Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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BEMIDJI—The Beltrami County Jail violated state rules regarding inmate checks in the 2017 death of a woman in custody, according to the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Stephanie Bunker, 39, of Naytahwaush, was found hanging in her cell at the jail on July 1 and later died at a hospital on July 11.
ST. PAUL—As the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission prepares to vote this June on Enbridge Energy Co.'s controversial Line 3 replacement project, Northland lawmakers are pushing for legislation that would crack down on those who train or recruit protesters who damage "critical infrastructure" such as oil pipelines. However, those against the law fear that it would intimidate would-be activists and squash peaceful protests.
BEMIDJI, Minn.—A Bemidji man convicted of aiding an offender in connection with the death of Rose Downwind is entitled to a new sentencing, according to a recently released Minnesota Court of Appeals opinion. A jury found in October 2016 that Brandon Rossbach, 33, helped Downwind's killer—her former boyfriend Marchello Cimmarusti—burn and bury her body in a shallow ditch northwest of Bemidji. Cimmarusti pleaded guilty to second-degree intentional murder in April 2016 and was later sentenced to 35 years in prison.
RED LAKE, Minn. - The bodies of two fishermen who went missing on Lower Red Lake in November have been recovered, according to authorities and family members. A news release posted to the Red Lake Police Department’s Facebook Page said that Red Lake conservation officers and a tribal council representative found one of the fishermen — a 17-year-old boy — at about 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 21. The boy, whose name has not been released by law enforcement, was found in shallow water near an area of Lower Red Lake called “second bridge.”
BEMIDJI, Minn.—Leech Lake's Emergency Medical Servics and the addiction treatment program called Face It TOGETHER continued their efforts to prevent opioid overdoses Tuesday, March 6, with two trainings aimed at Bemidji State University students. The hourlong events, held at the university, covered general information on addiction and services, as well as the overdose reversal drug nalaxone, also known as Narcan. Students were encouraged to rethink the way they saw addiction, then taught how to use Narcan to reverse an overdose.
Red Lake police are asking for help finding a woman missing since Jan. 28. Amy Dow, 27, was last seen leaving her house in Ponemah more than three weeks ago, her mother said. Dow usually talks to her mother, Chele Kalstabakken, via text message and Facebook Messenger, but has not had contact with her family since she was last seen. Dow's phone is also turned off and she has made no posts on social media, her mother said.
BEMIDJI—An emotional and largely symbolic sentencing hearing brought legal proceedings against Brandon Bjerknes to a close Thursday, Feb. 8. Even Ninth District Judge Paul Benshoof described his sentence as "moot" during the hearing, shortly before sentencing Bjerknes—the former Bemidji Middle School assistant principal who posed as a teenager online in order to have sexual conversations with children—to a total of seven years and six months in prison.
WALKER, Minn.—A Cass Lake, Minn., woman police say was present for the shooting death of Brandi Shank—also known as Brandi Strong—was charged Friday, Jan. 26, with two counts of aiding another who they say committed second-degree unintentional murder. A criminal complaint filed Friday accused Sara Renae LaRose, 41, of giving investigators "false or misleading" information about the November shooting. Brandon Joseph Roy, 24, of Cass Lake, was charged in November with second-degree unintentional murder in Shank's death.
MINNEAPOLIS—As football fans pack the Twin Cities ahead of the Super Bowl the next two weeks ahead of the Feb. 4 game, a group of Red Lake youths hopes to introduce the audience to its culture and seize the opportunity of a lifetime. The group of about 44 students is composed of members of Red Lake's Little Bear drum group and the Red Lake Elementary dance troupe. Both will perform during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.
RED LAKE, Minn.—The Red Lake Tribal Council voted Wednesday, Jan. 3, to allow fishing on both Upper and Lower Red Lake, nearly two months after two fishermen disappeared there. The vote followed an hour-and-a-half meeting, during which tribal members, law enforcement personnel, Red Lake fisheries staff and others were invited to weigh in on whether fishing at the site of the anglers' disappearance should be permitted while the pair remain missing.