2008: The year in review

March continued

Travis Hofford is charged in Mille Lacs County District Court with five
criminal counts relating to physical abuse of his infant child. An
officer responded to a 911 call stating the five-month-old girl was
unresponsive. Hofford explained he had accidentally dropped the baby on
the floor but doctors stated that preliminary signs showed more head
trauma than would be indicated by an accident.

Year end report

Editor’s note: These news items, from 2008, were compiled by Lindsy Arrowood.

March continued

Travis Hofford is charged in Mille Lacs County District Court with five criminal counts relating to physical abuse of his infant child. An officer responded to a 911 call stating the five-month-old girl was unresponsive. Hofford explained he had accidentally dropped the baby on the floor but doctors stated that preliminary signs showed more head trauma than would be indicated by an accident.


An Onamia man is charged with two counts of assault in the second degree and one count of assault in the fifth degree  after a fight with another man at an Onamia residence. Tribal officers arrived on the scene to find Steven Allen Heywood and Donald Eugene Weiss bloody and yelling at each other. Weapons used during the fight were found inside the home.

Three individuals are arrested by the North Central Drug Task Force after a search warrant uncovered drugs and stolen property. Charges of fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, receiving stolen property, and fleeing a police officer were issued.

Mervel George Jones, III, Onamia, is found guilty of a felon in possession of firearm charge. Jury trials for the charges of arson and a drive-by-shooting will be at a later date.

The city of Princeton is annexing a 2.5-acre commercial lot from Baldwin Township. The annexation agreement includes an abatement of property taxes for up to 10 years.

James Edward Lewandowski pleads guilty to three counts of criminal sexual misconduct. He was sentenced to 72 months in prison. He had already been sentenced to 12 years in prison at a trial in February, 2007, for criminal sexual misconduct.

Officer Josh Hallberg, after responding to a call of a disturbance, places a Milaca woman in the back of his squad car. Jessica Ramirez then begins banging on the plexiglass window and kicks it out directly at the officer. She is charged with fourth degree assault against a peace officer and criminal damage to property, obstructing arrest/ legal process, and disorderly conduct. Officer Hallberg is taken to the hospital to have minor debris flushed out of his eyes.

A 44-year-old Elk River man dies in connection with a head-on vehicle crash on Highway 95. The driver of the other vehicle receives only minor injuries.

Mille Lacs County Undersheriff Alan Marxhausen leaves his gun in the men’s bathroom at Milaca Unclaimed Freight. He returns to retrieve it and discovers it missing. The gun is later turned in to Milaca Police Chief Mike Mott at his home.


Residential, commercial and industrial properties in Princeton will be getting a new monthly fee under the “Creating a storm utility” ordinance. This ordinance was created to fund projects to deal with poor drainage areas in the city, organize information on how the drainage works and plan for drainage improvements.

Bruce William Christenson pleads guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and is sentenced to life in prison. He also pleads guilty to second-degree assault for attacking an inmate at the Minnesota Correctional Facility, St. Cloud.

Jackie Lynn Kromschroeder pleads guilty to five counts of felony theft of swindle for embezzling $20,000 from Becker Furniture World. Four of the five counts are dropped in a plea agreement and Kromschroeder faces up to 45 days in jail for the remaining count.

Lorri Frances Gambino, former postmaster at the Dalbo Post Office, pleads guilty to felony theft after issuing herself thousands of dollars in unauthorized salary advances.

A Princeton man is back in jail after a robbery attempt at Coborn’s. Thomas Stein had pleaded guilty to second-degree armed robbery and theft of a controlled substance in April after robbing the Thrifty White Pharmacy in January. He was apprehended by two officers at the Coborn’s pharmacy in mid-robbery.

The Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office receives a burglary complaint from Johnson’s Hardware Hank, Zimmerman. The store had been forcibly entered and cash and checks written by customers were stolen from the safe.

A home in Baldwin Township is hit by a chunk of ice falling from the sky. The ice hit with enough force to go through the roof, through the floor and end up in pieces in the basement.

