Archive for Staff

Fall art tour in Dassel Oct. 28

DASSEL, MN – Autumn is a beautiful time of year in Dassel – and not just because the trees are dressed in red, orange, and gold. It’s also the season for the Discover Dassel Fall Art Tour, set for Saturday, Oct. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Twenty-nine artists will have their art displayed at seven locations within the Dassel area, including the Dassel History Center (901 First St. N.), Nord Studio (831 Willis St.), Floren Residence (810 Willis St.), Thirsty’s (241 Atlantic Ave. W.), Ezparza (25262 CSAH 4), Levandowski Pottery (510 Parker Ave. W.), and l.louise Home & Art (651 Parker Ave., which is on Highway 12).

Displays will include drawings, fiber art, jewelry, furniture, paintings, photography, pottery, stained glass, wood art, sculptures, cement art, and mixed media.

Maps will be available at all locations, including the Dassel History Center, 901 First St. N. For more information, email the history center at, call (320) 275-3077, or go to

Discover Dassel Brochure Front 8.18.2017 copy

Dassel man arrested after 64-mile police chase

STEARNS COUNTY, MN – A 47-year-old man from Dassel was arrested Monday after an hour-long police chase that covered 64 miles.

Jason Michael Ashwill was being held in Stearns County Jail and faces possible felony charges for fleeing police in a motor vehicle and damage to property, Waite Park Police Chief David Bentrud stated in a news release issued Tuesday.

According to the news release, Ashwill reportedly threatened an individual who was street sweeping the parking lot at Cash Wise Foods in Waite Park. The release states that he “started to yell and scream at him and advised him if he didn’t stop what he was doing he was going to kill him.”

Fearing for his safety, the individual retreated to a different area of the parking lot and called the police. When officers arrived, they attempted to stop the suspect vehicle, which was driving in circles in the parking lot.

Ashwill reportedly fled the scene in his vehicle when officers turned on their emergency lights, driving north on Waite Avenue and then east on Division Street. He then entered Highway 15.

Several agencies attempted to stop the vehicle, and pursuit speeds reached about 100 miles per hour. The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office and the Kimball Police Department deployed stop sticks, which flattened one tire on the suspect’s vehicle.

Another set of stop sticks were deployed as the vehicle turned around and started driving north. A second tire was flattened, and the pursuit continued at speeds of 50 to 70 miles per hour.

Upon re-entering the St. Cloud area, police set up more stop sticks, which were able to flatten the last two tires.

Once all four tires were flattened, Ashwill allegedly continued to drive the vehicle on its rims. The release states that Ashwill had a hard time controlling the vehicle, but continued at speeds of 50 miles per hour. He continued north toward Royalton, where assisting officers were able to stop the vehicle using the Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) maneuver and take Ashwill into custody.

No injuries were reported. Three Waite Park squads sustained minor tire damage. The Waite Park Police Department was assisted by Stearns County, the Minnesota State Patrol, the Kimball Police Department, the Cold Spring Police Department, Morrison County, and the Little Falls Police Department.

Cokato man charged with first degree criminal sexual conduct

Justin Kevin Harry Leason

Justin Kevin Harry Leason

COKATO, MN – A Cokato man allegedly sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl last month, according to a formal complaint released by the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.

Justin Kevin Harry Leason, 21, was arrested Sept. 5 on a Wright County warrant for first-degree criminal sexual conduct violations. If found guilty of the felony, Leason could face up to 30 years in prison, a $40,000 fine, or both.

The victim’s mother reported the incident to the Wright County Sheriff’s Office Aug. 6, stating that her daughter disclosed to her via text message that she had been sexually assaulted after falling asleep on Leason’s couch Aug. 5.

At the time, the victim was babysitting for Leason (her brother’s friend), and his fiancée. When the couple decided not to go out, however, the victim stayed at the residence to help watch their children. She later fell asleep on the couch around midnight while watching television.

About two hours later, the victim reportedly woke up to Leason’s hand in her shorts, touching her genitalia, according to the complaint. Afraid Leason would become angry if he knew she had woken up, the victim pretended to remain asleep until Leason got up and left. The victim then went outside and phoned her father, who came to pick her up.

