Local News

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    Power 96 News Brief 4-19


    A bridge demolition is scheduled to start Friday in Austin.The Minnesota Department of Transportation says drivers on Interstate 90 near the Oakland Avenue bridge will have to use the exit and entrance ramps from 6:30 p.m. Friday through 5 am on Monday. Drivers on Highway 105/Oakland Avenue near I-90 in Austin will encounter a detour. MnDOT says the Oakland Avenue bridge replacement is part of the three-year project that is replacing or repairing bridges at six sites along the I-90 corridor

    A Rochester man who was previously arrested for fraud is now a suspect in a jewelry store break-in. Garrett Dorsher is facing charges of second-degree burglary and credit card fraud and is currently being held at the Olmsted County Adult Detention Center. He was already in custody when he was eventually named a suspect for a break in at Lasker Jewelry early Sunday morning. The break in happened at around 1:45 Sunday morning and Dorsher was caught at around 3:00 that same day.

    A Rochester man has been arrested for vandalism after damaging part of a parking ramp and sky way. Jerrell Guider has been booked into the Olmsted County Adult Detention Center on charges of first-degree damage of property. According to police Guider carved Xs into the skyway pillars near 117 3rd Street SW.Investigators say they also believe Guider was responsible for vandalism in a downtown parking ramp.

    The Minnesota Senate approved an elections policy bill Thursday that would guarantee voters the right to sue if they face vote suppression or vote dilution the bill was passed on a 35-32 vote. Those who oppose the bill say the ruling hasn"t yet had time to be tested. The bill comes after the 8th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals last year ruled against a provision of the law that allowed voters to challenge voting policies or maps that were racially discriminatory. The bill will now head back to the state house and then to the desk of Governor Walz.

    A Mower County man is taking a plea deal on tax fraud charges. Craig Jacobson pleaded guilty to two counts of failure to collect and remit taxes. He also faces 23 additional charges but those could be dropped as part of the plea deal. Jacobson did not file withholding returns or pay withholding taxes for his business several times from 2015-2018 and altered submitted federal tax returns when submitting his state returns. Jacobson will be sentenced in early August.

    A North Iowa man is facing domestic assault charges after assaulting and threatening his girlfriend. Benjamin Mehmen faces four counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon and one count of domestic abuse assault. Mehmen reportedly strangled, choked, and stepped on her throat, repeatedly causing the victim to nearly lose consciousness in September 2023. He would also threaten her with a taser on multiple occasions. Mehmen is being held without bail.

    The Minnesota BCA is asking for help to find a man accused of creating Child Pornograpy. William Guy Amick III faces 13 felony counts including using minors in sexual performance, soliciting a child to engage in sexual conduct, and possession of pornographic work involving a minor. Amick is accused of posing as a woman online to create child pornography using other men"s children ages seven and younger. Investigators allegedly located more than 200 videos in that vein on Amick III"s devices. He also faces another case in Pennsylvania.

    The Minnesota State House approved a bill Thursday that would help speed up the process for cannabis dispensaries by allowing people to be preapproved for an operating license. On a 69-62 vote, lawmakers voted to allow the office to start issuing license pre-approvals as early as this summer. The proposal would also put the Office of Cannabis Management in charge of enforcement for hemp-derived edible products and medical marijuana.

    Power 96 News Brief 4-18


    One person was sent to the hospital after being injured Wednesday afternoon after a crash at the intersection of East Main Street and Happy Trails Lane. Jon Anderson was taken by ambulance to Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea for injuries deemed non-life threatening. Anderson was driving a 2017 Chevy Equinox and was headed north out of the Trail"s Travel Center parking lot to turn left onto westbound Main Street, when he pulled out into the path of a 2007 white Dodge Charger, driven by Corey Foland, 24, who was eastbound. Foland was not injured.

    The Freeborn County Sheriff"s Office is utilizing two state grants in its efforts to fill open law enforcement positions in the department. The Sheriff"s Office was awarded two $50,000 Minnesota Intensive Comprehensive Peace Officer Education and Training Program grants through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety"s Office of Justice Programs that it plans to use to recruit and train two people looking to transition their careers into law enforcement. The grants would go toward tuition, housing, mileage, wages and fringe benefits of the selected candidates who meet specified requirements.

    Semcac in Austin is raising funds to help build a new building in town. The new facility would house new classrooms for its early childhood and preschool head start program, a new central kitchen for its food and nutrition services, and offices for its outreach and emergency services programs, like homelessness prevention. The organization hopes to raise around $50,000 and the first $5,000 raised by the organization will be matched by an anonymous donor.

    Union Pacific released a statement Thursday morning detailing a train derailment in Mason City Iowa Wednesday night. The statement reads:At approximately 10:15 p.m. Wednesday evening, approximately seven cars on a Union Pacific train derailed in our Mason City, Iowa yard. There were no injuries, but some soybean meal and potash was released as a result of the incident, which is under investigation. An investigation into the derailment is currently ongoing.

    An Austin man faces several charges after allegedly attacking a Hispanic man, then fighting police in a racially charged incident Monday. John Bradley Shea faces the charges after a 9-1-1 call to police ended abruptly. The caller said Shea pulled a gun on him and threatened to shoot. Police then went to Shea"s home and arrested him after a standoff ended in an altercation. Shea was taken to St Marys after the altercation and is now being held in Mower County Jail on $15,000 bail with conditions or $50,000 without. He will next be in court at the end of April.   