The body of a man is found in a wooded area known as Shady Acres, a mile northeast of the Princeton Middle School. The victim suffered a single gunshot  wound to the head. Two days after the body was discovered a gunshot is heard in the woods behind the middle school. All the buildings in the area go into lock-down for safety reasons. The shot turned out to be an individual in a fishing boat who confessed to firing a single shot at a carp.

An 18-year-old male, from rural Princeton, is charged in Mille Lacs County District Court with two felony counts of criminal sexual conduct. The charges relate to reported incidents at the Princeton High School between May 12 and 15.


Raymond Roger Winans is civilly committed as a “sexually dangerous person” and a “sexually psychopathic personality”. Winans had been convicted of sexually assaulting young boys and girls and has a history of harmful sexual conduct that began in the mid-1970s.

A petition by a group of private citizens asking for an examination of Baldwin Township expenditures is dismissed in district court. The petition asked the judge to appoint a special prosecutor and call for a grand jury to examine certain public expenditures relating to the township’s fire department. Included in the investigation request were 21 checks totaling $51,271.28. The petition was dismissed due to insufficient evidence on the part of the plaintiffs.

Yolanda Boyd is found guilty of arson in the first degree, burglary in the second degree, disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process. Boyd had been arrested in December for setting a house on fire.

Casey Jo Oldenburg admits to helping Jeremy Hull dispose of Lewis Wilczek’s body. She is charged with aiding an offender as an accomplice after the fact and obstructing the investigation in the murder of Lewis James Wilczek of Little Falls. Oldenburg also confesses to concealing and destroying evidence after Hull is arrested.

The North Central Drug Task Force receives information about a package sent through FedEx that contained 5.5 pounds of marijuana. Undercover task force agents conduct a surveillance of the address on the FedEx package. Three individuals are arrested in connection with the drugs.

Four-year-old Olivia Ruis spots smoke coming from Bethel Church. Lightning had struck the building and a fire started on the roof of the original part of the church building. Estimated damage to the church was over $150,000.

Joe Clemensen is hit by a 2002 Daewoo Lanos while driving a Honda scooter west on Sherburne County 42. He is dragged a short distance before being ejected from the scooter. He is in fair condition after being airlifted to North Memorial Medical Center, Robbinsdale.


Mille Lacs Tribal Police Officers are dispatched to a home in Onamia after a report of an assault. When they arrive on the scene they learn that Shane Boyd has attacked his mother. Upon confronting Boyd, he is uncooperative and spits on the officers.  He then begins to kick the officers and they use mace to calm him. He is charged with two counts of fourth-degree felony assault of a peace officer, obstructing the legal process, domestic assault and underage consumption.

Officers pull over a vehicle driven by George Machen in the parking lot of Edy’s resort. Machen did not produce a driver’s license nor did his female passenger Karen Thunderhawk. Officers ask Machen to exit the vehicle. Instead he squeals the tires and flees with Thunderhawk and two small children. Officers pursue and Machen stops the vehicle before the barricade of stop sticks. He is taken from the vehicle at gunpoint. A search of the vehicle leads to the discovery of 33.6 grams of marijuana. Machen is charged with fleeing a peace officer, child endangerment, driving after cancellation, failure to provide proof of insurance and possession of marijuana.

A home, in Zimmerman, behind the new bowling alley, catches fire. Firefighters arrive on the scene to find the home fully engulfed in flames. The cause of the fire is yet unknown.

State Senator Betsy Wergin gives up her senate seat to fill a vacancy on the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Candidates filing for her vacated seat include Lisa Fobbe and Jeff Holm, Princeton, Mark Joseph Herzing, Milaca, Alison Krueger and Mark Olson, Big Lake.

The Zion Lutheran Church, Milaca, is broken into after its Sunday service. There is no evidence of a break-in at the outside doors but the door to the secretary’s office shows pry marks. All the cash from the Sunday service offering, as well as some petty cash, is stolen.

The Princeton Police Department finds a former ambulance in a ditch near Mille Lacs County Road 4 and 45th Street after a passerby called in the complaint. Baldwin Township Fire Department had called in the theft earlier that same day to the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office. There appeared to be some minor damage to the vehicle when it was recovered but there were no signs of forced entry to  the fire department and nothing else was reported missing. The case is still under investigation.