Leason texted the victim a few days later asking if she was OK because “she had left at 2:30 a.m.”

A detective met with Leason Aug. 14, who affirmed that the victim had recently babysat for him and his fiancée, that they had decided not to go out, and that the victim had watched television on the couch.

Leason told authorities that while he was watching shows with the victim, he believed she was trying to seduce him but nothing resulted from it.

Leason said he may have inadvertently grazed the victim’s bare skin while getting up from the couch.

Darwin man dies in ATV accident

DARWIN, MN – A Darwin man received fatal injuries after being pinned by his all-terrain vehicle (ATV) July 28, according to a press release from the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office.

At approximately 7:20 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office received a missing person’s report for David Ahlgren, 66, who had been using his ATV vehicle to spray weeds on his property, located in the area of 205th St and CSAH 14 in Ellsworth Township, but did not return home when expected.

Deputies and Ahlgren’s family members searched several locations for about an hour before a family member found Ahlgren pinned under his ATV in a ditch. The Sheriff’s Office confirmed Ahlgren’s injuries were fatal. A preliminary investigation determined that one of the ATV’s wheels had dropped into a wash out, causing the vehicle to roll into the ditch and pin Ahlgren underneath it.

Dassel Fire and Rescue responded to the scene.

Kingston man hits deer with motorcycle

KINGSTON, MN – James Donald Nielsen, 55, of Kingston was riding his 1988 BMW motorcycle eastbound on Highway 55 in Rockford Township Thursday morning at 5:44 a.m. when he struck a deer. According to the Minnesota State Patrol, he suffered minor head injuries and was admitted into Buffalo Hospital. Nielsen was not wearing a helmet at the time of the incident.

Darwin man charged with five felonies after hit-and-run

WRIGHT, MEEKER COUNTIES, MN – A 22-year-old from Darwin is facing five felony charges after a hit-and-run incident southwest of Cokato early June 2, the Wright County Sheriff’s Office reported.

Dakota Levi Ogaard-Johnson’s charges include second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon (a motor vehicle), third-degree assault, violent threats/reckless disregard risk, criminal vehicular operation under the influence of alcohol, and criminal vehicular operation/leaving the scene after causing an accident that resulted in substantial bodily harm.

According to the formal complaint, the sheriff’s office responded to the scene of the crime (17765 82nd St. SW, Cokato) at about 12:38 a.m.

A deputy spoke with Gabriel Briseno, who stated he had been struck by a black Chevrolet truck driven by Johnson.

Briseno told the deputy that the incident occurred after Johnson arrived at the residence carrying a beer. Briseno told him to either remain at the residence or get a ride home from someone else to avoid driving drunk.

Johnson allegedly responded by getting back into the truck and attempting to drive away.

Briseno stated that he and others attempted to stop Johnson by taking his keys away, but Johnson eventually drove away.

Briseno said Johnson returned to the residence and drove back and forth in front of it, revving the engine and yelling threats. Briseno said he went to the edge of his driveway when Johnson turned toward him and struck him.

Briseno said he tried to stand up, but was unable to because of his injuries.
Numerous witnesses provided statements consistent with Briseno’s account, according to the formal complaint.

Briseno was transported to Hutchinson Hospital for treatment of his injuries, including a broken leg that required surgery.
The Chevrolet truck was found a short distance from the residence, but Johnson was not immediately found.

Numerous officers, including a K-9 officer, attempted to track Johnson.

A short while later, Johnson returned to the vehicle driving a white Ford truck, and he was arrested.

Johnson told an officer that the Chevrolet was his mother’s vehicle, and the Ford was a work truck he took from Minnesota Shoreline Restorations, where he works. He admitted that he did not have permission to use the Ford on this date.
Johnson admitted to driving the Chevrolet during the incident, being impaired, and leaving the scene. In a field sobriety test, Johnson’s blood alcohol count was measured at .06.

Johnson’s charges carry maximum sentences ranging from three to 10 years, with fines ranging from a maximum of $10,000 to $20,000.