    An Austin man is being held in Mower County jail after he allegedly assaulted a woman in march. Christopher John Marcks faces eight total charges after he assaulted a woman hitting her multiple times before pulling a knife and threatening her. Marcks accused the woman of cheating on him. Marcks has previous convictions for terroristic threats on Dec. 14, 2017 and violating a domestic abuse no contact order from Oct. 13, 2017. He will be in court again in late April and is being held on $100,000 bail with no conditions or $25,000 with conditions.

    The trial of a Rochester man charged in a November 2019 shooting begins Thursday. Abdusalam Hussein faces two counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of possessing a firearm.He is accused of firing several shots at a man who was asleep in his southeast Rochester home. Hussein allegedly walked into the man"s unlocked residence, started kicking him and then shot him five times.

    Veterans from around Minnesota marched to the State Capitol on Wednesday for the annual Veterans Day on the Hill. The event is to show support for veterans issues being considered by the Minnesota Legislature, including ending veteran homelessness. Key issues at the event include supporting a veteran-specific omnibus bill, along with increasing property tax relief for disabled veterans and surviving spouses of deceased veterans

    Power 96 News Brief 4-17


    A Twin lake man appeared in Freeborn County Court Tuesday on assault charges. Camren Michael Cunningham was charged with one count of third-degree assault and two counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon after he allegedly picked a woman up and slammed her down on the ground Saturday night, after which witnesses said the woman had a seizure. Another witness said Cunningham went to his car to grab a gun but police were unable to locate the weapon. Cunninghams" bail was set at $300,000 without conditions and $150,000 with conditions. He is next slated to appear in court April 25.

    An Iowa man was taken to the hospital after his Semite truck was blown over on Tuesday in Mower County. Todd J. Wolter was driving a Semite tractor trailer on Highway 56 when a large wind gust blew the Semite over on its driver's side. The accident occurred around 2:48 p.m. near the intersection of 205th Street. Wolter suffered what are described as non-life threatening injuries and was taken to Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin for treatment.

    A Wykoff man will now be sentenced for his role in a Rochester shooting. Cory John Schreiber has pleaded guilty to second-degree assault after he allegedly shot a man at the request of another man during a drug sale in may of 2023 and then was instructed to hide the fire arm. During a search of the home used for the drug sale police found evidence of drug use and possible sales. Schreiber is scheduled to be sentenced in late June.

    A Byron man facing charges for slashing a woman with a knife has been sentenced after taking a plea deal. Lee Stellmaker has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of domestic assault. A charge of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon has been dismissed. Stellmaker was arrested in August after a domestic dispute in the 100 block of 8th Street NE in Byron. Stellmaker reportedly attacked a woman with a knife resulting in injury. He was reportedly found holding the knife and had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. Stellmaker will serve one year of supervised probation.   

    Power 96 News Brief 4-16


    The Albert Lea School board met Monday night and voted to cut seven positions across the school district at multiple Albert Lea Schools. The decision comes as the district adjusts for declining enrollment. The positions cut as a result of the vote include three full-time elementary teachers, two full-time secondary classroom teachers and a special services coordinator at both the elementary and secondary levels.

    The City of Albert Lea is inviting residents to learn more about a study about how to best improve safety, address aging bridges and provide a smoother, more effective travel experience for all who use the Interstate 35/Interstate 90 interchange. The Mn Department of Transportation is planning to replace the two I-90 bridges over I-35 in the year 2030, and perhaps do more based on public input. The meeting is scheduled for Tonight at City hall from 4:30-6:30

    The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners will meet Tuesday. On the Agenda for the board they will hear from Departments throughout Freeborn County such as the Highway as well as the County Administrator and Auditor-Treasurer. The board will also consider resolutions approving a liquor license for Freeborn Lake Golf Course and Hickory Hill Campground. The board will also consider a resolution certifying the acquisition of property by the US Fish and Wildlife service.    

    An Austin man will face charges after selling drugs at his workplace. Eric Borg appeared in Mower County Court Monday on one charge of 3rd-degree narcotic sale and two charges of 5th-degree drug possession after police investigated a business at 1310 4th Street SE, after reports that Borg was selling cocaine. Police found several bags of drugs, a bag of drug paraphernalia, and multiple rounds of ammunition. Borg eventually admitted to the crime. He was released on conditions. He will next be in court later this month.

    Power 96 News Brief 4-15


    The City of Albert Lea is inviting residents to learn more about a study that is looking at how to best improve safety, address aging bridges and provide a smoother, more effective travel experience for all who use the Interstate 35/Interstate 90 interchange, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. MnDOT is planning to replace the two I-90 bridges over I-35 in 2030, and perhaps do more based on public input. The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at City hall from 4:30-6:30

    The Albert Lea School board will meet Monday. The board will be hearing from several people including the SuperIntendent. The Board will consider several resolutions including Discontinuing and Reducing Educational Programs and Positions, recycling many pieces of technology that no longer fit the school system"s network. In addition the board will also discuss various financial matters and several new appointments, resignations and terminations. The board will meet Monday night at 5:00.   

    A police chase near Dodge County has left one man dead. Dodge County Sheriff"s Office say the chase started around 7:30 p.m. when a West Concord police officer tried to pull a person over. The driver rammed his vehicle into the officer"s squad and took off. The chase lasted about 30 miles to Cannon Falls, where authorities say the driver took his own life in Mayo Clinic Health System Cannon Falls Hospital which prompted a lockdown. The officer whose car was hit was treated for minor injuries then released.

