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Grand Forks police look into case of tampered Halloween candy

After a night of trick-or-treating with his 2-year-old daughter, Chris Gelinas did what a lot of parents do -- he perused his kid's haul of candy.

"I seen a Crunch bar, and I was like 'OK, I'm going to have a Crunch bar,'" the 22-year-old father of two said.

He saw nothing suspicious about the candy bar's wrapper. "It even held air," he said.

After unwrapping the bite-size Nestle bar, he inspected it. "I even broke like each end off, you know, hoping, you know, if there was something in there that you'd see it."

"I took a bite of the middle of it and got a needle stuck up in the roof of my mouth."

The painful discovery of a roughly 1-inch-long sewing needle in his daughter's candy led Gelinas to call police Halloween night, and an officer came to his south Grand Forks home, shot photos of his mouth and took the candy bar, the wrapper and the needle into evidence.

Lt. Rahn Farder said Monday that an investigator has been assigned to the case.

"Over the years, we've had different substances put in Halloween candy from time to time," Farder said, offering a partial razor blade as an example. "It's been a long time since we had any actual item found."

Police have not received any other reports of candy that's been tampered with and believe this was an isolated incident.

Gelinas said he and his family collected candy at 15 houses in a neighborhood he's familiar with and at gatherings at the American Legion, Grand Cities Mall and Alerus Center. Because they went to many places, Farder said, it'll be difficult to determine where they got that particular bar.

Worst luck

Gelinas received a small puncture wound to his mouth and didn't to go to the hospital that night. "I've had a lot worse pain," he said. He plans on getting tested today and seeing a dentist Thursday. "It felt like it hit my tooth or something," he said.

Gelinas' father, Kurt, said they went through the rest of the candy, even using a metal detector looking for more needles, but found nothing suspicious. To be safe, they tossed all the candy bars, he said.

Kurt Gelinas, who used to be a law enforcement officer in the Air Force, said his family has found sharp objects in Halloween candy before. He said the most recent find came about 12 years ago after trick-or-treating on the north end of town.

"We found a razor blade in an apple that night. Then another time we did find another pin in candy quite a few years ago, but since then, you know, there's been nothing until this," he said.

Explaining the relative frequency of such finds, Kurt Gelinas said that, years ago, they would go trick-or-treating with nine to 12 kids, start before dark and finish about 8:30 p.m., covering 30 blocks.

"So, we were doing a lot with a lot of kids in a lot of places, and we have some of the worst frickin' luck that you have ever seen," he said.

In those cases, Gelinas said, no one was hurt and the police were notified.

Real wound

Local critics, including some online newspaper readers, question whether Gelinas' discovery is genuine.

But he says he's not looking for attention or a lawsuit. And as Kurt Gelinas points out, he witnessed his son bite into the bar around midnight and start swearing, and so did Chris Gelinas' wife, Kayla.

"You could see the needle sitting in there, and I know darn well that he did not put that needle in there himself," Kurt Gelinas said.

Gelinas and his wife are using Facebook to warn other folks about their disturbing find.

"We just want to make sure everyone else is OK," Kayla Gelinas said.

The Gelinas said the experience hasn't soured them on trick-or-treating, but that in the future they'll limit their collecting to local parties or homes of people they know. As for the candy they lost, they said, they bought more.

Gelinas said he's just glad he found the needle before his daughter did.

"Much better me than her."