30July 2021

Bond at $1 million in quarry executions

LACROSSE, Wis. – Bond was set at $1 million for each of two men accused in the backwoods quarry killing of three men last week. Pending the posting  of their bonds, Nya Thao and Khamthaneth Rattanasack were ordered held until a further court appearance August 13. Thao and Rattanasack were at the bond hearing with their attorneys. Rattanasack’s attorney, Bernardo Cueto, said his client reserved a bond argument until a later date. The attorney for Thao, Christopher Zachar, argued for a low bond given that his client is indigent.  Prosecutor Mitch Philbin called the state’s case “very strong” and the charges “very serious.” He asked for the $1 million bond, which Judge Judge Scott Horne approved.

Earlier: Remember when: LaCrosse triple homicides

30July 2021

Remember when: LaCrosse triple homicides

LACROSSE, Wis. –After the execution-style murder of three men last week at a quarry north of LaCrosse, any police officers were scratching their heads about when such a crime happened last. The answer:

> September 1992. the bodies of Suzzette Frydenlund, 29; her mother, Celia Weibel, 55; and her stepfather, Leroy Weibel, were found in their  mobile home  between La Crosse and Coon Valley. Frydenlund’s two children, in the mobile home at the time, were unharmed. Suzzette’s husband, James, 34, of Minneapolis was acquitted after a trial.

> February 1985. Bryan Stanley, 29, shot and killed the Reverend John Rossiter, lay minister Ferdinand Roth and parish custodian William Hammes at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Onalaska. When police picked Stanley up near the crime scene, he told them that he was Elijah. Stanley allegedly was upset that Rossiter allowed girls to read the Scriptures during Mass. Stanley ultimately was judged insane and not legally responsible for the slayings.

Earlier: Eyewitness details horror at quarry executions

29July 2021

Roadway debris flips motorcycle; injuries serious

WILSON, Min. – Two people on a motorcycle were injured when they ran into debris on Interstate 90 and crashed. Graham K. Brooks, 38, of Center, Ohio, and Brooks and Shannon Brooks, 40, also of Center, Ohio, were taken to the Winona hospital, then airlifted to a Level 1 trauma center in LaCrosse. The accident was about 9 p.m. between the Highway 43 ramps to Winona and Rushford. They were eastbound on a 2017 Harley-Davidson.

29July 2021

Eyewitness details horror at quarry executions

LACROSSE, Wis. – It was a horrific scene that could have from a mob movie. On a dark night at a quarry up a crooked remote road, three men were forced out of a car, told to kneel, and were shot at least 10 times. The detailed account was from an eyewitness who presented herself to police investigators, said Sheriff Jeff Wolf. The sheriff said the first-person account was a big break in the case, which led to two arrests a week later in the Wausau area. The witness was in one of two cars at the quarry, Wolf said.  The woman has been given police protection in a secure location, Wolf said.

This is the chronology that Wolf and his team pieced together of what happened:

Wolf: 10 cartridge shells recovered at murder scene.

The picture now: What happened

.> Peng Lor, Trevor Maloney and Nemo Yang were staying in a hotel room in the LaCrosse suburb of Onalaska.

> Elsewhere, a woman joined Nya Thao and Khamthaneth Rattanasack. They drove in separate cars to another hotel. She went in to to drop off some items. When she came back out, Thao was in her vehicle. Rattanasack was behind the wheel of a Mercedes. He was showing a handgun.

> Thau and Rattansack told her tto follow the Mercedes in her vehicle. She complied.

> The vehicles ended up at the quarry 10 miles away up Jostad Coulee.

> Everyone got out of the vehicles. Rattanasack ordered the three victims to kneel on the ground. They did. Rattanasack gave his gun to Thao, who then shot the men multiple times.

> The men got back in the Mercedes and left. The woman drove off in her own car.

> Using t he witness’s account, as well tracking one  of the victims’ cell phones, which was taken by Rattnasank and Thao, investigators tracked them  to the Wausau area. The oair were arrested separately Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

One of the people interviewed by investigators said that the shooting happened because Rattanasack believed that Yang or Lor may have stolen some credit cards totaling around $600.