    The Rochester Police Department is investigating a Jewelry store robbery from over the weekend. Police responded to an alarm at Lasker Jewelers early Sunday morning. Arriving on the scene police found the door broken into and the jewelry case shattered with several pieces on the floor of the store. Surveillance video from the store showed a man in a black jacket and white mask running from the scene. If you know anything you are asked to please call Rochester police.

    Power 96 News Brief 4-12


    A woman appeared in Freeborn County Court Thursday on charges after she allegedly threatened another woman with a knife at an Albert Lea Motel. Robyn Jessica Moore was charged with one count of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of fifth-degree assault, causing fear of bodily harm or death. The victim says Moore arrived at the room door for an unknown reason and threatened her with a tree carving knife. Moore"s bail at $30,000 unconditional bail or $15,000 with conditions. She is next slated to appear in court April 25.

    An Austin man will serve time behind bars after pleading guilty to drug related crimes. Matthew Lewis sold around 20 grams of meth to a confidential reliable informant on two occasions in November 2022. Lewis was arrested at a traffic stop in August of last year. Lewis pleaded guilty to second-degree sale of drugs and has now been sentenced to spend seven years and 11 months behind bars, with credit for 185 days already served.

    The Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner"s Office has released the identity of a man who was found deceased in an Olmsted County Park on Wednesday. The body was of Len Reynolds who police have been searching for since last march. was found by a person walking their dog in a wooded area near the Gordon W. Yeager State Wildlife Management Area. Law enforcement have not shared a cause of death, and do not believe foul play is involved.

    A Rochester Judge has thrown out a multi-million dollar lawsuit over a property tax levy for Rochester Public Schools in 2023. Casey McGregor sued the school district and several school officials claiming the referendum did not specify the exact project the property tax increase would fund. The judge tossed the case because McGregor failed to allege facts that would allow the court to grant the relief demanded. The majority of the complaint consists of conclusions of law based on facts not contained within the complaint

    Power 96 News Brief 4-11


    An Albert Lea man has been sentenced after pleading guilty to sexting an underage girl. Stephen Brian Besco pleaded guilty to engaging in electronic communication relating to or describing sexual conduct with a child. Charges of child solicitation were dropped and Besco will be on probation for five years and serve no further jail time. He must also register as a predatory offender, attend sex offender treatment, and have no contact with people under the age of 18, unless approved by officials.

    The Albert Lea Fourth of July Firework display will be moving locations. The move is made to make sure the city complies with state codes. The display which had been held at the city beach will now move to a new location this year on city property west of the Blazing Star Landing between Fountain and Albert Lea lakes. Holding the event at the new location will allow viewers to use both lakes to watch the event by boat or sit on sidewalks or in surrounding parks.

    Olmsted County officials are investigating after a dead body was found Wednesday. An individual was walking their dog near the Gordon W. Yeager Wildlife Management Area and Silver Creek Road NE when they noticed what looked to be a body on the ground. Authorities tried to identify the body but were unable to due to what exposure to the elements. The Olmsted County Sheriff's office released a statement saying it doesn't believe there is a threat to the public.

    A Rochester man will spend time behind bars after being convicted of murder. Idris Haji-Mohamed was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Jeremy Ellis who was found in a running car in a parking lot behind 601 Chicago Avenue South near U.S. Bank Stadium with gunshot wounds. He was later pronounced dead. Law enforcement says Haji-Mohamed shot Ellis several times during a drug deal on December 30, 2022.Haji-Mohamed is now scheduled to be sentenced for that killing on May 3.

    Power 96 News Brief 4-10


    Albert Lea voters made their voices heard on Tuesday when they passed the referendum to spend close to ten million dollars on improvements to improve local rec facilities. The final vote was by a 3:1 margin with 1849 people voting in support of the referendum and 600 voting against. The money will be used to upgrade several parts of City Arena, make the Marian Ross Center more accessible, at the pool they will replace water-heating, lighting and electrical systems and bathrooms will be added to the splash pad.

    A Rochester teen now faces charges after sexually assaulting a child. Austin Anthony Russ was charged with 1st-degree criminal sexual conduct and 2nd-degree criminal sexual conduct–contact with a child. The charges come after a woman spoke with police after the victim told a man what had occurred in detail. Russ was arrested and initially denied the allegations but eventually confessed to the crime. Russ" next court hearing is scheduled for April 23. He is currently held at the Olmsted County ADC on $100,000 bail.

    The Minnesota House has advanced a bill to help grant voters the ability to sue over potentially discriminatory practices. The bill is a response to a court decision that upended a similar federal law. The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled last year that the federal Voting Rights Act doesn"t give individuals the right to sue since they"re not explicitly named in law. Minnesota is part of the eighth circuit so the ruling applies to the state. A companion bill is also making its way through the state senate. The house also passed another election bill that covers many more election topics.

    This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota with the National Weather Service presenting information daily about various topics on severe weather safety. Thursday, April 11, the NWS will cover tornadoes with the day featuring tornado drills and educating people on tornado safety. As a result From 1:45 until 6:45 on Thursday Sirens will sound across the state at times determined by the counties and cities. The sirens will last for about three minutes.

    Power 96 News Brief 4-9


    Albert Lea voters head to the polls today and will decide if the city can use $9.8 Million for several recreational facilities. The majority of the money would go towards repairs and upgrades to City Arena. The rest of the money will go to the Marian Ross Center, the Splash Pad and Aquatic Center. The city would pay off the bonds over 20 years. The cost to individual taxpayers would depend on their property values. For a home valued at $100,000, the additional cost would be $47.50 per year or less than $4 per month. Polls are open until 8:00 Tuesday night.