Charles Todd Bragg, Princeton, faces six counts of felony sexual conduct. Bragg turned himself in to police on a warrant for his arrest. According to the complaint, Bragg had improper sexual contact with two females, ages 14 and 15, for over a year. He is scheduled to appear in court later this month.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Fairview Northland Medical Center are arguing over contract negotiations. If an agreement is not reached before the contract expires, members of Blue Cross may be considered out-of-network.

What began as a small fire from a 1984 Ford pickup truck soon escalated into a garage fire that Stacy Kellen, Baldwin Township, couldn’t put out on his own. Neighbors and three fire departments were called to come to his aid but were not able to keep the fire from destroying Kellen’s garage and home. The fire also damaged the siding of Kellen’s neighbor’s home.

A reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever stole the United States flag and flagpole from the Princeton Township Hall lot in Long Siding. A similar theft occurred earlier in the spring when the flag and flagpole were taken from the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery, Princeton.

The Princeton city planning commission has given a conditional use permit for the Princeton Youth Hockey Association to construct an additional hockey arena. Some of the conditions include 50 new parking spaces to be built first, with another 100 following closely, and a backup entrance/exit road needs to be provided in case of emergencies.

The city of Princeton plans to prohibit off-sale liquor stores from delivering alcoholic beverages in the city of Princeton.

Husband and wife Gary and Deloris Heald were found dead in the basement of their home in Zimmerman. Another man, Rory Zitur was found dead in his home in St. Michael. Police believe the deaths to be a case of murder-suicide triggered by a love-triangle brought about by online chats and an online swingers club connection. Heald is believed to have shot and killed his wife and Zitur before using the firearm on himself.


The school house bell was stolen from the old Spencer Brook Pioneer Schoolhouse, Isanti County. A reward has been offered for information leading to its return.

William John Ellis, Spring Lake Park, faces charges in Mille Lacs County District Court for false imprisonment in the Princeton area. The alleged victim, Todd Schaar, states he had visited the residence of Katherine Schrautemeyer to reimburse her for posting his bail after a DWI arrest. Ellis struck him over the back of the head with a gun and claimed Schaar was on “house arrest”. Authorities were contacted by Schaar’s wife and arrived to release Schaar and take Ellis into custody.

Jeremy Hull’s sister Ashley took the witness stand to testify against her brother. She told the court of his apparent obsession with obtaining a new identity. She was just one of 10 witnesses who testified in the case against Hull. He is on trial for the premeditated first-degree murder of Lewis James Wilczek.

Two or three townhome units are being boarded up in the Princeton Arcadian Homes complex that has had mold, sewer backups and other problems. The action to seal off some of the units comes as a result of an urgent public safety concern expressed in city hall.

Carl Irons, Jr., Princeton, faces charges with seven counts of criminal conduct for engaging in sexual conduct with a young girl. The victim, a now 15-year-old girl, reports that Irons first had sexual contact with her when she was four or five years old and would hit her with a stick to coerce her. Irons denies all charges.

A 16-year-old male has been arrested on suspicion of having committed some recent home burglaries in the city. All of the burglaries were forced-entry. The suspect faces charges of theft of property and second-degree burglary.

The two 13-year-old girls who were lost in the woods at the edge of Princeton have been found. Firefighters discovered the girls between Pioneer Park and Highway 95, an estimated 1-1.5 miles from the middle school property.

A Cambridge police officer escaped injury when the man he was attempting to apprehend during an early morning fight tried to run him over with his vehicle. Kenneth Mieth, Princeton, was arrested at his residence by a Princeton officer after eluding police following a chase in his 2005 Mitsubishi.

Approximately $10,000 worth of copper wire has been stolen from circulatory in the vacant Thunder Alley building. There was evidence of forced-entry into the building.


Eric Wolfe, Princeton, was killed in an accident at Dave’s Excavating, Foreston. The heavy piece of equipment he had been working on rolled off the small trailer and came to rest atop him. Wolfe was pronounced dead at the scene.

Rech Motors and J. Thompson Sales are victims of theft. Russell Anderson, Rech Motors reported that 22 catalytic converters and two stereo radios had been stolen from vehicles on his lot. The loss is estimated at about $30,000. Similarly, James Thompson reports a loss of 22-26 catalytic converters, estimated at $8,000.

