed the owner as having a revoked driver's license.

The vehicle, a black Chevy Malibu, sped up as the officer turned on the lights and then the sirens of the squad car.

The speeds during the pursuit reached 110 mph as the deputy followed as the car went west to U.S. Highway 71, north to County Road 40, west to County Road 9 and then onto County Road 117. The deputy, plus another deputy, located the empty vehicle, still running, about one-quarter mile east of County Road 5 along County Road 117, in Colfax Township.

The complaint notes there were "many, many" beer containers in the car and open containers of alcohol. There was a foot trail from the car into a slough and the deputies located Diegnau nearby. She showed signs of alcohol consumption and wouldn't say who the driver of the car was, only that the guy had offered her a ride home and that she didn't know who he was. She wouldn't say if the driver was Norlin, even when specifically asked by the deputies.

The deputies continued to look for Norlin until 5:50 a.m. Later, around 8:30 a.m., another deputy located a man walking along County Road 24. It was Norlin, who said he was dehydrated and needed water, and he voluntarily entered the deputy's squad car.

Later that evening, a deputy interviewed Diegnau, who was in custody at the county jail, who said that she and Norlin were at Zorbaz in Spicer and that she was drinking. She wouldn't say if he had consumed alcohol, but said that she drove for a while and then they switched drivers, with Norlin taking the wheel before the pursuit began. She claimed the beer in the car belonged to her.

Norlin is the son of Meeker County Sheriff Jeff Norlin, who issued a statement in July 2011 after his son was charged with third-degree assault for beating a man after drinking at a Spicer bar. The senior Norlin's statement noted that his son had served a tour of duty in Iraq and has issues and emotional problems as a result of his service.

Benjamin Norlin was sentenced in that assault case to 22 days in jail, two years of probation and 167 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay a $50 fine and $3,485.50 in restitution to the victim, his insurance company and the State Crime Victims' Reparations Board, follow through with all treatment recommendations and regularly attend Alcoholics Anonymous.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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