Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
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OLIVIA — A 20-year-old man facing arson charges has been found mentally incompetent, and the court has approved a motion for a guardianship for him. Wahkan Otahta Blackhawk of rural Olivia is charged with two counts of felony, first-degree arson and a felony count of negligent fire for allegedly setting a Dec. 3 fire that caused extensive damage to his parents' home south of Olivia. The court approved a guardianship for him following a May 1 hearing. It ruled April 19 that he was mentally incompetent to participate in his own defense.
SPICER — Let's Go Fishing launched its 15th season in a big way this week, and appropriately so. The Willmar chapter has already seen a 41 percent bump in registrations from last year, and it is usually in the next couple of weeks when most of the registration calls will come in, according to Jim Gauss, president of the Willmar chapter. "We're getting calls from all over the place,'' he said.
MADISON — Lac qui Parle County Sheriff Lou Sager has tendered his resignation 11 months after having moved from the East Coast to take the job. "It's time," said Sager. "At the end of the day I was hoping this to be a long-term, future thing. The citizens and everybody made it clear that is not going to happen." His resignation is effective May 15. He took the oath of office June 13, 2016, after responding to a "help wanted'' ad posted by the county when Sheriff Rick Halvorson resigned with about two and a half years remaining in the term.
WILLMAR — A Kandiyohi County jury found Joseph Alan Schleeter, 32, of New London, guilty Thursday afternoon of third- and fifth-degree domestic assault charges, as well as criminal damage to property and threats of violence on. The jury returned not guilty verdicts to charges of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, second-degree assault, and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. The jury returned its verdicts following a three-day trial in district court in Willmar.
WILLMAR — A man accused in a rash of thefts and burglaries in Kandiyohi County pleaded guilty Friday to 11 felony and two gross misdemeanor charges in district court in Willmar. Jordan Anthony Brede, 24, of Kandiyohi, pleaded guilty to a felony, first degree burglary charge, seven other felony, third degree burglary charges, and felony and gross misdemeanor theft charges. The first degree burglary charge carries a presumptive sentence of 45 months in prison, according to information from the Kandiyohi County Attorney's office, which prosecuted the case.
WILLMAR — It's been a "weird'' three months weather wise, but that's all right for the fishing opener, according to Brad Foshaug, avid angler and owner of '71 Bait and Sport in Willmar. This string of unusual weather from warm to cold to warm again could set the stage for one of the area's best fishing openers May 13, with one caveat. "I'm praying and hoping for a nice weekend,'' said Foshaug. His optimism for an active bite come next Saturday is shared by many.
WILLMAR — It takes smarts to catch fish. And that is exactly what members of area fishing clubs are bringing to the table in the effort to keep aquatic invasive species out of local waters. Twenty-eight anglers from seven different fishing clubs and organizations joined April 24 in Willmar for training. They learned how to inspect boats for invasive species, how to identify them and the laws involved. They are now volunteer educators, ready to show other anglers how they can inspect their own watercraft.
WILLMAR — Five days after his son was born, Souen "Posy" Chheng was placed on a flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with seven other deportees from the United States. Chheng is now over 8,000 miles away from the son he has not met, Jakobie, and the child's mother and his wife of less than a year, Allison Chheng. "It's been hard,'' said Steve Peppin of Willmar, his friend and employer in Willmar. Peppin said the deportation of his friend on Tuesday feels like a death. He is not optimistic that Posy Chheng will ever be allowed to return to the United States.
OLIVIA — A man charged with breaking into a woman's residence and raping her offered an Alford plea to a felony charge of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree. Eric Edward Dostal, 23, of Glencoe, entered the plea — which is recorded as a guilty plea — Monday in Renville County District Court. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that there is sufficient evidence to prove the elements of the offense.
WILLMAR — A man who was charged with striking another man on the head with a ball hitch and causing severe brain bleeding during a birthday party for 11-year-olds will serve time in prison. District Court Judge Michael Thompson on Monday sentenced Juan Jose Guerrero Jr., 21, of St. Cloud, to serve 36 months in prison for second-degree assault. Thompson allowed credit for 240 days served in jail. He ordered Guerrero to pay restitution, along with co-defendants, to the victim.