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Entries in Minnesota (27)

Wednesday
May082013

Missing Minn. Woman's Blood Found on Jacket in Boyfriend's Car

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.) -- The investigation into the disappearance of 24-year-old Mandy Matula of Eden Prairie, Minn., has yielded new evidence, further tying her ex-boyfriend, who has since died, to the case.

Police said DNA testing confirmed Matula's blood was on a jacket found in the car of her ex-boyfriend, David Roe. Authorities said they believe Roe, 24, of Victoria, Minn., was with Matula before she was reported missing.

In addition, ballistics testing on an unfired bullet found near an Eden Prairie church Saturday came from the same gun Roe used to shoot himself in the head, according to a news release. The ammunition was found near the Victory Lutheran Church May 4 by community volunteers helping with the investigation.

Matula's family members last saw her at 11 p.m. on May 1. They reported the 24-year-old missing around 8:30 a.m. the next day after she did not show up for work at the city's park maintenance division, ABC Minneapolis affiliate KSTP-TV reported.

Roe was identified by police as a person of interest in Matula's disappearance and had agreed to speak with investigators. But before he could be questioned, he shot himself in the head in the parking lot of the Eden Prairie City Center at approximately 1:30 p.m. May 2. He was then transported to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Roe died Saturday, two days after the self-inflicted gunshot wound, the county medical examiner said, but further details about Roe's death could not be confirmed.

Matula's father, Wayne Matula, told ABC News he saw his daughter get into Roe's car the night before she disappeared. The two often sat in his car in the family's driveway to talk, he said.

"I just periodically checked through the curtains," he said. "The car sat there for about 20, 25 minutes, and then I went to bed."

But he said that when he looked out his window at 2 a.m., Roe's car was not in the driveway. He checked his daughter's room, but she wasn't there. He noticed Matula had left her cell phone and purse on her bed.

"At 5:30 a.m., which is when I usually get up, I walked into her room, and there was still no sign of her having been there," he said. "I asked my wife, 'Did you talk to Mandy? She didn't come home last night.' She left everything here, this doesn't smell right."

He then called his daughter's office to see if she had gone to work. But when he was told she hadn't shown up that day, his wife, Lisa, called Roe on his cell phone to see if he knew where Matula was.

Roe said that he and Matula drove to a nearby park the night of May 1, and that the two had argued.

"[Roe] told my wife [Mandy] jumped out of his car, and said she was going to walk home," Wayne Matula said. "That didn't make any sense. It was a very cold night. For her not to come home didn't make any sense."

He said after his wife spoke to Roe, he went to the police to report his daughter was missing.

"He seemed like a good man," he said of Roe. "He was cordial to us as a family. But he was very possessive of her. He didn't want her talking with any other guys."

While the couple dated for about eight months, Wayne Matula said the two broke up around Labor Day 2012.

"He did love her, and he did everything he could to try and win her love back," he said. "My daughter was a very courteous person. She knew he was hurting, so she spent time with him. But he couldn't go along with that. He tried to win her back. He wanted her."

Although he said the community response had been "tremendous," but the pain was still strong.

"It's like she's vanished," he said. "We're lost right now. We're numb, because we have nothing to listen to and nothing to follow."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan042013

Couple Says Icy ‘I Do’s’ Outside in Freezing Minnesota Weather

Dean Madson Photography(DAYTON, Minn.) -- One couple from Dayton, Minn., shivered their way through their “I Do’s” on New Year's Day.

Nikki Hering, 28, and Ryan Hoffman, 26, tied the knot at the Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club on Jan. 1, but do not be mistaken. They did not take their vows inside the lovely, warm lodge, but rather, outside.  Hering chose to walk down the aisle in 10-degree weather.

“We both really love winter and we wanted to stick to the first of the year, since we started dating on the first and he proposed on the first,” Hering told ABC News. “We wanted to be a little different.”

And different they were, as they added special touches to embrace the freezing Minnesota temperature on the big day.

“The outdoor area just really has a neat backdrop and overlook and it was the perfect setting for it,” said Hering. “We gave them [guests] blankets to wrap up, and provided hot coffee and cider for them to hopefully warm up. It was short and sweet so they weren’t miserable for too long.”

Hering herself wore special winter duds to deal with the frigid weather.

“I had the fur stole wrapped around the top half of my dress, and had some fingerless gloves. Otherwise, I got boots to wear under my dress that you couldn’t see, and wore them with my lucky hunting socks,” she said.