    During their meeting Monday the Albert Lea City Council voted on and agreed to continue with the purchase and installation of equipment for a new inclusive playground. The vote approved the $318,981 cost of playground equipment from Landscape Structures and $426,452 for the surface construction and equipment assembly from Flagship Recreation. The playground will be built at Edgewater Park and Installation of the equipment will likely start in August or September of this year.

    The Albert Lea City Council met on Monday night. During the meeting the City decided to relinquish a state grant that would have gone towards building new apartments at the Blazing Star Landing. The decision was made after the developers of the apartments cited unstable market conditions and put the project on hold. The developer does still plan to build close to 100 apartments on the Blazing Start Landing once the conditions improve.

    Trying to avoid a deer has resulted in more than two thousand Rochester residents losing power. The crash in the 2200 block of 18 Avenue SW around 7:45 p.m. when a driver swerved to avoid a deer went into a ditch and struck a utility pole resulting in power loss. Crews were able to restore power Monday night. The Rochester Fire Department extracted the driver from her vehicle. Police say the juvenile had been wearing her seatbelt and was not hurt.

    Power 96 News Brief 4-8


    The Albert Lea City Council will meet Monday. On the agenda for the meeting the City will take a vote on two items including the Inclusive Playground and the Blazing Star Landing. The vote on the playground will be on two contracts: The first contract is a $319,000 contract with Landscape Structures for equipment as well as $426,452 contract with Flagship Recreation for installing a rubberized surface, which makes it safer for playing, and assembling the equipment.

    The Albert Lea City Council will meet Monday. On the agenda for the meeting the City will take a vote on two items including the Inclusive Playground and the Blazing Star Landing. Current plans for the Blazing Star Landing continue to evolve, with the Albert Lea City Council scheduled to vote Monday on continuing cleanup for one site and putting cleanup on hold for another. The meeting is scheduled for Monday night at 7 and is open to the public.

    Albert Lea voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve the city borrowing up to $9.8 million to make improvements to the City Arena, Marion Ross Theater, Aquatic Center and Splash Pad. The city would pay off the bonds over 20 years. The cost to individual taxpayers would depend on their property values. For a home valued at $100,000, the additional cost would be $47.50 per year or less than $1 per week. Polls are open from 8:00 until 7:00.

    The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners will meet for a workshop on Tuesday where they will speak and hear from several members who represent the county. On the agenda the board will hear from the new Auditor-Treasurer Kelly Hendrickson, County Administrator Ryan Rasmusson, as well as the department of Probation and Pretrial Services and the department of Human Services. The meeting is scheduled to take place at 8:30 on Tuesday.

    Power 96 News Brief 4-5


    The Albert Lea Dance team has been selected to serve as the grand Marshall for the Albert Lea Third of July Parade. The theme for the parade will be “Dancing in the Streets: Celebrating Community Successes. The team was selected for many reasons including to recognize the team for making it to the state competition for the first time in the program's history. The team also represents the spirit and talent of local youth and has had exceptional dedication and hard work in their training and performances, serving as role models for other youth in the community.

    A Rochester man will serve time behind bars after he fired shots at police as they were trying to arrest him. David Collier was convicted of first-degree assault, use of deadly force against a peace officer after police responded to a call at a hotel on Wood Lake Drive SE after a report of people with guns on the property. Police reportedly tried to restrain Collier who then pulled out a gun and fired. Additional charges were dropped after a plea deal. He will serve 15 years in prison.

    A Lyle man has been sentenced after pleading guilty to taking part in the stabbing of two Mower County teenagers. Carsen Dolan pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree assault. Dolan and another teen were arrested in 2022 for stabbing two 16 year olds in Mower County. Police say there was an ongoing feud between Dolan the other teen and the 16 year olds. The two stabbed victims were sent to the hospital and have been released.

    The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners will meet for a workshop on Tuesday where they will speak and hear from several members who represent the county. On the agenda the board will hear from the new Auditor-Treasurer Kelly Hendrickson, County Administrator Ryan Rasmusson, as well as the department of Probation and Pretrial Services and the department of Human Services. The meeting is scheduled to take place at 8:30 on Tuesday.

    Power 96 News Brief 4-4


    A Freeborn County man has been sentenced after pleading guilty to child sex crimes. Jonathan David Wigham pleaded guilty to two charges of 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct with a 14-15-year-old girl. The Victim in the case says Wigham repeatedly sexually abused her. Wigham told police he was in love with her but denied the abuse. As part of the plea deal Wigham must register as sex offender and serve 180 days in prison among other conditions. He will be sentenced in August.

    The Austin man accused of killing his two year old daughter appeared in Mower County court for sentencing on Wednesday. Dariaz Higgins pleaded guilty to second degree murder of his daughter Noelani Robinson in 2019. Higgins admitted killing Noelani with blunt force trauma to the head, causing brain hemorrhages and dumping her body in a ditch in blooming prairie. Higgins was sentenced to 17 years in prison in addition to the life sentence for killing Noelanis mother in Wisconsin.

    Rochester Fire Crews responded to a fire at the Edenbrook of Rochester Nursing home early Thursday Morning. Crews arrived at the home at around 6 am and found the contents of a room on fire. crews reported smoke in the hallways while residents were evacuated.

