Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin.
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RIVER FALLS — Dan Brandenstein had only one class with Dr. Richard Swensen, but it was a life changer. A physics major, Brandenstein needed to take a chemistry class toward his degree at UW-River Falls. Swensen taught the chemistry class, where he would chat up the young Brandenstein during laboratory sessions in the early 1960s.
TOWN OF HUDSON — Anyone who's explored the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness knows the value of a good map. Maps depicting waterways, portage routes and campsites help visitors navigate the massive northern Minnesota wilderness, where charging stations are nonexistent and manmade landmarks are intentionally sparse. "This," Hudson resident Joe Spadino, clutching a map, said, "is the lifeline up there." But the map he held in his hand last week is unlike any other depicting the Boundary Waters.
A Republican proposal would fund Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' campaign pledge for tax relief, but would tap different funds to pay for it. Rather than pay for the cuts through Evers' preferred option — a reduction of the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit — the GOP proposal would fund it through state budget surplus funds.
STILLWATER — Though the three-year anniversary of Megan Goeltz's death is nearing, the event remains a raw nerve for her survivors, who described her loss during an emotional hearing Monday in Washington County District Court. "Our hearts are forever broken," her sister, Melissa Goeltz Lewis, said at the Jan. 7 hearing. The hearing brought to an end the criminal case against the driver in the crash that killed Goeltz, North Hudson resident Drew Fleming. He pleaded guilty to one count of reckless driving, a gross misdemeanor.
A Hastings man was prepared to plead guilty for his role in a fatal motorcycle crash that killed his girlfriend, but a judge said he needed more convincing before accepting the man's plea to a reduced charge. Joshua D. Sykora began proceedings to plead guilty Friday, Jan. 4, to one count of homicide by negligent use of a vehicle in the June 25, 2016, crash that left 38-year-old Brooke A. Ptacek-Baker dead. The joint plea agreement called for Sykora to serve one year in jail and five years on probation; a four-year prison term would be stayed.
A felony theft charge was filed against a Minnesota teenager suspected in other retail crimes after he allegedly took GoPro cameras from a Hudson store. St. Croix County prosecutors charged 19-year-old Tristin A. Tresise with one count of felony retail theft after a Dec. 16 incident at Fleet Farm. The Bloomington man was ordered to post $250 cash bond at a Dec. 17 hearing in St. Croix County Circuit Court. According to a criminal complaint:
Somerset resident Scott Nordstrand was appointed to be St. Croix County's next circuit court judge. Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday named Nordstrand, a St. Croix County Board member who once served as Alaska's top law enforcement official, to succeed Eric Lundell on the bench after the longtime judge abruptly announced his resignation in November.
An off-duty St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office K-9 officer was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving over the holiday weekend. Sheriff Scott Knudson said in a news release issued Wednesday, Jan. 2, that deputy John Shilts Jr., a seven-year veteran of the department, was arrested by Wisconsin State Patrol troopers after the Dec. 30 traffic stop outside New Richmond.
TOWN OF PLEASANT VALLEY — Tire screeches aren't an unusual occurrence outside Troy and Jessica Reis' home. "No one slows down," Jessica said. The aging farmhouse is situated at an awkward rural intersection where drivers often make last-second adjustments to make their turns. There was no tire screech, however, leading up to the Dec. 16 crash that shook the house they rent. "It literally sounded like a bomb went off," Jessica said last week, recalling the incident, which happened at about 2:30 a.m.
Two southeastern Minnesota men suspected in a St. Croix County home invasion were indicted in Minnesota on federal robbery charges after a multi-jurisdictional investigation. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota announced Dec. 21 that brothers Lennie D. Brooks, 33, Zumbro Falls, and Randy L. Brooks, 23, Wabasha, were indicted on one count each of interference with commerce by robbery. A third person, 20-year-old St. Paul resident Autumn M. Nichols, is charged with the same count.