In Brief

Published 12:23 pm Saturday, November 20, 2010

Minn. union warns of recount scam

ST. PAUL (AP) — The Minnesota AFL-CIO is warning of fraudulent calls in the labor federation’s name to raise money for Democrat Mark Dayton’s recount expenses.

The AFL-CIO said Friday that a caller from an unlisted California number solicited a union retiree for money to help Dayton’s recount effort in the undecided governor’s race. The caller asked for a credit card number.

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Secretary-Treasurer Steve Hunter says the Minnesota AFL-CIO isn’t soliciting contributions from union retirees, and neither is the national AFL-CIO or Dayton’s recount team.

Spokesman Chris Shields said the union has alerted the state attorney general’s office about the possible scam.

Ex-Minn. nurse pleads not guilty to suicide aid

FARIBAULT (AP) — A former Minnesota nurse pleaded not guilty Friday to encouraging an English man and a Canadian woman to kill themselves, and his attorney brought another motion to dismiss the case.

William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, of Faribault, requested a jury trial during his court appearance Friday.

Melchert-Dinkel is charged with two counts of aiding suicide. Prosecutors say he sought out depressed people in Internet chat rooms and encouraged two of them to kill themselves.

Defense attorney Terry Watkins is asking the judge to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction by Minnesota courts, since “no part of this crime occurred here.”

“Tapping on a keyboard has no instrumental or elemental value in this crime. All effects occurred in Canada and England,” Watkins said.

Passer-by led to teen’s arrest in Iowa killings

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An alert passer-by who noticed a young man in a car stopped at a light led to the arrest of Minnesota teenager charged in the killing of two convenience stores clerks in northern Iowa, a mayor in north-central Iowa said Friday.

Officers arrested Michael Richard Swanson, 17, of St. Louis Park, Minn., in the parking lot of a nearby McDonald’s after someone noticed the car, thought it seemed odd and called police, Webster City Mayor Janet Adams said.

Adams said she didn’t know if the individual who spotted Swanson gave police a license plate number or a description of the vehicle. The mayor also said she did not know the name of the person who called police about Swanson.

“I know they had enough information that it was something that needed to be investigated,” Adams said. The Messenger newspaper in Fort Dodge first reported Adams’ comments.

Swanson was arrested in Webster City shortly before midnight on Monday, just hours after Vicky Bowman-Hall, 47, of Algona, and Sheila Myers, 61, of Humboldt were shot. He remained in the Kossuth County jail on Friday on $1 million bond.

Jailer Linda McBride said he is being kept in a separate cell away from the general inmate population. McBride said he was not under a suicide watch.

“He’s quiet and is watching TV,” she said.

Swanson is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in both Kossuth and Humboldt counties. He’s accused of walking into a gas station in Algona on Monday night and shooting Bowman-Hall, who died at a local hospital. Prosecutors said he then drove to Humboldt, about 30 miles south of Algona, and shot and killed Myers at another store. The women were shot about an hour apart.

The Des Moines Register reported Friday that autopsies showed both women died from gunshot wounds to the head.

Adams said Webster City Police Chief Brian Hughes was proactive after receiving word of the killings. He and other officers went to convenience stores and late-night restaurants, giving them a description of the suspect’s Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The Webster City police department said Hughes was out of the office on Friday. A message left for him was not immediately returned.

Charles Kenville, the state public defender appointed to represent Swanson, said Friday that he waived preliminary hearings, which were set for Nov. 24 in Humboldt County and Nov. 29 in Kossuth County.

Kenville declined to comment on his reasons. He also declined to comment on the investigation and on Swanson.

MN importer/exporter moving headquarters to SD

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A Minnesota-based importer and exporter of agriculture products plans to move its worldwide headquarters to South Dakota in about three years.

Maple Grove-based Worthington Ag Products has bought six acres of land in a Sioux Falls development park for $549,000.

Construction is to start in the spring on a 20,000-square-foot building. Employees at some other sites and some company divisions will be moved there in phases, with the headquarters move planned for 2014.

The company has 13 locations in North America and six in Australia.

2 in custody for hotel homicide

ST. LOUIS PARK (AP) — Police say two men are in custody in connection with a homicide at a St. Louis Park hotel.

An employee at the Lakeland Inn found the body of a woman in her mid-30s in a room Thursday about 7 p.m. Police spokesman Jamie Zwilling says other patrons of the hotel told investigators they heard a disturbance in the room.

Rapper Eyedea’s family responds to OD death cause

ST. PAUL (AP) — The family of Minnesota rapper Eyedea, who died of an accidental drug overdose, says he was not a drug addict or habitual user.

The family of Eyedea, whose real name was Michael Larsen, issued a statement Friday, the day after media reports that Larsen had died of “opiate toxicity.”

Larsen’s mother, Kathy Averill, says many factors played a role in her son’s death, “one being a toxic level of prescription drugs.”

Larsen, who was 28, was found dead in his St. Paul apartment on Oct. 16.

St. Paul police investigate another luring report

ST. PAUL (AP) — St. Paul police are investigating another report of a man trying to lure a young girl.

In the latest case, a 17-year-old girl says a man tried to lure her into his pickup Thursday on St. Paul’s west side.

Police say the man stopped three times and spoke to the girl, at one point getting out of his truck and telling the girl to get in.

The girl refused, ran to a nearby school and called police. She was not hurt.

Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying the man. Investigators don’t believe the incident is related to previous reports of men trying to lure girls in St. Paul.