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Jury selection for the trial of a Cottage Grove man accused of murdering his wife began today. A grand jury indicted Stephen Allwine, 44, in March of first-degree premeditated murder, a charge that carries a mandatory life sentence if convicted. Allwine was initially charged with second-degree intentional murder charge filed in November 2017 for the death of his wife, Amy, in their south Cottage Grove home. Prosecutors allege Allwine killed her and attempted to stage her death as a suicide after a murder-by-hire plot failed.
Farmington police are asking the public for help identifying two suspects in an armed gas station robbery earlier this week. The robbery happened around 3 a.m. on Jan. 9 at the Elm Street Kwik Trip in Farmington, according to police. Security footage from the store shows two people entering the store in hooded sweatshirts and face coverings. Authorities said the suspects displayed a handgun and left the store on foot traveling north. Police are also asking for the public's help identifying the logo on a red sweatshirt one of the suspects wore.
Tracy Reitman has listened to coyote calls just about every night for more than a decade. She grew accustomed to the sounds of wildlife, including the nightly coyote chorus, after moving to her home on the Pine Glen development 14 years ago. The proximity to nature is one of the features that drew her to Cottage Grove.
For the second year in a row, Belwin Conservancy in Afton invited the community to huddle up around a roaring bonfire marking the longest night of the year. The blaze ignited around noon on Dec. 21 as facilities specialist Eric Palman loaded on logs from fallen trees with a skid steer. "It's to get a nice bed of coals going," Palman said of the seven-hour process. "If I just throw all this stuff on a new fire, it may just go out." Hours after sundown, the stack towered over visitors' heads as embers shot into the sky to celebrate Winter Solstice.
The Afton City Council approved a 4.5 percent tax levy increase last week as part of the 2018 budget. The $2,133,786 total tax levy, which includes debt service as well as general fund and transfer levies, represents a $91,886 increase over the 2017 levy. Residents whose property values at $500,000 will pay about $80 more to the city's portion of property taxes for a total of $1,694. Commercial property of the same value will see a $127 increase to about $3,114 in city property taxes.
For many Japanese Americans, the trauma of World War II internment camps lingered long after their release. In her newest novel, "On Liberty's Wings: A Post-WWII Novel," Afton author Diane Dettmann chronicles Yasu Nakahara's journey to rebuild her life after her family's release from a camp in California. By 1948, Yasu has moved to Minneapolis. Although the 22-year-old newlywed found her calling as a teacher, Yasu still struggles with post-war prejudice and residual flashbacks to prison camps surrounded by barbed wire.
A new citizens' group in Washington County aims to help community members take action against sex trafficking operations in the East Metro. After nearly half a year of development, the Washington County Citizens Against Sex Trafficking will host its first public event at the end of January. Their mission, CAST President John Larson said, is to promote awareness of the issue, is to spread awareness of the issue, cultivate an improved network of resources and serve as an entry point for community members to get involved.
A woman told police she feared for her life as a Woodbury man allegedly forced her head underwater and sexually assaulted her at hotel on Christmas Eve. Erik Lee Feagler, 36, now faces a felony charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. The woman described a violent encounter after the two met at a Woodbury bar Dec. 24 and agreed to meet at a room in a nearby hotel.
Will Hunn hadn't thought much about Woodbury crime since moving her nearly 20 years ago. In the past few months, however, he said crimes like burglaries and mail theft prompted more of his neighbors to install surveillance cameras while others opt to work from home. "Woodbury's a great place, but it's disconcerting when you have lifetime residents getting security systems," he said. And the crimes, Hunn said, seem to have escalated. Woodbury Public Safety recovered six vehicles stolen during a three-week period this fall.
Middle school can be a tough time to navigate changing friendships. Tim Hofmann, principal at Cottage Grove Middle School, said most disciplinary problems his office has dealt with in recent years stem from conflicts between friends. "We started pulling data about when we're seeing students, what we're seeing with counselors and social workers," Hofmann said. "It was off the charts for the last couple years that the issues females were having in our building were relational issues about friendships."