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VIDEO – Procession for Howard Lake Fire Chief Taddy Drusch

HOWARD LAKE – The City of Howard Lake Fire & Rescue/Ambulance Chief Daryl (“Taddy”) Drusch died in the early morning hours of January 13 at his residence from a suspected heart attack. Drusch had responded to an emergency call 12 hours prior.

A fire service procession started at 2 p.m. today, and  transported Drusch from the medical examiner in Minneapolis to Cokato; fire departments along the route will participated. Final arrangements and memorials will be shared as they are made available.

Video by Dan Birkholz.

While the family isn’t available to speak with the media at this time, Chris Parsons, president of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters, can be reached at 651-545-8100 and may be available for an in-person interview in the Twin Cities. Jay Wood, president of the Minnesota Fire Service Foundation, can be reached at 651-755-5037.

Howard Lake Fire Chief Daryl Taddy Drusch(1)


Mayer council to approve city fee schedule

MAYER, MN – The Mayer City Council will consider approval of the city’s 2020 fee schedule during its Monday, Jan. 13 meeting. Other items on the agenda include annual appointments, staff wage increases, a pay equity report, and purchase of equipment for the public works department. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

Winsted man arrested in connection with threats to New Century Academy

HUTCHINSON, MN – Hutchinson Police arrested 21-year-old Christopher Woodrow Hecksel of Winsted Thursday, Jan. 9, at approximately 1 a.m., in connection with threats of violence made against New Century Academy (NCA) in Hutchinson Wednesday, according to a release from the Hutchinson Police Department.

NCA, as well as West Elementary, Hutchinson Middle School, Hutchinson High School, Hutchinson ECFE and St. Anastasia Catholic School all went into lockdown as a precautionary measure when NCA received a potential threat of violence about 12:30 p.m.  Wednesday.

Evidence obtained showed threats were made via social media. Hecksel had posted a comment that he was “going to shoot up NCA.”

Hecksel was arrested on a traffic stop in Hutchinson, and transported to the McLeod County Jail. The McLeod County Attorney’s Office has charged Hecksel with one felony count of threats of violence, according to the release.


LP council to address resignation/appointment

LESTER PRAIRIE, MN – Lester Prairie City Council will consider the resignation of a council member and an appointment to fill the vacancy during its Tuesday, Jan. 14 meeting.

Other items on the agenda include the fire chief, school district building representatives,and appointment of election judges.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at city hall.

Montrose man charged with murder of Buffalo man found in Meeker County

WRIGHT COUNTY, MN – A Montrose man is facing a felony second-degree murder charge in connection with the death of Justin Edwin Warnke, 34, of Buffalo.

Alejandro Vega

Alejandro Vega

According to a formal complaint, Alejandro Vega Jr., 37, is charged with intentionally murdering Warnke, without premeditation, and disposing of his body in rural Meeker County.

Warnke’s body was discovered on a dead-end road in Kingston Township shortly at 8:01 a.m. Dec. 29. Authorities believe he had been there since about 1:53 a.m. that morning, consistent with observations of a vehicle at the location by a nearby resident.

His body had sustained hemorrhages in his eyes and neck, and sustained blunt-force trauma to his head, scalp, and chest, consistent with him being beaten and strangled, according to the formal complaint.

The formal complaint lays out the following timeline utilizing surveillance video from Vega’s apartment and other businesses, witness interviews, and Vega’s statements to investigators:

• At about 4 a.m. Dec. 28, Vega reportedly picked up Warnke from a Monticello hotel where he had been staying.

• At 5:25 a.m. surveillance video reportedly showed Vega and Warnke entering Vega’s apartment in Montrose.

• Vega allegedly traveled from his apartment to the hotel in an attempt to retrieve Warnke’s property, which was documented by law enforcement at about 11:35 a.m.

• At 2:33 p.m., surveillance video reportedly captured Vega taking an appliance cart from his garage into his apartment.

• At 6:20 p.m., surveillance video reportedly captured Vega taking rope into his apartment. It is alleged that Vega later used that rope to tie Warnke to the appliance cart.

• At 1:13 a.m., surveillance video reportedly showed Vega wheeling what appeared to be Warnke’s dead body – tied to the cart and wrapped in a blanket, with his head wrapped in garbage bags – from his apartment.

• Four minutes later, Vega was allegedly observed driving his vehicle with what appeared to be Warnke’s body tied to an appliance cart and sticking out of the open trunk.

• Vega allegedly dumped Warnke’s body at the location where it was found at about 1:53 a.m. Dec. 29.

During a Jan. 1 interview with authorities, after being advised of his rights, Vega allegedly claimed that he left his apartment and returned to find Warnke unresponsive in a bedroom and attempted life-saving measures.

Vega reportedly said that he knew he could not have Warnke’s body in his apartment, but did not explain why he did not contact police after supposedly discovering the body.

Vega reportedly confirmed that he removed Warnke’s body from his apartment and dumped it where it was later found.

He also allegedly admitted removing portions of carpet that contained Warnke’s blood. That carpet, allegedly disposed of in a commercial dumpster, has not been located. Luminol testing indicated the presence of blood in other areas of carpet.

Vega also allegedly told investigators that he and Warnke had been using controlled substances together prior to Warnke’s death.

According to the criminal complaint, no other suspects are observed on surveillance video entering the apartment complex while Warnke was there.

During the time he was alone with Vega, Warnke sustained injuries that led to his death.

In conclusion, the complaint states, “The manner in which the defendant attempted to conceal the death of Justin Warnke and the lengths he took to dispose of the body illustrate overwhelming evidence of his intent and guilt.”

If convicted, Vega could face up to 40 years in prison.

He is due in Wright County District Court for his initial appearance and bail hearing Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Winsted to conduct public hearing regarding fee schedule

WINSTED, MN – Winsted City Council will conduct a public hearing regarding the city’s 2020 fee schedule during its Tuesday, Jan. 7 meeting, which will begin at 6 p.m. at city hall. The council will also discuss progress on its priorities from the fourth quarter of 2019. During the work session prior to the regular meeting, the council will discuss lake improvements.