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Updated 4:15 p.m.
WILLMAR -- A man who sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl a decade ago has pleaded guilty and will be deported from the United States. Tomas Hernandez Lopez, 41, signed the plea agreement Monday in Kandiyohi County District Court. The case had been set to go to trial Nov. 30, but Lopez instead agreed to enter a guilty plea to one count of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree. He also is being turned over to the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation, with credit for the jail time he has already served. He could have faced 10 years in a U.S.
WILLMAR -- A youth has pleaded guilty in connection with a series of burglaries and two garage fires on the west side of Willmar this past June. Cody Sander, 18, signed the plea agreement Monday, which charges him with two counts of arson in the first degree and one count of burglary in the third degree. Disposition in the Kandiyohi County case is scheduled for Jan. 24. The fires destroyed one garage and a car parked inside, and seriously damaged another garage, a truck and ATV. A neighboring house sustained some fire damage as well. The fires broke out around 2:30 a.m.
WILLMAR - Hands young and old spread colorful icing on holiday cookies Monday at the Rice Care Center. Trays quickly filled with dozens of star- and cloud-shaped cookies frosted in blue, green, pink and yellow and dusted with sprinkles.
WILLMAR -- The Wednesday edition of the West Central Tribune will be landing on readers' doorsteps with a heftier thump than usual. Retailer advertising, coupons and inserts for Black Friday make the day before Thanksgiving "by far the largest paper of the year," said Mark Herman, circulation manager for the West Central Tribune. Not only is it the largest paper, it's also one of the best-selling editions of the year among readers clamoring for the sale ads and coupons. "We sell a lot of papers that day," said Steve Ammermann, publisher of the West Central Tribune.
WILLMAR -- At Ken's Casuals in downtown Willmar, the holiday decorating was done and the finishing touches were being placed on the store's float for the Holidaze parade on Saturday. "Now we just need the people," said Pam Klein, co-owner of the store. From deep discounts to layaway plans to extended hours, retailers are pulling out the stops to entice shoppers into the stores. And they're not waiting until the day after Thanksgiving, the traditional opening date for the holiday shopping season.
WILLMAR -- Dr. Robert V. Hodapp had a way of staying calm, no matter how intense the situation. "He was always even-tempered. Ev-en if he got upset, he didn't show it very much," recalled Dr. James Tiede, one of Hod-app's former colleagues. Hodapp, a longtime pediatrician and former Willmar mayor, died Tuesday at his home in Spicer. He was one day short of his 87th birthday. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Spicer. Visitation is from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Planning to be a patient at Rice Memorial Hospital in the near future? Starting Dec.
WILLMAR -- It took the sight of earth-moving equipment outside the Rice Care Center Monday morning for the nursing home's staff to believe a long-awaited construction project was finally under way. "This is a dream come true," said Diane Hagedorn, director of nursing. "Everybody's excited about this." Rain drove local dignitaries and nursing home staff indoors Wednesday afternoon for an official groundbreaking ceremony.
WILLMAR -- With a touch on a keypad, Angie Beyerl, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Rice Memorial Hospital, can automatically tilt the mattress on the ICU's bariatric bed, allowing a patient to be turned safely and comfortably. Another feature gently inflates the mattress with circulating air to reduce the patient's risk of pressure ulcers. The bed is motorized too, making it easier to transport patients for procedures such as surgery or imaging scans. Similar high-tech beds have been introduced throughout the ICU in recent months.