Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
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Authorities said it took a costume, a comment and a cast of accomplices to pull off a con that fleeced Walmart out of thousands of dollars at various stores in western Wisconsin and Minnesota. According to court documents, the main suspect would enter a Walmart clad in a former employee's vest, then approach a cashier, who would be told it was breaktime. From there, the suspect would open up the cash register to allow a string of accomplices to buy thousands of dollars in gift cards. And then, according to authorities, it was off to the next store.
Courtroom logic says jurors tend not to look at defendants when they return a guilty verdict. A panel of Pierce County jurors faced no such burden in January after finding Michaela M. Sousa guilty of felony child abuse. The defendant was nowhere to be found. Pierce County District Attorney Sean Froelich said Sousa attended the first day of the trial, but was a no-show the second day. "That is very unusual," he said. "I have never experienced that."
TOWN OF OAK GROVE -- A western Wisconsin man was checked out for injuries last weekend after a Highway 35 crash in rural Prescott. Pierce County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to reports of a single-vehicle crash at 10:10 a.m. Feb. 3 near 1220th Street in the town of Oak Grove.
Unpaid construction bills led to a felony charge against a Bay City builder. Pierce County prosecutors charged Hartland Builders Corp. owner Bjorn L. Bang with one count of felony theft by contractor. The 40-year-old makes his initial court appearance Feb. 12. According to a criminal complaint: A Maiden Rock homeowner reported in March 2017 that a St. Paul contracting firm placed a lien on his property.
A 63-year-old man was airlifted after a crash Tuesday outside Plum City. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said Plum City resident Michael P. Hovde was flown to Regions Hospital in St. Paul for his injuries, the extent of which were not disclosed.
Spotlight draws arrest A deputy stopped Jan. 4 at W3202 160th Ave. in Maiden Rock to tell a man that his high-powered spotlight was blinding motorists. The man was arrested for two warrants. Puppy mill report investigated
Traffic trouble • An Elmwood man was arrested at 11:23 p.m. Dec. 22 at 330th Avenue and County Road S in Plum City after a traffic stop. The 23-year-old was arrested on suspicion of OWI and was cited for operating left of center. • Deputies were called at 4:13 a.m. Dec. 23 to W829 County Road G in Elmwood for an unwanted intoxicated person. A 31-year-old Red Wing man was arrested on warrants, including one from Clark County.
An Elmwood-area man's dog breeding practices landed criminal convictions this year and he's not through with the court system yet. A jury in October convicted Stuart E. West of 62 counts — mostly related to failure to provide proper food and drink, along with eight convictions for animal mistreatment. He was acquitted on 15 counts of improper animal shelter space and 48 counts of improper ventilation for the dogs.
TOWN OF TRENTON -- A southeastern Minnesota woman was killed and an Ellsworth woman was airlifted Thursday after a head-on crash in Pierce County.
PRESCOTT — Reports of a man missing in dangerous temperatures ended with him being found cold, but alive. Prescott Police Chief Rob Funk said the man was discovered "a little worse for the wear" during the Tuesday, Dec. 26, incident, though apparently free of serious injuries. He said a Prescott police officer found the man just south of town near St. Joseph's Cemetery along Monroe Street. The man had gone out to look for his dog — a trek that took him to the Mississippi River, where Funk said the man fell in.