    Crews located and put out a fire then ventilated the building before residents returned. The RFD captain said a few occupants were treated for smoke inhalation, but were not transported to a hospital. Damage was minimal and limited to one room. No injuries were sustained.

    Author and historian Jeff Sauve will present a historical murder mystery on Thursday, April 11, at noon in the City Council Chambers on the top floor of City Hall, 221 E. Clark St.Sauve will share the true story of the murder of a young woman in nineteenth-century Duluth at Minnesota Point. Attendees will discover the peculiar circumstances of this crime and how Sauve brought the story to light.The program is part of the Albert Lea Public Library"s Bring Your Own Lunch and Learn series. There is no fee or registration required.

    Power 96 News Brief 4-3


    Freeborn County has a new Auditor-Treasurer. During their meeting Tuesday the Board of Commissioners appointed Kelly Hendrickson to serve as the permanent Auditor-Treasurer after she served in the interim role since November. Hendrickson previously worked as the recorder and was filling in as interim Auditor-Treasurer after former Auditor-Treasurer Pat Martinson retired. She will continue to serve as the recorder in the interim until someone fills the role.

    An Austin man already serving a life sentence for murder will be in court today to plead guilty to murdering his two year old daughter. Dariaz Higgins will plead guilty to the murder of Noelani Robinson in 2019 and left her body in a ditch. Higgins was already given a life sentence for shooting the mother of his daughter, Sierra Robinson, from the Milwaukee District Court. Higgins was extradited back to Minnesota to plead guilty to the murder of Noelani in Austin.

    The Big Island Rendezvous now has a date. The event will take place at the Wedgewood Cove on Friday April 19th from 5 to 10pm. The event supports the 2024 Rendezvous Education Days, which historically offers a dynamic learning experience to over 2,700 students from various schools across southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. The evening will start at 5:00 and will also include auctions and dinner. Tickets start at $25 per person. You can RSVP at

    the Albert Lea Convention & Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce office.

    A crash early Wednesday morning in Goodhue County has resulted in an injury to an Olmsted County woman. The crash occurred at around 7:40 Wednesday when Sally Jane Skjeie lost control near mile marker 167, went into the ditch, and rolled her vehicle. She sustained what are described as non-life threatening injuries and was transported to St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester for treatment. Police say that road conditions at the time of the crash were snowy and icy.

    Power 96 News Brief 4-2


    Gun charges are sending an Albert Lea man to prison after taking a plea deal. Matthew John Peterson faces charges after selling more than 30 grams of meth to a Confidential informant twice in 2023 and illegally being in possession of a gun. The firearm was found in Peterson"s home when it was searched. Peterson has a felony conviction for threats of violence. Peterson pleaded guilty to one count of ineligible person in possession of a firearm in return for the drug charge being dismissed. He will serve five years behind bars.

    The Albert Lea City Council will be hosting its annual retreat at the Albert Lea fire house on Thursday. During the retreat the Council will tour the fire house prior to the start of official business. On the work agenda for the retreat is a presentation on the Blazing Star Landing, budget related business from city members, The city will also receive updates on three projects around the city including zoning, economic development and a workforce housing grant application which is due to be submitted in April.      

    During their meeting tonight the Freeborn County Board of commissioners will hear from several county departments including the County Administrator, Auditor-Treasurer, and the departments of Public Health, Human Services, and the Sheriff's office. The Board will also vote on a resolution to approve the sale of Tax forfeited parcels to the City of Albert Lea. The Board will also consider several resolutions to fill vacant positions on the board.

    Mankato Public Safety is looking for three individuals who are responsible for vandalizing a business. The individuals vandalized the doors at the Intergovernmental Center located at 10 Civic Center Plaza at around 1:00 am on march 29th. The suspects were caught on surveillance cameras and authorities would like to question them about the criminal damage to property. The estimated cost of the damage is estimated to be around $2500.00

    Power 96 News Brief 4-1


    The trial date for a Freeborn County man facing drug charges has been set. Juan Manuel Mendez was charged in February with first-degree drug possession after the South Central Drug Investigation Unit intercepted a package containing 1.365 pounds of cocaine in Mid February. The package was sent to Mendez"s address. After that delivery, law enforcement says it entered Mendez" home and found the unopened package hidden in a closet in Mendez" bedroom. Mendez will stand trial in early June.

    The City of Albert Lea will receive close to $190,000. The money is part of more than $2 million in land redevelopment funding announced Monday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The money will be used for public infrastructure improvements on the 3.66-acre site in the Blazing Star Landing redevelopment district. The site will now be redeveloped into a 9,100-square-foot convenience store that includes an associated car wash and filling pumps.

    The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners will meet Tuesday. During the meeting the Board will hear from several county departments including the County Administrator, Auditor-Treasurer, and the departments of Public Health, Human Services, and the Sheriff's office. The Board will also vote on a resolution to approve the sale of Tax forfeited parcels to the City of Albert Lea. The Board will also consider several resolutions to fill vacant positions on the board.

    The Minnesota Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday on a law that allows for convicted felons to vote. The court will hear oral arguments in a case challenging a relatively new state law that restored the right to vote to those convicted of a felony after they serve time behind bars. The law passed in early February 2023 after a previous Supreme Court ruling put the matter back in the Legislature"s hands.The Court will decide if the law will be struck down or if the law will remain in effect and allow an estimated 55,000 Minnesotans to vote.