When the couple began telling their guests of their plans to wed outside in January, they ran into a fair share of skepticism.

“They didn’t quite believe us,” Hering said. “Everybody asked, ‘Really, are you sure?’ We told them it’d be short so they wouldn’t have to wait too long. The grandmas and the young kids in the family watched from a window inside.”

The morning of the wedding, the newlyweds estimate it was about 10 degrees below, but by the time the actual ceremony began at 3 p.m., they say it had warmed up to a comfortable 10 or 11 degrees.

“It was somehow magically snowing right when the ceremony started. It was a super-light, perfect snow,” said Hering.

The guests were greeted by two, large fireplaces inside the reception area as soon as they came inside from the snowy ceremony.

And as for the hardy couple — they’re now on a mini-honeymoon, ice fishing up north in Aitkin, Minn.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec022012

Minnesota Teens Killed While Burglarizing Home Laid to Rest

Comstock/Thinkstock(LITTLE FALLS, Minn.) -- More than 400 people gathered at a Little Falls, Minn. church Saturday for the joint funeral of two cousins who were shot to death on Thanksgiving while burglarizing a home.

The deaths of Haile Kifer, 18, and Nicholas Brady, 17, have stunned residents of the community, who have a lot of unanswered questions about the holiday tragedy.

Rodney Bartkowicz, who said he was a relative of the victims, told Minnesota Public Radio that he remembers Kifer and Brady as "generally really good kids."

"I know there's a lot of anger right now because of everything that's happening," Bartkowicz said. "I know there's a lot of ... questions why it had to end up like it did. And I don't believe they'll ever really get a true answer, even in the courts."

Byron Smith, 64, is charged with two counts of second degree murder in the shooting deaths of the teens.

Smith, who told police he had been burglarized in the past, admitted he fired "more shots than I needed," according to a criminal complaint.

He told police he was sitting in his basement Nov. 22 -- Thanksgiving Day -- when he heard a window break upstairs and then footsteps, according to the complaint.

He said he first saw the feet, then the legs, then the hips of the intruder coming down the basement stairs. Smith said he believed he fired twice at Brady with a Ruger Mini-14 rifle, according to the complaint. Smith told police he then dragged the body on a tarp to his basement workshop.

Several minutes later, he told police, he heard more footsteps and waited until he saw Kifer's hips as she descended the staircase.

"After shooting the person, she tumbled down the steps," the complaint said. "Smith stated that he tried to shoot her again with the Mini-14 but the gun jammed."

Smith told police Kifer laughed at him, describing it as a short laugh because she was in pain. But he said it "made him upset," the complaint said.

"If you're trying to shoot somebody and they laugh at you, you go again," he told police, according to the complaint.

As Kifer gasped for air, Smith dragged her body next to Brady's, according to the complaint, and placed a handgun under her chin and fired what he allegedly told police was a "good clean finishing shot" that went "under her chin up into the cranium."

Smith kept the bodies in his home overnight, police said, and called neighbors Friday, asking if they knew any lawyers. When the neighbors said they did not, Smith asked them to call authorities, according to the complaint.

Police responded to the call Friday and Smith led them to the teens' bodies.

On Monday, the Morrison County Sheriff's Office announced six bottles of pills that had been reported stolen from another home were found in a Mitsubishi Eclipse that had been driven by the teens.

The Little Falls Community Schools and Morrison County issued a joint statement on Friday expressing their commitment to help prevent substance abuse among Little Falls youth.

"Like other communities throughout Minnesota and our nation, substance use among youth and the harm associated with use are a concern to many community members. We worry about the negative and the far too often devastating outcomes that can result from these high-risk behaviors," the statement said. "Addressing substance use issues in any community is a challenge, and we are united in our commitment to the health and safety of youth in our community."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov292012

Minnesota Teens, Shot During Break-In, Tied to Earlier Burglary

Hemera/Thinkstock(LITTLE FALLS, Minn.) -- The Minnesota teens killed on Thanksgiving Day while breaking into a home have been linked to an earlier robbery, authorities said on Wednesday.

Six bottles of prescription drugs and other items reported stolen on Sunday from a home in Little Falls, Minn., were found in a red Mitsubishi Eclipse that was being driven by Haile Kifer, 18, and Nicholas Brady, 17, according to the Morrison County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Michel Wetzel said the night before the teens were shot to death, authorities responded to a report of a red car parked suspiciously at the end of a driveway in Little Falls Township.

