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- 4 years 9 months
It's been five years since Renita Syas was booked into the St. Louis County Jail. She spent three weeks and a day in custody — a stay that doesn't exactly stand out in the daily churn of the county lock-up — but it was enough for the Duluth woman to decide she was never coming back. "I just got really sick of it," said Syas. "I decided I didn't want to do this anymore. I didn't want to go spend another 22 days in jail. That was scary enough for me. I knew I didn't want to live my life like that any more."
Northeastern Minnesota Chief Public Defender Dan Lew sees common threads in the pretrial incarceration population at the St. Louis County Jail. "The poor stay in jail, leaving aside public safety," he said. "Poverty and a bail system that doesn't consider ability to pay is the main contributor." As many jurisdictions nationwide begin to re-examine bail practices and, in some cases, implement sweeping reforms, Lew is keeping a close eye on trends and advocating for action locally. Far too many defendants face steep dollar figures they could never possibly meet, he said.
When St. Louis County opened its new jail in 1995, it was touted as a much-needed replacement for an antiquated, 1920s-era facility in downtown Duluth. The Haines Road complex was state-of-the-art and built for the future, capable of holding nearly 200 inmates at a time when the county was housing an average of about 100 people on any given day. But its population kept growing.
BRAINERD — Noah Anthony Charles King was only 18 when he carried a wrench during what was expected to be a relatively easy theft of drugs and cash from William Grahek’s home on Feb. 14, 2017. Regardless of his intent that day, King was legally responsible for aiding and abetting Grahek’s intentional murder. And, for that, he may never leave prison.
The Superior Police Department on Wednesday released body camera videos showing the lead-up to the shooting of a suspect in October. The clips show the minutes before three officers shot 19-year-old Joshua Michael Farmer, who was suspected of stealing an alcoholic beverage from a Belknap Street business. The clips cut off immediately before the officers opened fire; the complete videos and full investigative file have yet to be released.
Three Superior police officers were legally cleared while the man they shot and injured was charged with five crimes. Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright said Tuesday that officers were justified in using deadly force against 19-year-old Joshua Michael Farmer after he threatened to kill them, ignored their commands and produced a wrench that he claimed was a gun on Oct. 5 in the city’s Central Park neighborhood.
Ahead of a sentencing date that could result in a lengthy prison sentence, a former Duluth teacher apologized for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old former student and sought leniency. Karla Jean Winterfeld, 34, pleaded guilty in October to a felony charge of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Facing a presumptive prison sentence, she did so without the benefit of a plea agreement. Winterfeld's sentencing was to occur Tuesday but was postponed to Dec. 18. In anticipation of the hearing, she submitted a letter of apology addressed "to the courts and Duluth community."
The Hills Youth and Family Services in Duluth has been sued over the alleged sexual abuse several boys in its care. An eight-count complaint was filed this week in State District Court in Duluth by a father on behalf of his 14-year-old son, who reportedly was victimized. The civil action names both the Hills and the alleged perpetrator, Mark David Painter, as defendants.
Authorities have released the identities of the officer and man involved in a fatal shooting Tuesday night in Virginia. The officer has been identified as Nick Grivna, who has been with the Virginia Police Department for nearly five years. The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office identified the dead man as J Scot Alan Widmark, 41, of Virginia. Widmark died of a gunshot wound.
Three area attorneys are finalists for a seat on the Carlton County bench. Kevin Cornwell, Terri Port Wright and Rebekka Stumme earned recommendations from the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Selection. The 6th Judicial District seat is open due to the pending retirement of Duluth Judge Mark Munger. He will be replaced at the St. Louis County Courthouse by Judge Leslie Beiers, who will transfer from Carlton County. Munger's retirement date isn't until Jan. 11, so the appointment of his successor will lie with Gov.-elect Tim Walz, who takes office Jan. 7.