29July 2021

Official: It’s Sunisa Lee Day in Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Friday was declared Sunisa Lee Day in Minnesota to honor St. Paul gymnast for her gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. The 18-year-old Lee is the first Hmong-American to compete in the Olympics. In making the declaration, Governor Tim Walz said: “Suni Lee, Minnesota’s own, has made our state and country proud by etching her name among the legendary USA Olympians.” Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan addressed her comments to Lee: “That roar you hear coming from Minnesota is all of the love and excitement we’re sending to you in Tokyo.  The story of your victory will be told to generations of Minnesotans as you exemplify the very best of who we are.”

Earlier: Minnesota gymnast scores gold at Tokyo games

Lee. Born in St. Paul of Laotian immigrant heritage.

29July 2021

Role of Asian gangs in quarry executions?

LACROSSE, Wis. – Two men, each with a police record, were booked for murder after being arrested separately overnight in central Wisconsin. Charges against Kham Rattanasack, 41, and Nya Thao, 33, include three counts of first-degree intentional homicide each. Each count carries a life sentence. They also face one count of possession of a firearm in committing a crime. Sheriff Jeff Wolf said that Rattanasack and Thao were at the Romskog Quarry early July 23 when three other men were shot and killed. Wolf said the shootings were over stolen credit card on which $600 had been rung up.

Earlier: Cuffed, shackled: Murder suspects back to LaCrosse

29July 2021

Cuffed, shackled: Murder suspects back in LaCrosse

LACROSSE, Wis. – Two men, each with a police record, were booked for murder after being arrested separately overnight in central Wisconsin. Charges against Kham Rattanasack, 41, and Nya Thao, 33, include three counts of first-degree intentional homicide each. Each count carries a life sentence. They also face one count of possession of a firearm in committing a crime. Sheriff Jeff Wolf said that Rattanasack and Thao were at the Romskog Quarry early July 23 when three other men were shot and killed. Wolf said the shootings were over stolen credit card on which $600 had been rung up.

Earlier: Second suspect arrested for quarry murders

29July 2021

Not vaccinated yet? How about $100?

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The state will offer a $100 gift card to anyone 12 and older who gets a first Covid shot by August 15, Governor Tim Walz announced. The gift cards are the latest attempt to make up for the state’s failure to reach a 70% vaccination threshold by the Fourth of July. The project is funded from unspent federal Covid relief moneys. President Biden has encouraged such incentives nationwide.

29July 2021

Minnesota gymnast scores gold at Tokyo games

TOKYO — The 18-year-old artistic gymnast Sunisa Lee of St. Paul, Minnesota, won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics with the title of her event’s all-around best athlete for Team USA. Lee scored a total of 57.433 — ahead of Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade and the Russian Olympic Committee’s Angelina Melnikova. On the bench  was Team USA’s favored gymnast, Simone Biles, who encouraged Lee on. Biles had withdrawn for mental health issues two days earlier. Lee’s triumph followed a spate of injuries last year, including a broken bone in a foot and an Achilles tendon injury. Her family, at a watch party in St. Paul with 300 friends, were glued to video for every event.

Her path to gold. Lee started the evening with a 14.600 score on vault before moving into the medal positions with 15.300 on uneven bars. Her 13.833 on balance beam handed her the lead.

29July 2021

Ashley honors Kierlin-Burrichter arts role

ARCADIA, Wis. – Winona arts aficionados Mary Burrichter and Bob Kierlin and will be recognized with a Patron of the Arts award at the Ashley for the Arts festival. The couple is known mostly for the world-class Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona. Their collection, on loan to the museum, includes the 1851 oil painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze, Burrichter has served on several non-profit boards and currently on the Minnesota Beethoven Festival board. The award will be presented August 13 on the Ashley main  outdoor stage in Arcadia, immediately ahead of the evening’s performance by Nashville singer-songwriter Kip Moore.

Burrichter and Kierlin. The engraved announcement.