A Ramsey couple has pled guilty in federal court to identity theft in a case that crosses state lines. Shane Kristiansen and Sarah Westfall have been stealing mail, documents from vehicles, blank checks, endorsed checks, account information and identification documents from a variety of victims.

The federal lawsuit filed by the family of Carl Moyle against Sherburne County, Sheriff Bruce Anderson, jail officials and corrections officers at the jail has been dismissed. The lawsuit was in regards to Moyle’s death while in jail in Sherburne County. Moyle had shared a room with another inmate, Bruce Christenson, who attacked Moyle and beat him to death. Judge Richard Kyle dismissed the case stating there was no evidence that any named defendant had actual knowledge of Christenson’s violent nature or that Sherburne’s classification policies might allow a dangerous inmate to be placed in contact with other inmates.


A Princeton senior citizen is the latest target in the grandparent scam. A man claiming to be his grandson called and asked him to send money via money gram because he had been in a car accident. The man complied and sent $4,600 only to discover that the caller had not been his grandson.

Casey Jo Oldenburg gave testimony against Jeremy Hull during his trial for the murder of Lewis Wilczek. She provided a detailed description of his plan and the events leading up to the eventual burning and burial of Wilczek’s body. Hull chose not to testify. The jury found him guilty of premeditated murder in the first degree and first-degree murder with intent while committing aggravated robbery. He has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

An Onamia resident has been arrested after smashing the windows of her own vehicle and being in possession of a firearm.Witnesses told officers that Geraldine Garbow became angry when she couldn’t find the keys to her vehicle. Other reports claimed she was chasing people and throwing things at vehicles. She faces charges of felon in possession of a firearm and fleeing a police officer.

Three men and a juvenile male have been arrested in connection with a string of burglaries and thefts in Sauk Rapids, St. Cloud, Sartell and Sherburne and Benton counties. Approximately $85,000 in property has been recovered by authorities.

The building that was once the Smith System factory is going to be demolished. The city planning commission members approved an interim permit for the demolition of the structure.

Robin Lee Sheridan is guilty of felony wrongfully obtaining assistance. According to the criminal complaint, Sheridan’s income as shown on her 2006 tax returns was $824,760, making her ineligible for the $8,193 she received in medical assistance.

The Princeton mall was broken into and the Princeton Used Clothing Center and Total Hair Care have been burglarized. There are no suspects at this time.


A Foreston teenager faces charges of assault in the second degree with a dangerous weapon, assault in the third degree, two counts of felony domestic assault and underage consumption for attacking his family members after hosting an underage drinking party.

Raymond Robideau has been convicted of murdering his girlfriend last January. A jury found him guilty of second-degree intentional murder.

Geraldine Shingobe-Kegg has been arrested after threatening her adult daughter with a knife in front of her three-year-old grandchild. She faces charges of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and domestic assault.

A check scam is showing up in the mailboxes in Sherburne County. The scam asks recipients to deposit a counterfeit check into their accounts, make a few purchases at a couple of retail stores, report on the quality of the merchandise and then mail back the remaining money to the scammer in the form of a money gram. The current scam checks are coming from Canada and the sheriff’s office has notified the Canadian authorities.

A one-vehicle crash claims the life of a 70-year-old Big Lake woman when her vehicle entered the ditch and struck a tree. Another life was claimed three days later in a two-vehicle accident in Big Lake Township. That vehicle, driven by Jason Long, spun out of control and crossed into the other lane of traffic. He was struck by a Kia Sedona. Long was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the Kia was transported to Monticello-Big Lake Hospital to be treated for injuries and has been released.

Russell Simon, Jr. has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the attempted murder of two people after an evening of drinking. He had become angry at his girlfriend and a male friend and shot at them after breaking the man’s nose with a John Wayne statue. Simon has spent the last 14 years lecturing teens in Canada and the US on the evils of drugs, alcohol and violence.

Travis Stay, accused of  beating Joel Lovelien, North Dakota, to death, has been found not guilty of all charges. He has been released and plans to come home to Princeton for Christmas.

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