September 24 news

WORTHINGTON – Testimony proceeded slowly Monday during the Josue Fraga trial in Nobles County District Court, to the point that Judge David Christensen reminded the attorneys to keep things moving along. Fraga is facing first-degree murder in the death of his niece, 2-year-old Samantha. He was convicted of her murder in 2009, but that conviction was later vacated when new evidence was discovered.

Before the jury was brought in Monday, Christensen denied a request from the defense to keep Samantha’s father Samuel off the stand. Samuel is expected today and will likely tell the jury of his accusation of sexual abuse by his brother during their teen years, something the defense would prefer the jury not hear.

The questioning of BCA experts went on much longer than had been anticipated. Forensic scientist Alyssa Bance said she was able to extract DNA from four of the 15 hairs forwarded to her lab. BCA trace examiner Josh Jorstad had testified earlier that the 110 hairs he was able to collect from duct tape found in the bathroom garbage can was narrowed down to 15 that might contain DNA. All of them, he said, were forcibly removed from someone’s head, which he could tell because of the hairs’ growing stage.

Bance testified that she was still only able to get partial profiles on most of the hairs, from which Samantha could not be excluded. The others in the household were excluded because of the characteristics of their DNA profiles. On the duct tape itself, Samantha’s DNA was found and the others were excluded, with the exception of Marisela Fraga on one swabbing.

Testimony from Bance will continue today as the defense cross-examines. Left to take the stand in the prosecution’s case are Fraga’s brother Samuel, retired Adrian police sergeant Brian McCarthy, and BCA Special Agent Derek Woodford.

WORTHINGTON – The Worthington City Council and representatives from the Worthington Fire Department met in the middle Monday night, mutually agreeing on a two percent increase to the Firefighter Relief Association pension, effective Jan. 1. The city’s approval means an increase in the pension benefit from $2,725 to $2,780 per firefighter.

The council also approved the first reading of an ordinance regarding background checks for individuals applying for city licenses, such as liquor licenses, as well as those who apply for city employment.

SOUTH DAKOTA – There has been a major development in a 42-year-old cold case in South Dakota. Investigators say the car driven by Cheryl Miller and Pamela Jackson on the night of their 1971 disappearance has been found in Union County. The 17-year-olds from Vermillion vanished while on the way to a party at a gravel pit near Beresford.

On Monday, a fisherman spotted an overturned 1960 Studebaker lark in Brule Creek.Law enforcement plans to be on the scene today to make another attempt to remove the car. An officer on the scene said pulling it from the creek could take days, but they will stay there as long as it takes to recover the car and bring some closure to the families.

SPENCER, Iowa — A traffic stop Sunday on Highway 71 in Clay County, Iowa resulted in the arrests of two southwest Minnesota men on drug charges. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office says upon pulling over a vehicle a deputy noticed a passenger, 19-year-old Zackeri Zelinko of Lakefield, had marijuana stuck to his shirt. A subsequent investigation resulted in the deputy discovering the driver, 22-year-old Casey Rehnelt of Heron Lake, Minnesota had marijuana and drug paraphernalia in his vehicle.

Both men were placed under arrest and transported to the Clay County jail. Rehnelt was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and speeding. Zelinko was charged with possession of a controlled substance. Both were booked into jail pending an initial court appearance.

ROCK VALLEY, Iowa — A rural Rock Valley man is in a Sioux Falls hospital after a gun went off and he was shot. The Sioux County Sheriff’s Office reports that about 12:25 PM on Sunday, they received a report of a person injured by gunshot at a place on 360th Street, six miles southwest of Rock Valley.

Fifty-four-year-old David Heuer of Rock Valley reported that he was moving some guns in his home when a .22 caliber revolver fell to the ground and discharged, striking him in the arm.

Heuer was transported to Hegg Memorial Hospital in Rock Valley by private vehicle. He was later transferred to Avera Mckennan Hospital in Sioux Falls by the Rock Valley Ambulance.

The Sheriff’s Office says Heuer’s injuries did not appear to be life-threatening.

IOWA — A Sanborn man has been sentenced to an additional five-year prison term for possessing a controlled substance in the Residential Treatment Facility in Sheldon. 22-year-old Zachery Buckwald of Sanborn was sentenced Monday in Sioux County District Court for the crime of Prisoner Possessing a Controlled Substance While Confined, a Class D Felony.

Buckwald had been confined at the facility in Sheldon due to a conviction for Delivery of Methamphetamine, for which he was convicted in O’Brien County in 2010. This May, staff at the treatment facility searched Buckwald’s room and discovered a pill hidden in a ball cap under the brim of the cap. Officers determined the pill was clonazepam, a commonly abused controlled substance available only by prescription. It is often traded or sold by drug users.

Buckwald pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison. The Court ordered the prison term to be run consecutively to the 10-year prison sentence Buckwald is already serving arising because of the earlier conviction.

GRAND FORKS – Here’s a rare story about a driver who actually pulled over to send a text. For his responsible deed, the 25-year-old was hit by another driver who struck his vehicle head-on. He then rescued her from a fiery fate.

David Jensen late Sunday night had pulled his SUV over and put his flashers on to text his girlfriend on a dark stretch of Highway 11 north of Grand Forks, when a 49-year-old woman, of Fisher, Minn., veered across a lane and slammed into his vehicle.

Jensen suffered relatively minor injuries, but with bloodied face and arms hurt by his airbag, he got out and then pulled the unconscious woman from her burning vehicle. It was fully engulfed by the time emergency crews arrived.

The woman remained at a Grand Forks hospital Monday morning, according to a state patrol report, but her injuries were not considered life-threatening. She has been cited for driving under the influence.

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