Burrichter profile

Burrichter, former Winona city finance director, has served  various non-profit boards. Currently she’s on the board of Minnesota Beethoven Festival, held annually in Winona. This classical music event has featured musicians such as violist Joshua Bell, flutist Sir James Galway and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. How did the Minnesota Museum Marine Art Museum come to be?  “We had a house with a large, white wall. We purchased a marine painting for that space and we were hooked. We have loved the hunt and discovery of fine art ever since.” Every painting at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum  has an element of water that ties back to the  the museum’s theme.

Kierlin profile

Kierlin, a Winona natve, attended Winona Cotter High School and graduated from the University of Minnesota. He and four friends founded the Fastenal Company in Winona, an organization they built from a small-town fastener retailer into a multibillion-dollar global business. Kierlin also served as a Minnesota state senator from 1999 to 2006. He has served on the board of multiple businesses and numerous community and educational boards and organizations.

Ashley for the Arts

Ashley for the arts is a non-profit initiative that sponsors the annual family-oriented entertainment and arts festival at Ashley Furniture’s hometown of Arcadia, Wisconsin.  The festival is one of Wisconsin’s largest charity events. Donations exceeded $590,000 in 2019 for more than 60re than schools, children’s charities, and medical research. Admission: A family-oriented $30.

29July 2021

Second suspect arrested for quarry murders

WAUSAU, Wis. – Police closed in a Wausau house and arrested a second suspect in a triple-homicide  at a quarry near LaCrosse early Friday. The arrest of of Nya Thao, 33, about 1:45 a.m. followed the arrest of the second man accused in the murders by five hours. The other man, Kham Rattanasack, was taken 30 miles way near Amherst. Members of the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Office were on hand for Thao’s arrest. So were members of the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshal’s Service, Marathon County Sheriff’s Office, and Wausau Police Department.

Earlier: Cops catch one suspect in quarry murders

29July 2021

Future: Remote-control crop-dusting

Agri-drones. Not as exciting as watching dare-devilish monoplane, biplane and chopper sweeps but, say promoters, cheaper in the long run and safer.

Elgin family flies drones, sells them too

ELGIN, Minn. – A fourth-generation Elgin farm family has seen the future: Crop-dusting with drones. They have established a dealership for $45,000 Hughes Systique drones that can sweep fields with fertilizers and fungicides and pay for themselves in two years. The Elgin family group — the Hart sisters Bekah, Sarah and Rachel, along with Rachel’s husband Joe – does business as ABC Drones. Their favorite model is 6 feet by 6 feet and carries 5.6 gallons of liquid for programmed swaths that each last about 15 minutes. It’s safe and cheaper than hiring a pilot with a traditional plane or helicopter, said Sarah. In fact, two weeks ago near Elgin a helicopter crashed while dusting. The pilot died. Sarah said farmers who once hired a pilot crop-duster once or twice a can save money and do it better. “With drones, we can spray multiple times a year, she said. “We can spray at different times.” Hughes Systique is based in Maryland. The drones are manufactured in India.

Earlier: Witness: Copter fuel tanks had to be full

28July 2021

Cops catch one suspect in quarry murders

AMHERST, Wis. – One of two men sought for three execution-style murders at a quarry near LaCrosse was captured after a chase. Khamthanet Rattanasack, 41, was taken into custody about 8:30 p.m. Portage County sheriff’s officers said they were tipped that Rattanasack was in a rural house. Deputies gave this account: They were approaching the house when a vehicle left. They pulled the vehicle over.  Rattanasack fled. He was arrested after a short foot chase. The Town of Amherst is about 30 miles west of Wausau, where Rattanasack was known to have connections. Amherst is about 120 miles from the quarry where the murders occurred early Friday. Meanwhile a second man wanted in the murders, Nya Thao, 33, remained at large.