Officers encountered Brady, who told them Kifer had gone to get gas after the teens ran out while driving around town.  The car was left at the location and deputies gave Brady a ride to Little Falls, Wetzel said.

The next day, the teens allegedly broke into the home of Byron Smith, 64, and were shot to death.

Smith, who told police he had been burglarized in the past, admitted he fired "more shots than I needed," according to a criminal complaint.  He was charged with two counts of second degree murder on Monday and has not yet entered a plea.

Wetzel said, "A person has every right to defend themselves and their homes, even employing deadly force if necessary."

In this case, however, authorities said they believe Smith crossed the line.

Smith told police he was sitting in his basement on Nov. 22 -- Thanksgiving Day -- when he heard a window break upstairs and then footsteps, according to the complaint.

He first saw the feet, then the legs, then the hips of the intruder coming down the basement stairs.  Smith said he believed he fired twice at Brady with a Ruger Mini-14 rifle, according to the complaint.  Smith told police he then dragged the body on a tarp to his basement workshop.

Several minutes later, he told police, he heard more footsteps and waited until he saw Kifer's hips as she descended the staircase.

"After shooting the person, she tumbled down the steps," according to the complaint.  "Smith stated that he tried to shoot her again with the Mini-14 but the gun jammed."

Smith told police Kifer laughed at him, describing it as a short laugh because she was in pain.  But he said it "made him upset," the complaint said.

"If you're trying to shoot somebody and they laugh at you, you go again," he told police, according to the complaint.

As Kifer gasped for air, Smith dragged her body next to Brady's, according to the complaint, and placed a handgun under her chin and fired what he told police was a "good clean finishing shot" that went "under her chin up into the cranium."

Smith kept the bodies in his home overnight, police said, and called neighbors on Friday, asking if they knew any lawyers.  When the neighbors said they did not, Smith asked them to call authorities, according to the complaint.

Police responded to the call on Friday and Smith led them to the teens' bodies.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov262012

Minnesota Man Who Shot Burglars Fired 'More Shots Than I Needed'

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LITTLE FALLS, Minn.) -- A Minnesota man who allegedly killed two suspected burglars Thanksgiving Day and kept their bodies in his home overnight before reporting the deaths to police said he fired "more shots than I needed," according to a criminal complaint.

Byron David Smith, 64, was charged with two counts of second-degree murder Monday for the shooting deaths of Haile Kifer, 18, and Nicholas Brady, 17. Smith appeared at a preliminary hearing in court Monday but did not enter a plea.

The Little Falls man is being held on $2 million bail and his attorney, Gregory Larson, did not respond to a request for comment.

Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel said "a person has every right to defend themselves and their homes, even employing deadly force if necessary."

In this case, however, authorities said they believe Smith crossed the line.

Smith told police he was sitting in his basement Nov. 22 -- Thanksgiving Day -- when he heard a window break upstairs and then footsteps, according to the complaint.

He first saw the feet, then the legs, then the hips of the intruder. Smith said he believed he fired twice at Brady with a Ruger Mini-14 rifle, causing the teen to tumble down the stairs, according to the complaint.

Smith then dragged the body on a tarp to his basement workshop.

Several minutes later, he told police, he heard more footsteps and waited until he saw Kifer's hips as she descended the staircase.

"After shooting the person, she tumbled down the steps," according to the complaint. "Smith stated that he tried to shoot her again with the Mini-14 but the gun jammed."

At this point, he told police, Kifer laughed at him, describing it as a short laugh because she was in pain. But he said it "made him upset," the complaint said.

"If you're trying to shoot somebody and they laugh at you, you go again," he told police, according to the complaint.

As Kifer gasped for air, Smith dragged her body next to Brady's, according to the complaint, and placed a handgun under her chin and fired what he told police was a "good clean finishing shot" that went "under her chin up into the cranium."

Neither of the teens had a weapon, but Smith told police he was afraid and had been burglarized in the past, according to the complaint.

Police said Smith called neighbors Friday, asking if they knew any lawyers. When the neighbors said they did not, Smith asked them to call authorities, according to the complaint.

Police responded to the call Friday and Smith led them to the teens' bodies.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug212012

Kill Bin Laden? Game Lets People Re-Live the Experience

AFP/Getty Images(NEW HOPE, Minn.) -- Osama bin Laden has been dead for more than a year, but dozens of people are shelling out big bucks to kill him again in a real-life, role-play game in Minnesota.

