I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.
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WILLMAR — A Sauk Centre man has been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to charges in six different court files in Kandiyohi County. Carlos Lee Rey Garza, 26, was sentenced in Kandiyohi County District Court. The sentences will be served concurrently along with a 68-month prison sentence imposed in December in Worthington for drug and burglary crimes in Nobles County.
WILLMAR — Use a pencil and write lightly when drawing, and don't be afraid to try again if a drawing doesn't seem quite right. Always have an eraser handy. Keep stories written in school — even those from elementary school — in a folder. Someday, they could lead to an idea for a book. Those are some of the tips children's book author Debbie Hoven shared with students at Lakeland Elementary School in Willmar this week.
GRANITE FALLS — A Minneapolis man is in custody in the Yellow Medicine County Jail after a standoff with law enforcement Monday. Joshua James Kenney, 32, faces two felony charges from the Monday standoff — possessing a firearm after being convicted of a crime of violence and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. Kenney made his first court appearance Wednesday in Yellow Medicine County District Court. His bail is $500,000 for release without conditions and $250,000 with conditions. His next court appearance will be Feb. 19.
WILLMAR — The lawyer for Lori Jean Harris Gafkjen, who is accused of aiding an offender after a murder, says she should not be tried unless the alleged killer is convicted. John Mack raised that issue and also whether there was probable cause for the charges against Gafkjen, 51, of Brooten, at an omnibus hearing Thursday in Kandiyohi County District Court. Caleb Aaron Blue, 35, of Willmar, has been indicted for first-degree murder in the death of David Medellin, 24, of Willmar in October 2018.
WILLMAR — A Pennock woman will spend 90 days in jail with the possibility of more in the future for stealing thousands from a relative with dementia. Melissa Gay Bengtson, 52, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult in December. She was sentenced Thursday in Kandiyohi County District Court. She had originally been charged with three felonies for the financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.
WILLMAR — A man who was wounded in an officer-involved shooting in 2017 was sentenced Thursday in connection with the confrontation with Willmar police officers. Matthew David Smith, 47, was wounded in July 2017 after Willmar police were called to his home on a report of an intoxicated, suicidal man. Smith was convicted by a Kandiyohi County District Court jury in December on a felony charge of making threats of violence. He was acquitted of two felony charges of second-degree assault.
WILLMAR — A Willmar man has been indicted for first-degree premeditated murder in the October death of David Medellin Jr. of Willmar. The body of Medellin, 24, was found Oct. 31 in a plowed farm field east of Willmar. He had been missing for several days. Caleb Aaron Blue, 35, of Willmar, also known as Caleb Aaron Jorgenson, was arrested a few days later.
WILLMAR — A Willmar man reportedly offered to give a couple of strangers a ride home from Super America last March and took them on a crazy ride while he gulped windshield washer fluid and tried to run them over when they escaped. Carlos Javier Miranda-Martinez, 22, received a stay of adjudication on a charge of terroristic threats in Kandiyohi County District Court. That means the charge could be dismissed if he complies with the conditions set by the court.
WILLMAR — A Willmar woman who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping and assault of a teenager last year was sentenced Monday on a reduced charge. Ashley Connie Marie Valadez, 25, was sentenced in Kandiyohi County District Court on a charge of deprivation of parental/custodial rights, a felony. Valadez was sentenced to four days in jail and given credit for four days already served. She must register as a predatory offender and is to pay a $1,000 fine and $165 in court fees. She will serve two years on supervised probation.
WILLMAR — Ridgewater College has added a fifth course of study to its Transfer Pathway program. Law enforcement students at Ridgewater will now be able to earn an associate degree and use Transfer Pathway to enter a four-year program in the Minnesota State system, according to a news release from the college. Law Enforcement is the newest Transfer Pathway program available to students at Ridgewater College. The program helps ease the way for students who plan to transfer to four-year programs.