Earlier: Two triple-homicide warrants issued

28July 2021

GOP leader: Walz will pay for clean-car rules

EAST GULL LAKE, Minn. – Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka predicted that Democratic Governor Tim Walz will suffer politically for the new state clean-a car rules. The rules, Gazelka said, will be a 2022 a campaign issue. He called the rules “another example of Walz’ one-man rule.” It was a yet another Gazelka swipe at Walz’ use of his emergency powers as governor to manage the Covid pandemic. “I’m not surprised Governor Walz continues to issue mandates after the last 18 months,” Gazelka said. “His emergency powers may be over but his ego trip is not, and it looks like ‘One Minnesota’ is just ‘Walz’s Minnesota.’

Earlier: Walz celebrates new state clean-car rules

Gazelka. State senator from East Gull Lake in north-central Minnesota since 2011. Senate majority leader since 2017.

28July 2021

Wisconsin GOP leader stepping down

APPLETON, Wis. – The chair of the Wisconsin Republican Party, the well-connected Andrew Hitt, will leave before the 2022 elections.  Hitt, an Appleton attorney, said he wants to spend more time with his family and law and lobbyist career. His resignation is effective in September, when the party will be meeting and can choose a successor, he said. Hitt has chaired the party April 2019.

Hitt. Firm Trump advocate. Led initiatives for 2020 election recounts. Also on his watch: Numerous recall initiatives.

28July 2021

Mayo listed again as top U.S. hospital

ROCHESTER, Minn. – For the sixth year the Mayo Clinic in Rochester has topped the U.S. News & World Report ranking as the best hospital in the nation – and the 12th year as the best in Minnesota. The ranking assessed 15 specialties and 17 procedures and conditions. Overall the evaluation covered 5,000 hospitals. Other leaders:

> Cleveland Clinic.

> UCLA Medical Center

> Johns Hopkins.

> Massachusetts General.

> Mayo Clinic-Phoenix.

The Mayo evaluation includes data from Mayo Clinic Hospital-Methodist Campus, Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys Campus and Mayo Eugenio Litta Children’s Hospital.

28July 2021

Navigation channel being dredged near Dresbach

DRESBACH, Minn. – The Army Corps of Engineers has began moving 50,000 cubic yards of river-bottom muck in Pool 7 behind the Dresbach dam on the Mississippi River to a site near Trempealeau. The Corps asked boaters to be cautious near the worksite. A contractor, Legacy Corporation of East Moline, Illinois, is using barges to haul the dredged material. Barges will be making the 10-mile trip through August, the Corps said.

27July 2021

Senator at bat to keep Caledonia jobs

WASHINGTON – Senator Tina Smith, D-Minn. appealed to the Major League Baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, to keep a Caledonia softball bat factory open in Caledonia – rather than moving the operation to China. Smith made the same appeal to Peter Siedler, the owner of the San Diego Padres baseball club. His Siedler Equity Partnersers  jointly own the Caledonia factory with MLB. The factory employs 85 people in manufacturing world-class Miken composite-five softball bats. The plant is central to Caledonia’s economy. Smith expressed outrage at the imminent China move. The move, she said, flies in the face of MLB’s status as an iconic American sports league.” Instead, she said, there needs to be long-term investments in the Caledonia plant. Smith noted that Major League teams, including the Padres, have benefited from billions in taxpayer stadium subsidies, and that MLB has long benefitted from an exemption from federal anti-trust law and from relaxed overtime rules. In exchange for these taxpayer-funded benefits and special exemptions, Smith said that Americans should be able to count on MLB not to offshore jobs to China.

Earlier: Solons stymied in call to save Caledonia factory

Earlier: Up in air: Future of Caledonia softball bat plant

Smith. Tries shaming Major League Baseball on plan to move Minnesota to China.

Miken. The brand-name softball bats are key in the economy of Caledonia, population 2,700, in Houston County.

27July 2021

County Board split on morality of public housing

WINONA, Minn. – The County Board voted 3-2 for administrative subsidies for the agency that administers low-income housing. Final approval will come at a future meeting. At issue was $120,500 in tax-levy support for the Southeastern Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. The budget had been at $100,000 for eight years. Predictably the negative votes were from Steve Jacob and Marcia Ward. In favor: Greg Olson, Chris Meyer, and Marie Kovecsi. Jacob said that the budget, although inflation adjusted and despite new agency efficiencies, was unreasonable for taxpayers. Ward objected o the budget as a recurring expense that wouldn’t be subject to regular Board review. There were heated words on the morality, or lack thereof, of tax-supported housing for elderly, disabled and low-income people. The issue for Jacob was whether taxpayers should bear the costs of public assistance: “My morality, my compassion lies with the people we’re going to have to take the money from.”

