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Winona recalls discovery of ‘Angel’ baby 5 years ago; her death remains unsolved

ALSO: Doctors are getting organized about opioid abuse; new gates to be installed in Mississippi River at St. Cloud; and more.

About 2 p.m. on Sept. 5, 2011, a family boating about six miles south of Winona near the Pla-Mor Campground called the Winona County Law Enforcement Center to report finding a canvas bag floating in the water in which they found the body of a 7-pound newborn baby girl. Jerome Christenson of the Winona Daily News reports that no cause of death was recorded for the 2- or 3-day-old girl. She was wrapped in green T-shirt and was inside two plastic garbage bags inside a cream-colored canvas bag. Also inside the canvas bag were two angel figurines and two porcelain bells decorated with angels, inspiring investigators to refer to the girl as “Angel.” Five years later, Angel’s death is still an open case, Sheriff Ron Ganrude said. Although tips or leads sometimes come in on the case, it remains unsolved. In 2012, then-Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand arranged for Angel to be buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. “Somebody out there knows,” Brand said. “We want them to tell us.”

The Minnesota Medical Association — the organization that speaks for Minnesota’s doctors – says abuse of opioids and prescription pain pills has reached epidemic proportions and is reconvening a task force on the subject. John Lundy of the Duluth News Tribune reports that the 14-doctor MMA panel will be chaired by Dr. Beth Baker of Minneapolis. The state Department of Health said 572 Minnesotans died of overdoses in 2015. Lundy reports that in St. Louis County, where there were no overdose deaths from 2002-10, 31 people died from overdose in 2015. The panel will look aggressively at how doctors prescribe opioids to manage pain, and how prescription drugs lead to addiction and use of black-market goods that can lead to overdose.

A high-speed elevated rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities could be the showcase for Chinese high-speed rail in the U.S. Heather J. Carlson of the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports that reps from China Railway Corp. will visit Minnesota next week. North American High Speed Rail Group may partner with China Railway Corp. on the proposed $4.2 billion rail line. Along with representatives of the government-owned rail corporation, the junket will include technical experts and financiers. They will spend a week meeting privately with business leaders, civic leaders and investors in the Twin Cities, Rochester and points between. North American High Speed Rail Group wants to privately fund the line along U.S. 52. Ultimately, the group would like to extend the line to Chicago. Why showcase a line in southern Minnesota? Officials say the route doesn’t require tunnels or high bridges, is about the right length at 80 miles, and links a major metro area to the $6 billion Destination Medical Center initiative in Rochester, which is projected to create 40,000 jobs over the next two decades.

A drawdown of the Mississippi River in St. Cloud will begin today, reports Jenny Berg with the St. Cloud Daily Times. The 3-foot drawdown will allow crews to install new gates on the city’s hydro dam. The dam’s current gate has been in operation for almost 30 years. The new gates will inflate bags to push the gates up and deflate bags to lower the gates. A bubbler system will also be installed to prevent ice from forming. “It’s a good, simple system,” said Daryl Stang, who runs the St. Cloud Hydroelectric Generation Facility.

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Gov. Mark Dayton took some criticism from farmers who say he isn’t listening to them. Don Davis of the Forum News Service went to the State Fair last week and wrote about how some farmers say the governor’s decisions on plant buffers and pesticide restriction didn’t take into account their wants or needs. When asked about the issue at the fair, Dayton replied: “I thought we did involve the farmer.” Ag Commissioner Dave Frederickson said a 15-member board will advise the administration on how to reduce pesticides that hurt bees and other pollinators. Davis notes that the harshest critics are House Republicans, but that even the Minnesota Farmers’ Union said they’d like more say before farm-related decisions are made.

A Brainerd man is in jail after allegedly yelling racial slurs, threatening to blow up a bar and threatening to kill and eat the families of police officers. Chelsey Perkins of the Brainerd Dispatch reports that John Christian Neville, 34, faces four felonies and a misdemeanor after officers were called to a fight outside the Iron Rail, 707 Laurel St. According to the criminal complaint cited by Perkins, officers said one woman punched another woman who, along with a man later identified as Neville, was outside the bar shouting racial slurs. Neville also allegedly shouted that he had access to guns and was going to blow up the bar. Iron Rail employees corroborated the description of the racial slurs and one employee said he believed Neville was capable of carrying out the threat of violence. When officers talked to Neville, he admitted to using the slur but said he was referencing himself because he is Portuguese. He has been charged with two felony charges of terroristic threats, felony aggravated stalking because of bias, felony aggravated stalking-second or subsequent violation in 10 years and a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.  

A 73-year-old man went from a horse and buggy ride to a helicopter trip to the hospital after an accident last weekend in northern Kandiyohi County. Carolyn Lange of the West Central Tribune reports that the man, who was not identified, was in a covered wagon pulled by several horses when, at about 2:30 p.m., the horses spooked and ran into a ditch. The driver was thrown from the wagon and was injured. He was airlifted from the scene about seven miles east of Sunburg to St. Cloud Hospital. The extent of his injuries are unknown.

Starting in 1966 with $13,000 and a garage workspace, Bedford Industries in Worthington is now the largest twist-tie manufacturer in the world. Gretchen O’Donnell of the Worthington Daily Globe reports that the company celebrated its 50th anniversary recently with 500 current and former employees. She writes that Bob and Patricia Ludlow saw their first twist tie while ice fishing on Lake Okabena. Bob looked at that twist tie and knew he could do it better. With about current 300 employees, Bedford Industries is one of the largest employers in Worthington. “People drive by and have no idea what we do here,” said Creative/Marketing Manager Deb Houseman. “A lot of things we make are everyday things, but they’re not easy things to make.”