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Woman accused of paying babysitter with meth, selling drug near school

Lena Lorraine Sawyer, 30, of Crookston, told Larson she got the meth from Buschette-Gunderson, but said she only paid for it maybe twice. The rest of the meth was given to her in payment for babysitting Buschette-Gunderson’s children.
By Charly HaleyForum News Service

CROOKSTON - A Nielsville woman who allegedly paid a babysitter with methamphetamine faces charges of possessing and distributing the drug near a Crookston school.

A criminal complaint was filed April 5 in district court in Crookston against Tonya Ruth Buschette-Gunderson, 39, outlining charges including five felony charges involving drug crimes and assault and five counts of gross misdemeanor endangerment of a child, stemming from December.

According to the complaint, on Dec. 17, officers went to Buschette-Gunderson’s home at the time in Crookston with a search warrant, based on information that Buschette-Gunderson and Lena Lorraine Sawyer, 30, of Crookston, had been selling methamphetamine.

Officers found Kimberly Jean Sutton there with Buschette-Gunderson’s four children and Sawyer’s child, of whom Buschette-Gunderson was legal guardian.

Polk County Social Services was contacted for the children, as living conditions in the house were poor.

Sutton, who had been living with Buschette-Gunderson for more than a month, told an officer that there had been a lot of people coming and going from the residence and that Buschette-Gunderson and Sawyer rarely did anything to care for the children.

Upstairs, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Nathan Rasch found Buschette-Gunderson and Sawyer in a bedroom, according to court documents.

He told the women to place their hands on their heads, and Buschette-Gunderson initially complied but then grabbed a pair of scissors and pointed it toward Rasch.

Rasch told Buschette-Gunderson to drop the scissors or else he would shoot her. She complied and both she and Sawyer were arrested.

Drug use

Sawyer’s face had scabs and her teeth were decayed, indicating longtime meth use, according to court documents.

In an interview with Rasch, Sawyer said she had syringes in her purse and said there was meth in Buschette-Gunderson’s home, but she didn’t know where. She also would not say if Buschette-Gunderson sold meth.

In continuing to search the home, officers found meth and several drug items, including a digital weight scale and scale cover with white residue on it, glass pipes, and papers that appeared to document numerous drug sales and purchases.

Rasch determined the residence was within 300 feet of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and elementary school.

In a police interview, Sutton told officers she did not use meth but said the other two women “always” had meth with them.

On March 28, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Brandon Larson interviewed Sawyer, who admitted to smoking about 1 gram of meth per day in the month before her arrest, according to court documents.

Sawyer pleaded guilty April 3 to charges of possessing meth near a school and child endangerment and confirmed under oath information she previously gave investigators on Buschette-Gunderson.

She told Larson she got the meth from Buschette-Gunderson, but said she only paid for it maybe twice. The rest of the meth was given to her in payment for babysitting Buschette-Gunderson’s children.

Buschette-Gunderson traveled to Bemidji, Grand Forks, N.D., and Fargo to get the meth, Sawyer told Larson.

Buschette-Gunderson was released from jail Wednesday on a $2,000 bond. A jury trial is set for her June 17.

This case is among several recent methamphetamine-related arrests in the area, including three people arrested in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks on Feb. 19 and an unrelated couple arrested March 19 in Grand Forks.

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