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WCT Minute: Olivia man seeks to claim self-defense in boy's death and more

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Here’s a look at the top headlines from west central Minnesota through Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022.

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Houston Allen Morris
Contributed / Renville County Sheriff's Office

OLIVIA — The man accused of fatally stabbing a 13-year-old boy with a knife allegedly intended for the boy's mother is seeking to claim self-defense in his upcoming trial on charges of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder.

Houston Allen Morris, 38, of Olivia, appeared Monday in Renville County District Court in Olivia for a hearing on motions filed for the trial. Morris' defense attorney, Andrew Hodny, has filed motions for a claim of self-defense and to suppress testimony the prosecution is seeking to use.

Prosecutor David Vlieger with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has filed a motion asking District Judge Laurence Stratton to prevent the use of a self-defense claim.

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The prosecutor has also filed motions seeking to allow testimony by the defendant’s ex-wife and a former girlfriend, as well as a long list of other people who knew both Morris and the boy's mother. Their testimony is sought because they allegedly have witnessed "prior bad acts” by the defendant. They include claims of domestic abuse and other violent acts, according to the motion.

Judge Stratton took the attorneys’ motions under advisement. The attorneys and judge agreed to schedule a two-week trial in April 2023.

Morris is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and a third count of attempted second-degree murder. He is accused of driving a knife into the chest of Isaac Hoff, who was standing behind his mother during an altercation in her Olivia apartment at 5:49 a.m. on March 24, 2022.

Full story here.

Minnesota Board of Animal Health says avian flu confirmed in Meeker County turkey flock

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Contributed photo

LITCHFIELD — A commercial turkey flock in Meeker County tested positive for the highly pathogenic avian influenza, after increased bird mortality over last weekend was reported and testing was completed.

According to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, the flock of 128,599 turkeys was immediately quarantined after a presumptive positive result was given by the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory.

The positive result was confirmed Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriclture's National Veterinary Services Laboratories and the flock has been depopulated to stop the spread of the disease. The birds from the infected flock will not enter the food chain.

This is the first reported positive case of the disease in Minnesota since May, according to the board. Prior to this Meeker County case, approximately 2.96 million birds had been impacted by the disease, either by infection or depopulation, in Minnesota.

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Full story here.

Public input sought regarding rezoning of agricultural land east of Lakeland Drive Northeast

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WILLMAR — A public hearing will take place Sept. 6 during the Willmar City Council meeting for the rezoning of agricultural land to facilitate a potential new apartment complex development of up to 216 units across three 72-unit buildings.

The land would be rezoned to R5, which is high-density residential. The location under consideration for rezoning is east of Lakeland Drive Northeast between the Trentwood development and the mobile home park located on the corner of Lakeland Drive Northeast and Civic Center Drive.

The developer is Samuel Herzog of Unique Opportunities. He is currently finishing up a similar apartment complex development located on the west side of Kandiyohi County Road 5/30th Street Northwest, north of U.S. Highway 12.

Although the Planning Commission and the City Council have shown initial support, residents who live in the area of the planned project have been less than enthusiastic.

Concerns shared by residents at the Aug. 3 Planning Commission meeting and the Aug. 15 City Council meeting include the increased traffic from the addition of 216 housing units, additional wear and tear on the road, the effect the development will have on their property values, and the reduced privacy that comes with having an apartment complex in their backyards.

Full story here.

Month-long speed survey in Willmar shows most drivers follow speed limit

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WILLMAR — A recent survey of some of the busier streets in the city of Willmar found that most drivers are traveling the speed limit or no more than 5 mph over.

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The Willmar Police Department recently conducted the speed survey at the direction of the Willmar City Council to better understand the issue of speeding throughout the city of Willmar.

One of the reasons the survey was conducted was due to Second Street Southeast residents' complaints that the street, before reconstruction began, had turned into a “raceway.”

However, City Council members hear complaints about speeding all the time from residents all over the city.

The survey was conducted between July 15 and Aug. 15, 2022. The results showed that most drivers were traveling at or below the speed limit or within 5 miles per hour over the speed limit.

Full story here.

Willmar sets public hearing on THC sales ordinance with stiff penalties, licensing fee yet to be determined

Delta9-THC edible gummies sit behind a glass case at D & D Smoke on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Delta9-THC edible gummies sit behind a glass case at D & D Smoke on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — The Willmar City Council amended a draft ordinance regulating the sale of THC products to adopt stiffer penalties for violations by any business.

While many on the council want a licensing fee to be prohibitive for businesses that wish to sell THC products, that decision has yet to be made.

The draft ordinance presented to the council included a civil fine of $500 for licensed businesses for a first violation and a one-day license suspension, a civil fine of $1,000 and a three-day suspension for a second violation within 36 months, and a civil fine of $2,000 and a 10-day suspension for a third violation within 36 months.

The council voted Aug. 15 to amend that portion of the ordinance to include a $1,000 fine and a three-day license suspension upon the first violation; a $2,000 fine and a 10-day suspension for a second violation; and, a $5,000 fine and revocation of the license for the third violation.

The council voted to hold the public hearing for the ordinance at its Sept. 6 meeting. The new ordinance will replace the emergency ordinance the council adopted July 18 in response to the new state law.

Full story here.

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "West Central Tribune staff report." Often, the "West Central Tribune staff report" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.

The West Central Tribune newsroom can be reached via email:
willmar-newsdesk@wctrib.com or phone 320-235-1150.
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