    Power 96 News Brief 3-29


    Albert Lea area schools saw a small drop in graduation rates in 2023. According to the data, 201 students, or 75.6%, of the district"s schools graduated in four years during 2023. That is down from 78.1% in 2022. At Albert Lea High School, the rate increased from 86.6% in 2022 to 88.3% in 2023. The last time the rate was at that level was in 2019, when the school graduation rate was 88.6%. Statewide, the 2023 graduation rate was 83.3%, down from 83.6% in 2022.

    An Austin man has taken a plea deal in charges related to child sex crimes. Alexander Miller faced two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct after accusations that he sexually abused a child under the age of 14. According to Austin Police the abuse happened in March of 2023. Miller has now pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Miller"s sentencing is scheduled to take place in early June.

    A man already serving life in prison for murder appeared in front of a Mower County Court Thursday on charges of second degree murder of a two year old. Dariaz Higgins was transferred to Mower County Wednesday to appear on a charge of 2nd-degree murder–without intent, while committing a felony after allegedly killing his 2-year-old Noelani Robinson at the Rodeway Inn Motel in Austin. Higgins is serving life in prison for the murder of Sierra Robinson, the mother of Noelani. Higgins has pleaded not guilty to the charges and will appear in court again on April 3rd.

    If you're looking for something to do this weekend with the children for Easter the City of Albert Lea is hosting an Easter egg hunt at City Arena on Saturday. The event will run from 9 to 11 for children 11 and younger. The event will be divided up into age groups. Ages four and younger will be from 9-9:30, ages five to seven will be from 9:40 to 10:10 and ages eight to 11 will be from 10:20 to 10:50. If you attend you are asked to please arrive no later than 15 minutes for your time and to bring a bag or basket to carry the eggs.

    Power 96 News Brief 3-28


    The City of Albert Lea has changed the location of its Easter egg hunt scheduled for Saturday. The event will now take place at Albert Lea City Arena and is still scheduled from 9 to 11 am. The event will be split into age groups for those ages 11 and younger. The hunt for children ages four and younger will take place from 9-9:30, ages five to seven will be from 9:40 to 10:10 and ages 8-11 will be from 10:20 to 10:50. Attendees are asked to bring baskets or bags and arrive no more than 15 minutes before their time.   

    The Albert Lea Police Department and Freeborn County Sheriff"s Office say they will join the effort being coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety. State data says distracted driving in Minnesota has been to blame for 730 serious injuries and 148 deaths since 2019. Almost 30,000 crashes were distracted driving-related from 2019-2023, contributing to one in 11 crashes in the state.

    The Mower County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution requiring a county township to continue maintaining roads that have been at the heart of a back and forth between residents and the township. The development itself is located just east of Austin, branching off of 570th Avenue with 228th and 227th connecting up with 574th Avenue. There are 13 homes along 227th, but none along 228th with only one home off of 572nd Avenue

    A Mower County driver is now in the hospital after a collision in Goodhue County Thursday morning. Barbara Ann Medina-Tiller Adams was driving east on County Road 9 while Mark Thomas McNamara was heading north on Highway 56. According to the State Patrol they crashed in the intersection just after 7:30 Thursday. Both drivers and a passenger in Medina-Tiller"s vehicle, suffered what are described as life-threatening injuries and were taken to area hospitals.

    Power 96 News Brief 3-27


    An Albert Lea man already facing charges for murder is once again facing charges this time for criminal sexual conduct. Austin Navarro, who is facing charges related to the death of a two year old last July, was charged once again with one count of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct-nonconsensual sexual contact after approaching another male inmate and grabbing him below the waist and making several comments. He will appear in court July 23, and is scheduled to appear on the murder charges April 30.

    A Rochester man will now stand trial after pleading not guilty to charges related to child pornography. Ryan Thomas faces three counts of possession of pornographic work involving a minor under 14. Rochester police received multiple tips in July 2021 and February 2022 about possible child sex abuse videos being uploaded to a social media app. Police were able to trace the videos back to Thomas. Police searched his home and found more than 40 images and videos. The trial is set for early October.

    Making threats and leading police on a chase has resulted in felony charges against a Rochester man. Abdulahi Abukar faces several charges including first-degree burglary and robbery, second-degree assault, fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle and DWI after police were called to the 900 block of 4th Street SE at around 1:25p.m. Tuesday after Abukar had forced his way into a residence and yelling threats before he left. Police went to a place in the 400 block of 10th Avenue SW and arrested him.

    A Rochester man faces charges after being caught with a gun at around 2:00 Wednesday morning. Police responded to Kathy"s Pub after bar staff spotted a man with a gun in his waistband and followed the suspect Costin Tita before losing him during a chase where he allegedly dropped a BB gun. Police searched the area of the 700 block of 9th street SE before finding Tita hiding in a garage and eventually convinced him to exit the garage. The Rochester police chief is referring charges that include fleeing a peace officer, 2nd-degree DWI–refuses to test, and 2nd-degree burglary.   

    Power 96 News Brief 3-26


    During their meeting Monday the Albert Lea City Council approved the purchase of three properties located at 821 Jefferson Ave., 917 S. Broadway Ave. and 122 S. Ermina Ave. The City says that they will repair the Jefferson address and the other two are likely to be demolished. The City also voted 4-2 to move forward with the preparation of plans for the city"s downtown alley reconstruction project this summer. The $275,000 project includes alleys between Elizabeth and Newton avenues, and from Clark to College street.

