>>Celebration of Life for Army sergeant killed in training exercise over Mediterranean
(Mankato, MN) — A celebration of life service in Mankato this afternoon (Fri) honoring Army Sergeant Cade Wolfe. 24-year-old Wolfe, formerly of Mankato was among five servicemembers killed during a military training exercise over the Mediterranean Sea in November. Wolfe’s father, Scott, says Cade loved what he was doing and was proud to serve his country. “Just want to let you know that I’m very proud of my son,” he said. “I think that he served his country very well. He’s big-hearted, big-caring, always talked. Would never be quiet.” Flags are flying at half-staff over all state buildings today in Sergeant Wolfe’s honor.
>>Vatican investigation concludes former Archbishop Nienstedt didn’t commit crime, but notes “imprudent” actions
(Various) — An investigation by the Vatican has concluded that former Archbishop John Nienstedt did not commit any crime according to the canons of the Catholic Church, following allegations nearly nine years ago of a sex-abuse coverup. But Archbishop Bernard Hebda says it’s also been communicated to him that several instances of “imprudent” actions by Nienstedt were brought to light. The Vatican is not giving specifics, but Archbishop Hebda’s statement does refer to a previous statement that he, Hebda, made in 2018, referring to an allegation received by Ramsey County prosecutors that in 2005 Nienstedt, then-Bishop of New Ulm, while at a World Youth Day event in Germany invited two unaccompanied minors to his hotel room to get out of the rain and wet clothing, undressed in front of them and invited them to do the same. Nienstedt denied it ever happened. Nienstedt in a statement says he has asked the Vatican to clarify the “imprudent” actions he allegedly committed in Minnesota. Nienstedt goes on to say, “I am sorry for any pain experienced by anyone because of the allegations against me, and ask for your prayers for their healing.”
The Vatican has barred Nienstedt, who remains an archbishop without assignment to an archdiocese, from living or doing church work in Minnesota, North Dakota or South Dakota, and he can’t do church work outside the diocese where he lives — reportedly now in Michigan — without special permission.
>>Essentia, Marshfield Clinic health systems drop merger plans
(Duluth, MN) — Duluth-based Essentia Health and the Marshfield Clinic Health System headquartered in neighboring Wisconsin have called off their planned merger. In a joint statement, the two health systems say they’ve decided “a combination at this time is not the right path forward for our respective organizations, colleagues and patients.” In a separate statement, Essentia says Marshfield’s financial situation “was the primary factor in our decision” because “financial stability is a critical component of Essentia being able to fulfill our mission for our patients and communities.” Essentia officials go on to say that an ongoing review by government regulators “didn’t affect the outcome of our negotiations with Marshfield Clinic.”
>>Second-earliest sell-out ever for Grandma’s Marathon
(Duluth, MN) — Grandma’s Marathon 2024 is sold out, after the last remaining spots in the full marathon were taken earlier today (Fri). Spokesman Zach Schneider says it’s only a few days off their all-time record for earliest sell-out. “2016 was our 40th annual race and that year we sold out on December 31st,” he says. “This year, [it was] the morning of January 5th, so that record stands for another year.” But Schneider says it’s still a day of big celebration as Grandma’s Marathon looks forward to its 50th running in 2026. Officials expect total registration for the 2024 races to reach close to 10-thousand. Grandma’s is the 10th-largest marathon in the U-S.
>>Washington County Drug Task Force Investigation Leads to Largest Seizure of Fentanyl Pills in MN
(Washington County, MN) — An investigation by the Washington County Drug Task Force has resulted in the seizure of 280-thousand fentanyl pills, with a combined estimated value of $2.2 million, marking the largest such seizure in Minnesota history. Federal charges against six individuals were announced Thursday. Court documents reveal that the suspects traveled to Phoenix to purchase fentanyl pills from suppliers, concealed the drugs inside stuffed animals and mailed them to addresses in Dakota, Washington, and Ramsey counties. The six suspects charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl are Cornell Montez Junior, Robiel Williams, Quijan Bankhead, Stardasha Davenport-Mounger, Fo’Tre Devine White, and Shardai Rayshell Allen.
>>Former Mayo Clinic Doctor Charged with Wife’s Murder
(Rochester, MN) — A former Mayo Clinic doctor faces charges of first-degree premeditated murder in connection with the fatal poisoning of his wife. Police arrested 30-year-old Connor Bowman in October, alleging he killed 32-year-old Betty Bowman in August. Bowman is also charged with second-degree murder with intent. His next court appearance is set for January 16th.
>>Arrest Warrant Out for Rochester Woman Who Attacked a Deputy
(Rochester, MN) — Police are searching for a Rochester woman accused of attacking a detention deputy in the Olmsted County jail last year. 24-year-old Hailey Thole was released from jail before charges were filed. Court documents say during a shakedown of two units inside the jail October 13th, Thole grabbed a deputy’s neck, digging her thumbs in, making it difficult for the deputy to speak or breathe before being pried off. An arrest warrant charges Thole with one felony count of fourth-degree assault of a correctional employee.
>>Little Falls Drug Bust
(Little Falls, MN) — A man from Mahnomen is in custody on drug charges. The Morrison County Sheriff’s Office says a deputy witnessed a vehicle driving over a fog line on Highway 10 near Little Falls Thursday at 12:24 p.m. A traffic stop was conducted, and the driver was suspected to be involved in a drug ring. After a search of the vehicle, the deputy found a hypodermic needle and nearly 13.9 grams of meth. 49-year-old Dominic Lafriniere was taken in on 3rd-degree possession of a controlled substance. He was already on parole for first-degree meth possession.
>>Brooklyn Center Man Pleads Guilty to Sexual Assault Charge
(Brooklyn Center, MN) — A Brooklyn Center man pleaded guilty on Friday to criminally sexually assaulting a hotel desk clerk. Police say 32-year-old Ashir Hassan Kimbrough checked into The Hampton Inn in Spicer on the night of February 26th, 2022. He followed a female desk clerk into a women’s bathroom, forcing her to perform a sex act, then allegedly fired a gun to scare her before she managed to escape. A pre-sentence investigation has been ordered, and Kimbrough is to be sentenced April 11th.
>>MN Loons interim coach leaves franchise
(Golden Valley, MN) – Minnesota United FC interim coach Sean McAuley has left the franchise, the club announced today (FRI). Cameron Knowles, MNUFC’s second team coach, will fill the vacant first team position. McAuley was named interim coach during the final week of the 2023 regular season after the club parted ways with longtime manager Adrian Heath. In early December, the Loons announced McAuley would continue in his interim role entering the 2024 season, as the club awaited the arrival of new sporting director Khaled El-Ahmad. Minnesota opens its season February 24.