Sealed Mindset Firearms Studio, which teaches firearms and personal safety in New Hope, Minn., is offering a special, limited-time exercise in which people can enact a SEAL-type mission and kill a fake bin Laden.

Billed as a “Navy SEAL Adventure,” the session simulates an actual SEAL operation.  A description on the company’s website says the two-hour operation begins with a briefing in which participants will learn their target is named “Geronimo.”

Geronimo was the code name for the operation that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011.

Participants in Sealed Mindset’s exercise are told they will plan with their platoon of eight people, learn to safely shoot the Navy SEAL’s “go-to weapon, a custom AR-15,” conduct a pre-mission live test fire at a shooting range and execute the mission, according to the website.

Each Geronimo SEAL adventure session costs $325 per person.  They started on July 12 and will run two or three times per week through Sept. 30.

Sealed Mindset is run by Larry Yatch, a former Navy SEAL, and his wife, Anne.  Anne Yatch on Monday said her husband was unavailable to comment.

More than 137 people had signed up for the exercise, according to a Minnesota Public Radio story four days ago.  The man who plays bin Laden told MPR that he wears rubber padding under his robe to protect him from paintball rounds.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug022012

Minnesota Bridge Collapse Anniversary: How Safe Are Drivers Now?

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It's been five years since more than 100 cars were traveling over a bridge on I-35W during a Minneapolis rush hour when it suddenly collapsed, dropping cars from the interstate into the 15-foot-deep Mississippi River below and trapping many passengers inside.  Before they could escape, 13 people died and another 145 were injured on one of the worst bridge disasters in U.S. history.

A formal investigation took more than a year, but once it was finished the National Transportation Safety Board said the cause of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge tragedy was a simple design flaw in the bridge's gusset plates -- metal plates that help connect one steel beam to another.  At that time, NTSB acting chairman Mark Rosenker said the board's investigation would "provide a roadmap for improvements to prevent future tragedies."

But five years after the collapse, Andrew Hermann, the president of the American Society of Engineers, told ABC News that while the nation has an aggressive bridge inspection program, the government is still not spending enough money on updating and maintaining the nation's infrastructure.

"Congress basically lacks the courage to do what is needed to raise the funds," he said.  "Bridges require maintenance, and maintenance and rehabilitation require funding... Politicians like to show up and cut a ribbon on a brand new bridge, but they don't like to show up and applaud a new paint job that may increase the life of a bridge."

At the time of the Minnesota bridge collapse, ABC News reported that the bridge had already been classified as "structurally deficient," meaning that while it was not deemed unsafe enough to close, it did require maintenance.

According to the Department of Transportation, bridges can be put on waiting lists for "replacement or rehabilitation" if they are classified as structurally deficient or "functionally obsolete;" the latter meaning the bridge was built prior to modern standards but was not necessarily unsafe.  A common example of a functionally obsolete bridge is one with road lanes that are too narrow.

When the Minnesota bridge collapsed in 2007, approximately 25.4 percent of the nearly 600,000 bridges in the U.S. were considered either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to the DOT.  By 2011, the number dipped to 23.8 percent, still leaving nearly 150,000 bridges in the same categories.

But transportation officials stressed that it does not mean American drivers are traveling on thousands of unsafe bridges -- just ones that may need some type of repair or more frequent inspections.

The Federal Highway Administration "has implemented measures to more closely oversee the inspection process and identify inconsistencies and non-compliance," FHA Administrator Victor Mendez told ABC News.  "While there are a number of bridges that are typically more closely monitored than others based on their condition, they are structurally safe.  Unsafe bridges are closed."

The FHA said that bridges are generally inspected once every two years, depending on the bridge's age and traffic patterns.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun032012

President Obama Writes Fifth Grader’s Excuse Note

ABC News(GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn.) -- For as long as there have been teachers, students have had excuses: my dog ate my homework, my computer crashed, I had food poisoning.

But 11-year-old Tyler Sullivan of Minnesota isn’t one to make excuses. He’s a good kid.

“If I was president I would say no more smoking, no more tobacco, and no more drugs,” said Sullivan.

But on Friday, Sullivan skipped school for the first time in his life, to meet President Barack Obama.

Obama was visiting the Honeywell facility in Golden Valley, Minn.

“First I said, ‘Hi, Mr. President.’ Then he says, ‘Hi Tyler, you must be out of school then,’” said Sullivan.

