Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.
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Two families filled a Hubbard County courtroom with tears late Monday as the son of one was sentenced to a year in jail for killing the daughter of the other in an ATV crash. "I apologize for the wrong decisions I made May 1," a tearful Chad Tabaka told the family of Jessica Christopherson. "I can't take it back.
The former treasurer of the Hubbard First Responders took the witness stand Monday and admitted embezzling more than $37,000 from the squad over a two-year period. Valerie Ione Kimball, 45, of Park Rapids, testified matter-of-factly that it was relatively easy to do and that she used the funds for personal gain. "There were checks pre-signed that I wrote to myself," she admitted. In all, 18 checks were found during an audit begun last winter.
Jesse Dahl's last stop before he was involved in a fatal crash in July was at a bar and grill in Becida. He said he was not driving the car from the bar that eventually veered off the road, hit an approach, rolled and killed a passenger. Dahl, formerly of Brainerd and Bemidji, said he drank about four ounces of Captain Morgan spiced rum. Leaving the bar, Dahl said 28-year-old Brooke Rosemore of Floodwood took the wheel of the 1998 Volkswagon Passat. Dahl said they stopped at a house in the county and he resumed driving.
Hubbard County government will have another meager year in 2011. "Why are we growing government when we're all going broke?" asked board chair Lyle Robinson. Department heads will be given last year's figures to work with. But several factors complicate their budgeting tasks. Under a union contract employees will get 3 percent raises.
A brief but frantic search for victims in a lake accident last May resulted in a DWI conviction and a suspended sentence for a Park Rapids woman this week. Julia Christen Kujawa's car was spotted May 18 in East Crooked Lake partially submerged. Nevis firefighters, on their way to an inferno, could not stop but radioed for help.
A father of two young children was summarily fired last week during a liquor store compliance check that has left a bad taste with some Park Rapids businesses. He wasn't the only one who lost his job. Thirteen vendors were targeted in the sting operation Aug. 26 that sent a minor into each establishment to buy 3.2 beer. "Seven of 13 failed," said Hubbard County Sheriff Frank Homer, whose department conducted the checks.
A 32-year-old Park Rapids man died in a single-vehicle accident in downtown Park Rapids Wednesday night. Ryan E. Allmon's vehicle collided with two poles guarding a utility box in the alley between Snyder Drug and Coborn's grocery store. The body was taken to Ramsey County Medical Center early Thursday to determine whether a medical reason was responsible for the crash. Allmon was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph's Area Health Services, where he was pronounced dead. The accident occurred around 9 p.m. Funeral services are pending with Jones-Pearson Funeral Home.
When North Country Trail hikers discovered ATV and horse damage to a section of trails northwest of Emmaville in mid-August, they had some powerful evidence to turn over to authorities. Parts of one of the ATVs that caused the damage, carving new trails, knocking over trees and mowing down underbrush, were left behind on the national scenic trail. Those parts are in the possession of the Hubbard County Sheriff's Department.
A Detroit Lakes man was sentenced to 91 months in prison for the repeated sexual contact with a teenage girl over several years. "The offense you pleaded guilty to is one of the most piercing and crushing offenses that can be committed," Judge Robert Tiffany told Brian Warren Bebensee, 31. "What you have done to this family has rendered them asunder." Bebensee entered into a plea deal that resulted in several felonies being dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea to Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. Tiffany sentenced Bebensee to the upper range of the sentencing guidelines.