Archive for Hot Topic

VIDEO – Processional for Howard Lake Fire Chief Taddy Drusch arriving in Cokato Tuesday

COKATO – The processional carrying the body of Howard Lake Fire Chief Taddy Drusch arrived in Cokato Tuesday afternoon.

There will be a memorial service for Drusch Friday,  Jan. 17 at 1 p.m. at the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, 8700 County Road 6 SW, Howard Lake.
Visitation will take place Thursday, Jan. 16 from 4 to 8 p.m. at St. James Lutheran Church, 1000 7th Avenue, Howard Lake, with a prayer service at 7 p.m.; continuing Friday at the school, one hour prior to the service.

Video submitted by Rick Sorensen.

Montrose man charged with murder of 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. Warnke’s body was found in Meeker County Dec. 29.

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.

Man arrested after pursuit initiated in Dassel Township

Dec. 18, 2019 at 7:58 a.m. Meeker County Deputies initiated a pursuit on a vehicle that was westbound on US Highway 12 at 745th Avenue, in Dassel Township, according to a release from Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze.  Information was received from Wright County that this vehicle was involved in a hit and run accident then pursued by Wright County authorities. Wright County Authorities discontinued the pursuit due to excessive speed coming in to the City of Cokato.  When observed by Meeker Deputies, the vehicle had slowed and was veering in to oncoming traffic. Given the actions of the driver, Meeker Deputies re-initiated the pursuit in an attempt to get him off the road before he caused a crash. Stop sticks were successfully deployed and the vehicle was stopped on US Highway 12, east of Litchfield. The driver and lone occupant, Fernando Mejia, 31, of Cottage Grove, was taken into custody without further incident. Meeker Deputies also learned a driving complaint was taken on this vehicle earlier in the morning in the metro area. During the pursuit, while stop sticks were being deployed, a Litchfield Police Officer discharged his service weapon at the vehicle.  The incident remains under investigation and per standard protocol, the use of force incident is also under pending review.  Mejia was booked into the Meeker County Jail for fleeing a peace officer, DUI, and driving after revocation.  No injuries resulted from this incident.  Litchfield Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol assisted with this pursuit.

Combine damaged by chains wrapped around corn stalks in Meeker County

MEEKER COUNTY, MN – The Meeker County Sheriff’s Office received a report Nov. 18 of a chain being picked up by a combine while harvesting in a field located near the intersection of 130th Street and 610th Avenue, Cedar Mills Township, according to a release from Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze. Landowner John Johnson of rural Hutchinson reported minor damage to a combine from a chain in the field. Upon further investigation, it was discovered chains were wrapped around cornstalks in the field. No other incidents like this have been reported in the area. Anyone aware of similar incidents or anyone with information about this incident should contact the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office at 320-693-5400. Anonymous tips may be left on the office’s confidential tip line, 320-693-5411.

Tickets available for Nov. 9 DC football game, sendoff planned Nov. 8

DASSEL, COKATO, MN – The DC Charger Football Team is advancing to the state playoffs. The last time DC Football advanced to state was the fall of 1973. In celebration of this achievement, there will be congratulatory send offs at all four district schools. This will give all of the DC Charger fans a chance to wish them luck as they head out for their first game.

The sendoff will take place Friday, Nov. 8.  The itinerary will be as follows:
1:45 p.m. walk-through at Dassel Elementary
2:10 p.m. walk-through at Cokato Elementary
2:30 p.m. walk-through at the Middle School
2:45 p.m. pep fest with grades 9-12 in the East Gym.
The Charger Football Team will walk the halls, supported by the DC Cheerleaders and the DC Pep Band.
The public is welcome to visit any of the four schools to cheer on the team.
Advanced ticket sales for the first state playoff game are currently available in the Activities Office.  The tickets are for Saturday, Nov. 9, at noon.  The game will take place at Burnsville High School. Adult tickets are $11 and student tickets (k-12) are $7. Tickets will be sold until Friday at 4 p.m. or until sold out.
The DC Chargers will play the Cannon Falls Bombers.  The district encourages as many people as possible to be in the stands cheering on the team.

Winstock announces Luke Combs and Darius Rucker as headliners for Winstock 2020

WINSTED, MN – Winsted, MN – Winstock just announced their all-star lineup for 2020 and welcomes Luke Combs and Darius Rucker! The 2019 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year nominee Luke Combs has become one of the fastest rising acts in country music. The multi-platinum, No. 1 Country singersongwriter, Combs stormed onto the music landscape as one of Country’s brightest stars with the release of his critically-acclaimed, double Platinum, No. 1 debut album, This One’s For You. Since its release, the album has spent a total of 27 non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, including 16 weeks in 2018—the most of any album in a calendar year. The first five singles—3x platinum “Hurricane,” 3x platinum “When It Rains It Pours,” platinum “One Number Away,” platinum “She Got The Best of Me” and 2x platinum “Beautiful Crazy”—have all reached #1, making Combs the first artist ever to score five consecutive career-opening #1’s on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. His new album What You See Is What You Get is due out November 8th and features Top 10 hit “Even Though I’m Leaving.” Darius Rucker first attained multi-Platinum status in the music industry as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of GRAMMY award-winning Hootie & the Blowfish. Since re-introducing himself to the world as a country artist, he has released four consecutive albums to top the Billboard Country albums chart and earned a whole new legion of fans. In 2014, Rucker won his third career GRAMMY award for Best Solo Country Performance for his 4x Platinum selling cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel,” off his album, True Believers. Also joining the 2020 Winstock lineup is multi Grammy, CMT, CMA and ACM award winning country duo Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy, one of the most successful and flamboyant duos in country music history. 2018 ACM Best New Vocal Group Runaway June rounds out an outstanding Friday of country music. Platinum-selling singer-songwriter Brett Eldredge will be joining Combs on Saturday along with youngest living member of the Grand Ole Opry Chris Janson. Legendary country band Shenandoah and Phil Vassar, who is celebrating 20 years of charttopping hits, will be appearing on the T-Mobile Stage. The Winstock “West Stage” will play host to Drew Baldridge and Drew Parker. More artists will be added to the festival lineup. About Winstock: THE ULTIMATE SUMMER GET-TOGETHER! Winstock will take place at the Winstock Festival grounds in Winsted, MN on June 12-13, 2020. Celebrating their 27th year, Winstock is one of the premier country music festivals. Winsted is located 45 miles west of the Twin Cities. A volunteer driven festival, 100% of net proceeds go towards youth education at the Holy Trinity School. Winstock Reserved Seats, General Admission tickets and Camping are on-sale now by calling 320-485-4287 or online at FRIDAY, JUNE 12TH SATURDAY,JUNE 13TH