That’s when Obama reached for a pen and his presidential letterhead.

“He says, ‘Do you want me to write an excuse note? What’s your teacher’s name? And I say, Mr. Ackerman. And he writes, ‘Please excuse Tyler. He was with me. Barack Obama, the president,’” said Sullivan.

Sullivan has framed the note.

“Pretty cool – and it’s like oh, I’m famous. It’s really cool,” said Sullivan.

On Monday morning, Tyler will ask Mr. Ackerman to forgive him for missing class. And maybe gloat a little to his friends, who will probably ask the same question, over and over: “You seriously got to meet the president? You serious?”

Sullivan has a presidential pardon to prove it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr152012

Tornadoes: Midwest Twisters Leave 5 Dead in Oklahoma

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- At least five people are dead after violent storms ripped through several states in the nation's mid-section as officials work to clean up the damage this morning and brace for more violent weather.

Wisconsin, Minnesota, northwest Illinois and eastern Iowa face the greatest tornado threat on Sunday, which includes possible hailstorms, forecasters said.

In the northwest Oklahoma town of Woodward, a tornado touched down shortly after midnight, killing five people, authorities said.

Along with the five fatalities, 29 people suffering from cuts and bruises to serious injuries were taken to Woodward Regional Hospital, according to officials.

Woodward City Manager Alan Riffel said the twister knocked out a transmitter that should have sent warning sirens out.

"Most people were in bed and without warning, it came through," Riffel said.

Officials are still searching for bodies.

"We've had a fatality number of five and we don't expect to find more, but we're not stopping the search now," Riffel said.

From Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska, there were more than 120 reports of tornadoes since Saturday. Residents were warned this weekend about the outbreak of violent weather which forecasters predicted as potentially "life-threatening."

A double tornado – two twisters from the same storm -- hit Cherokee, Okla., and continued to barrel through the Midwest for more than five hours, touching down dozens of times, and crossing a distance of 250 miles.

By late Saturday, Nebraska was hit with baseball-sized hail.

Erik Olson, who manages an orchard in Nebraska City, Neb. said a storage facility was heavily damaged.

"Our neighbor called and said, ‘Part of your shop is on our house,’ and so I come from town to assess the damage, and there's really nothing you can do about it," said Olson.

A dozen homes, apartment buildings, and a library in Creston, Iowa were completely destroyed.

Clothing, bicycles, children's toys, and files from now emptied file cabinets were thrown everywhere.

At one apartment complex, half of the roof was completely torn off.

In Wichita, Kansas, homes were overturned, trees uprooted, and stoplights were thrown into the streets.

"Everything is just completely gone; it's just a big empty space like it was never there," said one Wichita resident who lost her home.

Another Wichita resident hid with his family in the closet.

"The wind just picked up and the rain got real heavy and the hail, so we ran to the closet and the next you knew the house was moving," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar222012

Minnesota Teen Can’t Bring Porn Star to Prom

Hemera/Thinkstock(OAKDALE, Minn.) -- A Minnesota high school senior who asked 600 porn stars to prom on Twitter will not be allowed to bring the one who said yes, his school said.

Mike Stone, 18, tweeted to his prospective dates: “i have dinner hotel and ill give u a massage to.”

The teenager told ABC News he turned to Twitter after several girls at Tartan High School in Oakdale, Minn., turned him down.

“I didn’t expect this to get blown up. It’s great. Everyone at my school is supporting me,” Stone said.

But school administrators didn’t think so. They banned Megan Piper, 19, who is a Los Angeles-based adult entertainer, from attending prom.

Stone, whose mother said he has special needs, didn’t tell her about his porn star date at first.

“I was a little upset at first and I feel like I’m on my kids and know what they’re up to,” Diven Stone said. “But I support him and I don’t understand what her profession has to do with anything.”

In a statement released to ABC affiliate KSTP, Tartan High School said Piper’s attendance “would be prohibited under Tartan’s standard prom procedures and would be inconsistent with two school district policies.” Those policies prohibit activity that may lead to disruptions.

Piper said she is disappointed the school banned her from being Stone’s prom date, especially since she never attended her own high school prom.

“I can make this kid’s dream prom experience come true and get a chance to go to prom,” she told ABC News. “It was a win for both of us.”

Mike and his date said they plan to throw their own “alternative prom” and invite the Tartan High School students to attend it instead.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio