December 27 news

ST. PAUL -- Influenza is back in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Health says across the state, 36 people were newly hospitalized with influenza during the week ending Saturday. That brings total hospitalizations in the state to 104 so far this season. The new hospitalizations were a 50 percent increase over 24 new hospitalizations the previous week, according to numbers released Thursday.

More Minnesotans were hospitalized with flu a year ago at this time - 173 new hospitalizations were reported during the comparable week in 2012. Health department spokesman Doug Schultz says it's too early to know how the current flu season ultimately will compare with last season, which was Minnesota's worst flu season in five years.

PIPESTONE - Pipestone native and 2012 Pipestone Area Schools graduate Jesse Hinricher has been accepted to a 16-week NASA internship at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The internship includes a $10,700 stipend from the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium to pay for living expenses during his time in Florida, according to the Pipestone County Star.

Hinricher is a chemical engineering and chemistry major at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City. He applied for the internship last spring through the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium, which is based at the School of Mines, and learned shortly after Thanksgiving that he’d been accepted.

According to the School of Mines, Hinricher’s internship is the largest award among 38 students from six universities in South Dakota who have received NASA funding for internships, research or scholarships this year. Hinricher said taking a semester off to work with NASA could delay his graduation by a semester or even a year, but it was an opportunity too good to resist.

He’ll leave for Florida in mid-January and his internship is from Jan. 21 to May 9. He said the specifics of what he’ll be doing during the internship are unclear, but he knows he’ll be working with the NASA team developing the LAVA (lunar advanced volatile analysis) subsystem of the RESOLVE (Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatiles Extraction) system.

ORANGE CITY, Iowa - A woman accused of killing a three-year-old child she was providing daycare to entered a plea of not guilty Thursday in Sioux County. Rochelle Sapp faces First Degree Murder and Child Endangerment charges in connection with the death of Autumn Elgersma. Elgersma was in the care of Sapp on October 29th when she suffered a fractured skull and brain trauma. She was taken to a Sioux Falls hospital where she died from her injures on October 31st.

Court documents show that Sapp initially told Autumn's mother that the girl had fallen down the stairs and hurt her neck. Hospital staff noticed that the injuries were not consistent with Sapp's story. When authorities challenged her story, Sapp admitted that "she threw her down hard on the ground" because Autumn was having trouble getting her coat off and was not asking for help.

Sapp initially faced charges of Felony Willful Injury and Felony Child Endangerment, but those charges were dropped while authorities gathered enough evidence to charge her with murder. Sapp was released from the Sioux County Jail after posting 10 percent of her $250,000 bond. A pre-trial conference will take place in April, at which time a trial date is scheduled to be set.

ESTHERVILLE, Iowa - Estherville police say they've made an arrest in connection with an ongoing drug investigation. A search warrant Tuesday on a residence on 4th Avenue North in Estherville turned up marijuana, prescription medications and drug paraphernalia.

39-year-old John Campbell of Estherville was arrested and charged with 2nd offense possession with intent to deliver marijuana; 2nd offense unlawful possession of prescription medication and 2nd offense possession of drug paraphernalia. Campbell was transported to the Emmet county jail and was released Wednesday after posting bond.

LARCHWOOD, Iowa - The Lyon County Sheriff's Department investigated a one vehicle accident that occurred on Wednesday, December 25 at approximately 3:45 p.m. Jacob Thiner, age 27, from Sioux Falls, SD was operating a 2003 Chevrolet Tracker southbound on Highway 9 three miles northwest of Larchwood.

As Thiner began entering the curve located at 110th Street, he lost control of the vehicle, entered the northeast ditch and rolled the vehicle, which came to a rest on its wheels facing north.

Thiner was transported to Sanford of Rock Rapids by the Lyon County Ambulance for treatment of his injuries. The Tracker, owned by Brenda Thiner of George, was totaled with an estimated cost of $8,000.

MINNESOTA - Just in time for the New Year's holiday - and the partying that comes with it - the Minnesota Department of Public Safety is sending a viral message about drunk driving.

With cooperation from three Minnesota citizens who have been arrested for drinking and driving, the DPS is putting out a series of online videos that share stories about the effects of driving drunk.

The first of three videos features the confession of a young man as he talks about the hours and days following his arrest, which included jail time, extensive fees and loss of driving privileges. The video can be viewed at http://youtu.be/z8Agn9r4t1o

The videos are being released at a time when law enforcement agencies from around the state are adding extra DWI patrols in an effort to prevent drunk driving tragedies during the holiday season. Extra DWI enforcement will continue through the end of the year. Since the enforcement campaign began Nov. 27, at least 2,150 people have been arrested for DWI in Minnesota, the DPS said.

According to the DPS, 104 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2012, and more than 2,600 people suffered injuries in alcohol-related crashes that year. More than 28,000 people were arrested for DWI in 2012, and they had an average alcohol concentration of 0.154, well above the state's legal limit of .08.

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