    Albert Lea Recreation will be hosting an Easter Egg Hunt at Central Park, on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. for those ages 11 and under. The hunt will be divided into age groups. Ages 4 and younger will be from 9 - 9:30. Ages 5-7 will be at 9:40 -10:10 a.m. Ages 8-11 will be 10:20 - 10:50 a.m. Please bring baskets or bags for collecting eggs, and arrive no more than 15 minutes before your child"s age slot to avoid overcrowding. Eggs will be filled with sweet treats and prizes, including passes to the Albert Lea Aquatic Center. The Easter Bunny will make a special appearance as well.

    Glenville-Emmons Schools are on spring break earlier than anticipated. The district decided to close schools this week due to leaks caused by the winter weather this past weekend. The weather caused several leaks in the roof of the high school and with more weather expected this week they made the decision to start spring break early. Students are currently scheduled to return to the class room on April 2nd.

    A Rochester man will now spend time behind bars after pleading guilty to drug related crimes. Jerry Montanez-Figueroa, pleaded guilty to third degree drug possession after he was pulled over as a passenger in a car in 2020. Police searched the car and found 58.10 grams of methamphetamine, 43.01 grams of marijuana, two stolen license plates, a digital scale with white residue on it, two .40 caliber bullets, and four shotgun shells. The driver of the car has a warrant out for his arrest. Montanez-Figueroa will spend close to six years in prison.   

    Power 96 News Brief 3-25


    The Albert Lea City Council will continue a public hearing on repaving several downtown alleys. The $275,000 project includes alleys between Elizabeth and Newton avenues, and from Clark to College street.Also Monday, the council will vote on purchasing three properties with unpaid taxes for $1 each: 821 Jefferson Ave., 917 S. Broadway Ave. and 122 Ermina Ave. S. The city would like to purchase the properties to remedy their blighted conditions.

    A Rochester man was revived after a drug overdose early Monday. According to The Rochester Police Department an individual found a man unconscious under a bridge on 4th Street at around 3:15 am. Monday morning. Officers were called to the scene and gave the man two doses of Narcan. Police say the man, who is believed to be homeless, regained consciousness and was taken to St. Mary's Hospital to be checked out.

    The Albert Lea wastewater treatment plant was recognized for its "outstanding" operations by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency To receive this recognition, facilities must demonstrate consistent compliance with monitoring, operations, and maintenance requirements; submit accurate, on-time reports to the MPCA; and employ staff certified by the MPCA in wastewater operations. The wastewater treatment staff cleans up an average of 4 million gallons of wastewater a day before discharging it to the Shell Rock River.

    Two people are in the hospital after a crash in North Iowa. The Cerro Gordo County Sheriff's Office says Frederick Giles was driving south on Thrush Avenue around 8:30 am when he lost control in snow and ice near 290th Street and his vehicle rolled over, landed on its wheels and went into a ditch.The Sheriff's Office says Frederick Giles and a passenger, Ruby Giles, complained of minor pain and were taken to MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center to be examined.

    Power 96 News Brief 3-22


    The Freeborn County Historical Museum, Library and Village has announced today that the nonprofit received a three-month $10,000 challenge grant from anonymous donors. The grant will match dollar-for-dollar all donations from supporter"s March 1 through May 30. Donations can be made online, by calling the museum with your credit card, on Venmo, by USPS, or by stopping in the museum Wednesday and Friday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm or Thursday, 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.

    Winter road conditions have resulted in three children being injured after a vehicle rolled over on I-35 Friday morning. The crash occurred near milepost two at around midnight when a southbound vehicle collided with the median cable barrier and rolled into the left lane of northbound 35. The children ages 12, six, and less than a year old were taken to the Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea where their injuries have been deemed to be non life-threatening. The driver and the passenger were not injured.

    A crash in Freeborn County has resulted in a potentially fatal crash involving a North Iowa man. The crash occurred on I-90 near mile marker 154 in Manchester at around 8:10 Thursday night. The driver of a pick up truck collided with a Semite truck. The driver of the Semi truck Melisa Keiser was taken to the Mayo Clinic Health System Albert Lea for treatment of injuries deemed to be non life threatening. The condition and identity of the pick up truck driver is not currently known. Police say road conditions were snowy at the time of the crash.

    A Rochester man appeared in court on Thursday on charges related to child pornography. Graeme Campbell faces three counts of possession of child pornography–minor under 14 after a Rochester police detective received a Twitter data tip allegedly pointing to Campbell. A search of multiple cell phones resulted in police finding over 150 pieces of child pornography involving children. Campbell told police he had received the material from facebook and other sites. Campbell will next be in court in late April.    

    Power 96 News Brief 3-21


    A Garage in Rochester has been destroyed after catching fire on Wednesday night. Fire Crews were called to 208 9 ½ Street SE at around midnight. They arrived to find a single-stall detached garage being consumed by flames. Efforts to extinguish the fire began immediately. No one was injured as a result of the fire, but the garage and its contents are considered a total loss. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

    US Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar are working on several Southern Minnesota projects through a recent government funding bill. This includes improvements in Rochester and Albert Lea. These projects are from the Congressional Designated funding. In Rochester $1.2 million is going towards a roundabout on 4th street and road bridges over highway 14. In Albert Lea $1 million will go towards improvements to a wastewater treatment facility to replace septic tanks deemed as a great public health risk to the community.

    Winter weather is on the way and Freeborn County and some surrounding counties are under alert. The warning will go into effect for Rice, Goodhue, Steele and Freeborn Counties starting at Thursday night at 10pm and will be in effect until 10 am Friday morning. Snow totals are estimated to be anywhere from two to four inches. Mower County is also under alert as well and is expected to see anywhere from two to four inches of snow.

