Weather Forecast


83-year-old Fargo woman attacked with dumbbell recovering

Carol Wambheim said she's recovering well, though she still has a lump on her head. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

Two months ago when Carol Wambheim was hit in the head with a dumbbell, allegedly by a tenant at the Fargo apartment building she and her husband own, the 83-year-old pretty much took it in stride.

She had the wherewithal to pry the man's hand off her mouth and scream for help, and despite sustaining what a doctor later told cops was a fractured skull, she tried to wave off assistance as blood ran down her head after the attack.

Though she's recovering well and the bump on her head is receding, the assault that occurred as she was entering a basement room to put a load of laundry in the dryer bothers Wambheim more the longer she's had to consider it.

"This was really serious. Even now, when I think about it, it kind of gives me the shivers," Wambheim said Thursday. "I look behind the door every time I go down there."

The man accused of hitting her with a 5-pound dumbbell, Joel D. Jo­han­sen, 41, is charged in Cass County District Court with aggravated assault, a Class C felony.

Johansen, who has been held on bail of $25,000 in the Cass County Jail since his Jan. 2 arrest, was scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Thursday

The hearing - the point at which felony defendants first enter a plea - was postponed until March 31. Johansen's lawyer said he needed additional time to obtain a medical report on Wambheim's injuries and to review some documents prosecutors recently disclosed to the defense.

Blood was found on the radiator outside the unit Johansen rented, though a DNA analysis of the blood hasn't been completed, a prosecutor said during Thursday's hearing.

Police claim Johansen confessed to attacking Wambheim, and she said a detective called her at 1 a.m. on the lone night she was hospitalized to tell her about the admission.

"That was such a relief he wasn't out loose someplace," she said.

Wambheim said she still has no clue why Johansen would have attacked her. She alleges Johansen owed $2,000 in back rent, but the prospect of an eviction had not yet been broached.

"We probably would have really soon, but we hadn't told him that," she said.

There was little of value in the furnace room where her laundry machines are, so she doesn't suspect she interrupted a theft.

It's not the first time Johansen's been accused of assault. He was convicted in 1990 of hitting a Moorhead High School teacher with a tire iron. He was sentenced to a little more than five years in prison.

In light of his record, Wambheim hopes Jo­han­sen will again land in prison if convicted.

"If he does this more than once, you never know what's going to happen next," she said.

A phone message left for Johansen at the jail hasn't been returned.