The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday they have concluded the active portion of their investigation into the Nov. 29 shooting death of Cold Spring Police Officer Tom Decker, a decorated officer and 31-year-old father of four. They also said they would have arrested Eric Thomes of Cold Spring for Decker’s murder had Thomes not killed himself, St. Cloud Daily Times reporter Mark Sommerhauser reports. The case will become active again if new information emerges. They also stressed that their investigation has provided no information that Ryan Larson, who was briefly arrested in the case, participated in Decker’s killing. Thomes, 31, had been considered a person of interest in the Decker murder. When investigators went to Thomes’ Cold Spring residence Jan. 2, he reportedly ran to an outbuilding and hanged himself. Decker was shot twice Nov. 29 behind Winner’s Sports Bar & Grill in Cold Spring after going there to check on a man who lived above the bar and was reported to be suicidal.
Charles Grell’s idea – to put small rural wind turbines on homes, businesses and farms to produce renewable energy – got a big boost last week when Xcel Energy recommended it receive a grant from its Renewable Development Fund, reports Kirsti Marohn of the St. Cloud Daily Times. The project would install 50 10-kilowatt Bergey turbines for landowners with 5 acres or more in Stearns, Benton and Meeker counties. Landowners would still have to pay a share of the cost, but the grant would reduce the amount and shorten the payback period. Grell, president of Gone 2 Green, a Cold Spring wind turbine supplier, installs 120-foot-high turbines manufactured by Oklahoma-based Bergey Windpower. These are a far cry from the massive wind farms in southern Minnesota and Iowa, with dozens of turbines reaching as high as 400 feet into the sky. Instead, it’s going “back to the 1920s style of producing power where you use it,” Grell said. The $1.1 million for the turbines is among $30.1 million in projects Xcel is recommending. Most are solar.
The number of drunken driving arrests at last weekend’s WE Fest was on par with previous years, reports Wendy Reuer of the Fargo Forum. Becker County Sheriff Kelly Shannon said deputies responded to 329 calls for service from Wednesday to Sunday morning, a weekend when more than 50,000 concertgoers flocked to Soo Pass Ranch for the 31st annual weekend of outdoor concerts and camping. Sixty three people were arrested on various charges, and of those arrested, 18 landed in jail for driving while intoxicated, Shannon said. Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow said the numbers are consistent with the past 10 years. Prior to that, it was not uncommon for his office to report upwards of 30 drunken driving arrests over the weekend.
The pool for college-eligible, first-year students in southeastern Minnesota is shrinking, reports Matthew Stolle of the Rochester Post Bulletin. The decline has resulted in advertising blitzes from colleges such as Rochester Community and Technical College and Riverland Community College touting the cost-savings of a two-year education, while Winona State University seeks a competitive edge by becoming the first U.S. college to require students to have a laptop and an iPad. According to the Minnesota Private College Council, the number of state high-school graduates dropped 9 percent in 2013 from its peak in 2007 and will stay relatively flat through 2016. Then it will climb upward again, with most of the growth fueled by students of color. From 2000 to 2013, RCTC’s enrollment grew by 42 percent. Now RCTC is trending toward a 7 percent drop in enrollment this fall. Riverland, in Austin, is on pace to drop by 2 percent. WSU expects to be down in first-year students but is looking to offset that loss with a hike in transfer students.
Devin Johnson found a beat-up tuba in a Twin Cities scrap yard a year and a half ago. The Northfield metal artist thought he would display it in his shop, MakeShift Accessories, for a while, then cut it up to make other items, writes Cristeta Boarini of the Northfield News. When the Vintage Brass Festival came to Northfield this year, two players, Doug Condon and Elsa Arnold, recognized the horn as a rare over-the-shoulder marching tuba, also known as a form of saxhorn. When Dan Woolpert, a musician and instrument curator with the Civil War era 1st Brigade Band, heard the tuba was destined to be cut up into rings and bracelets, he and his fellow band members tried to save it. “Dan basically told me I had three options: I could sell it to them, I could donate it to them, or I could loan it to them. Either way I wasn’t cutting it up,” Johnson said. After hearing the 1st Brigade Band play, Johnson decided to lend the band the tuba. “I’ve entrusted it to them for 10 years, at the end of that time I can decide if I want to take it back, but I will probably let them have it,” Johnson said. Woolpert said the band has 29 instruments on loan with them at the moment, with an additional 96 instruments donated. The 1st Brigade Band is the oldest Civil War brass bands in the country and will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.
Since June 22, authorities have been searching for 50-year-old Stephen Fritze of Watertown, S.D. He was kayaking with two friends on the Minnesota River when they capsized at a sharp bend in the river. On Monday, Nicollet County Sheriff David Lange said Monday daily river checks for a missing kayaker will end, reports Dan Nienaber of the Mankato Free Press. The other kayakers told deputies that Fritze went under the water and never came back up again after floating through tree limbs collecting in the river.