27July 2021

Arrest warrants issued in three quarry murders

LACROSSE, Wis. – A police dragnet has gone out for two men in a triple homicide over the weekend at a remote quarry north of LaCrosse. Sheriff Jeff Wolf identified the suspects as:

> Khamthanet Rattanasack, 41, whose last known address was Wausau and who is known variously as Kham, Black and Blacky.

> Nya Thao, 33, whose last known address was Holmen and who is known as Kush.

Both men are believed armed, the sheriff said. Both have police records. Involved in the crime, he said,  was a 2005 Mercedes-Benz S sedan. The vehicle has been found abandoned 200 miles away east of Green Bay. At least one handgun was used in the homicides, the sheriff said.

Earlier: Triple homicide victims all with LaCrosse links

Rattanasack. A.K.A. Kham. Black, Blacky.

Thao. A.K.A. Kush.

Murder at quarry gate. Bodies found at dawn Friday. Had been shot sometime after 2 a.m. Image: Steve Lunde

27July 2021

Boy’s family sues mall for trauma, medical costs

MINNEAPOLIS – The family of a boy who was flung off a third-floor balcony at Mall of America in 2019 has sued the mall for medical bills of $1.75 million-plus. The boy, 5 at the time, suffered injuries, some permanent, to his brain, face, arms, legs and internally, the family’s attorney said. The family claims the mall was negligent in protecting shoppers by knowing that Emmanuel Aranda was a danger. The issue is whether the mall should have barred Aranda as a risk. Aranda has pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder. Aranda frequented the mall and was known to security personnel, the family says.  On the day of the incident, Aranda said, he was intent to kill someone. The boy’s mother, who witnessed the incident described Aranda as acting like a zombie.

Mall of America. Family claims the mall should have barred the madman pre-emptively from endangering shoppers and others.

27July 2021

Eyota catalytic converter thief sentenced

ROCHESTER, Minn. – A man caught stealing catalytic converters from an Eyota truck dealership was ordered to pay $9,000 restitution. Keith Wilcox, 60, of Rochester, was also ordered to jail for six months if he ever does it again. He will be on probation five years. Wilcox pleaded guilty to three felony charges for the theft of vehicle emission control devices from Dahl Trucks in Eyota in May. In all Wilcox had 18 converters in his pickup cab, some of which investigators suspected were stripped from RVs at a storage business in Rochester.

Wilcox. Arrested in May at Kwik Trip near Dahl Trucks.

27July 2021

Township clerk to prison for embezzling $650,000

MINNEAPOLIS – A township clerk who embezzled $650,000 was sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to repay the money. Maryann Stoffel, 70, of Hastings, had pleaded guilty to the thefts from Vermillion Township over eight years. She forged the township chair’s signature on checks payable to the township.

Stoppel. One forgery at a time added up, averaging $80,000 a year.

27July 2021

Mayo to employees: Vaccinate or mask

ROCHESTER, Minn. – Mayo Clinic is tightening Covid vaccination requirements for employees. All must be fully vaccinated by mid-September, said Gianrico Farrugia, the clinic’s president. Employees who decline will be required to mask and maintain social distancing,

27July 2021

Biker loses control on backroad, overturns

ARCADIA, Wis. — A 24-year-old man was airlifted 60 miles to a Rochester hospital after his motorcycle crashed on a backroad nine miles north and west of Arcadia. Sheriff Brett Semingson did not release the man’s name immediately. The injuries were described as serious. The biker was eastbound on Hickory Valley Road near Lewis Valley Road. The bike left the roadway and overturned in a driveway. The man was not wearing a helmet or protective apparel, deputies said.


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