December 12 newsPublished by on
WORTHINGTON – Minnesota Cornerstone Drug Court celebrated their first graduation Wednesday in Nobles County District Court, commemorating the moment with smiles, laughter and even a few tears.
Several years ago, a similar graduation in another part of the state had Judge Timothy Connell wondering why southwest Minnesota was the only area that didn’t have a drug court. He worked tirelessly to get the Cornerstone Drug Court up and running, continuing to put things together even as he edged toward retirement.
In February 2012, Cornerstone got its first participant. Facing two charges of controlled substance possession, Beatriz Espinoza was referred to the drug court by public defender John Scholl. In two years, Espinoza went from having her children taken away and spending time in jail to a person who is sober and moving forward. She has regained custody of her children, is a part-time college student and Cornerstone’s first graduate.
After Judge Connell retired, Judge Terry Vagjrt took over drug court. During each session, Vargjt asks questions, forwards messages from the drug court team and announces how long each participant has been sober. Whether it’s 40 days or 400, each number is met with applause.
During Wednesday’s meeting, each of the 20 participants showed up to congratulate a fellow drug court attendee. Espinoza’s father stood up to thank the judge and the team, stating said he was proud of his daughter, and happy to see her moving forward and getting ahead. He encouraged the other participants to do the same. Anything can happen, he said, if you want it.
WORTHINGTON — Jose Bonilla of Worthington is facing charges of criminal sexual conduct after an incident reported at 2:54 a.m. Sunday on Clary Street. According to the criminal complaint, police were escorted to a lower level of the victim’s home, where they found the victim’s boyfriend sitting on top of Bonilla. Authorities noticed Bonilla's pants were unzipped and that he smelled strongly of alcohol.
The victim said she had been sleeping downstairs in her boyfriend’s bed when she woke up to find someone touching her. At first, she thought it was her boyfriend, but realized it was not and ran upstairs. Her boyfriend then ran downstairs and allegedly found Bonilla hiding in the boiler room, where he held him down until police arrived.
Bonilla was transported to Prairie Justice Center, where he waived his rights and stated that he didn’t know what happened that night. He added that he had been at the house fixing a door and furnace when the victim’s boyfriend attacked him.
SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa - Authorities are not released any additional details regarding their investigation into the death of 36 year old Sarah Grimmius of Jackson.
The Dickinson County Sheriff’s Department was called at 10:25 Sunday night to a report of an unresponsive woman at a residence at 1, 28th Street near East Lake Okoboji. The woman, identified later as Grimmius, was dead when Sheriff’s deputies arrived. Court documents indicate the murder may have taken place several days before authorities were called to the residence.
Twenty-one year old Tailer James Handsaker of Spirit Lake was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He made his first appearance in Dickinson County Court Tuesday morning, where bond was set at a half-million dollars. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for December 20.
He has two previous convictions in Jackson County for under 21 consumption. A charge of controlled substance possession from 2010 was dismissed during a plea agreement several months later. Handsaker has been charged with underage consumption numerous times in Iowa courts, and has convictions of harassing a peace officer and carrying a weapon. He was been involved in plea agreements leading to the dismissal of charges such as disorderly conduct, assault and theft.
SIBLEY, Iowa — An open house event to welcome home Kirk Jervik will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Sibley Pizza Ranch.
Jervik sustained burns to more than 75 percent of his body as a result of a July 20 electrical explosion at the Timewell plant in Sibley. After a 129-day journey in the burn unit at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Jervik has returned home. The event is not a fundraiser, but any donations will be sent to Caring Bridge, which allowed Jervik’s friends and family to follow his progress and send him messages. For more information, contact Jason Donkersloot at 360-1550.
SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa - The Spirit Lake city council Tuesday set January 28th as the date for a public hearing on plans and specifications and to consider awarding a bid on the city hall project. A representative of the architectural firm drawing up plans for the project told the council the estimated cost remains at $1.42 million.
Plans call for bid documents to be sent out to interested contractors beginning January 3rd, with bids due back on January 23rd.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A former Sioux Falls car dealer, who now works for Billion Automotive in Iowa City, is facing sex abuse and kidnapping charges.
Ronald Jeffrey Williams, 52, also known as Jeff Williams, is accused of assaulting a coworker at an Iowa football game. He appeared in court on the charges Tuesday, where bond was set at $25,000.
Investigators say while the University of Iowa football team was playing inside Kinnick Stadium on September 7, Williams was assaulting a coworker outside the stadium in the parking lot. Court documents say Williams followed a female coworker into a porta potty near a tailgating area set up for Billion Automotive employees at the game.
Williams allegedly locked the door and tried to force the woman to perform oral sex. One of the woman's friends was in a nearby porta potty and heard the commotion and asked what was happening and that's when Williams and the woman both walked out of the porta potty.
Williams told investigators that the woman actually asked him to kiss her first, but then he refused to consent to a DNA swab of his mouth. A search warrant was obtained to collect Williams' DNA because the investigating officer believes it will match DNA found on the alleged victim.
Williams used to own Williams Automotive on Louise Avenue in Sioux Falls. That business closed in 2010 and Williams moved to Iowa City.