    The Minnesota Fire Marshall is investigating a fire that damaged a Motel in Mower County. The Austin Fire Department was dispatched to a call for smoke in a room at the Sterling Motel at around 2:40 p.m. Wednesday. Firefighters arrived and smoke was seen coming from a room. The fire was extinguished and the room was ventilated along with adjacent rooms that were smoke filled. The Austin Fire Chief says he believes that smoking caused the fire. Estimated total damages from the fire are $28,000. $20,000 to the structure and $8,000 to the contents.

    Power 96 News Brief 3-20


    Rochester fire crews responded to an apartment fire early Wednesday morning. The Rochester Fire Department responded to what it is calling a major fire at the Meadow Park Apartments. The fire took place on the third floor of the building, and the Rochester Fire Department says they"ve extinguished the flames. The RFD also says that, as of now, there are no significant injuries, but did say that a number of occupants will be displaced as a result of the blaze.

    The Austin City Council on Monday, moved out of the work session a plan to pay for a 10-unit T-hangar at the Austin Municipal Airport that would make use of entitlement funding alongside other avenues of funding. The city is currently receiving bids on the hangar and the City Engineer said he would be bringing those bids to council in April. The project itself is estimated to cost just over $2.4 million dollars, with funding for the project breaking down to 5% local, 5% state and 90% federal. The largest chunk would come through funding from federal sources at around $2.2 million.

    A collision in Mower County resulted in a woman being sent to the hospital. The collision occurred just after 10:30 on Tuesday morning when a 2017 Chevy Silverado driven by Lawrence Roger Conrad was eastbound and a 2021 Dodge Durango driven by Tammy Maxine Hovey, 36 was heading north when they crashed at the intersection of Highway 63 and Main Street East in Racine. Hovey sustained injuries deemed to be non life threatening. Conrad was not injured.

    SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa members who work at Mayo Hospital - Rochester Methodist Campus has ratified their wage opener bargaining agreement, with ballots counted Tuesday evening showing 95% of those voting cast ballots in support of the deal.The agreement immediately goes into effect, retroactive to February 1. The agreement comes after an informational picket where hundreds of workers and community supporters spoke out in support of a wage increase for workers.


    Power 96 News Brief 3-19


    The Albert Lea Police Department reports that the local crime rate continues to decline with a decrease of 2 percent from 2022 to 2023, The overall rate decreased despite the reports of more serious crimes increasing by 11 percent. More serious crimes include larceny-theft, burglary, motor vehicle theft and aggravated assault. That increase was offset by an 8 percent decrease in less serious types of crime such as vandalism, simple assaults, driving under the influence and fraud. Larceny-theft was the most reported crime with 289 actual offenses in 2023, followed by vandalism with 146 actual offenses.

    An Austin man will now be sentenced after child sex crimes. James Ray Watkins was charged in September 2023 with second-degree criminal sexual conduct and distributing material related to sexual conduct to a child. Watkins initially pleaded not guilty and his trial was set to begin Monday, but he decided to plead guilty to one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Watkins is now scheduled to be sentenced on June 6 in Mower County District Court.

    A crash in Rochester Monday night has resulted in one person being sent to the hospital. The crash occurred around 10:15 pm at the intersection of 12th Street SE and Marion Road SE. Officers say a westbound Mitsubishi Galant turned left to go south on Marion Road and crashed with an eastbound Ford Taurus. The Galant had a driver and two passengers. One of the passengers suffered life threatening injuries. The incident is still under investigation.

    A Rochester teen has been sentenced after pleading guilty to charges for his role in gun fire near a bowling alley. Lebron Giwa pleaded guilty to second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. Giwa and another teen were both arrested for gunfire in the 2800 block of Northern Valley Drive near Bowlocity. Police say six people had been shot earlier that day. Police found bullet holes and shell casings at the scene. Giwa has been ordered to spend five years on supervised probation and perform 100 hours of community work service. He must also serve prison time.


    Power 96 News Brief 3-18


    The Albert Lea School Board will meet Monday night. The board will hear from several members of the board including the Superintendent, teachers, and members of the student board. The board will also approve appointments to various positions in the school district, as well as requests for leaves of absence and resignations from members of the school system. The system will also set the requirements for students to graduate.

    Smuggling drugs into the state will send two men to a decade in prison. Savontray Orlando Dwayne Collins and his cousin Cortez Ananias Williams have now both been sentenced to prison for possession of fentanyl and cocaine with intent to distribute. The sentence comes after the two men were caught smuggling drugs from California multiple times each trip would result in the duo bringing anywhere from 50 to 100,000 fentanyl pills into the state. Both men pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and cocaine.

    A Rochester man was arrested over the weekend after he assaulted a man at a bar. Xavier Abreu-Vasquez has been booked into the Olmsted County Adult Detention Center for third-degree assault after police were called to Los Jarritos Café on 17th Avenue NW around 1:00 Sunday morning. Investigators say a man was punched in the face, fell to the ground where the assault continued. The man was taken to St Marys with severe injuries that were deemed to be non life threatening. The investigation in the case is ongoing.

    The Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner"s Office has now identified a body that was found on Friday. The woman was identified as Alice Dobmeier from Rochester. The Rochester Police department says the medical exam determined that there was no sign of trauma to the body. Rochester police investigated and say there is also no sign of foul play being responsible for Dobmeier"s death. Dobmeier was last seen on March 3rd leaving her home and reported missing on March 6th.   



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