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A St. Croix County Circuit Court judge sentenced an Ellsworth woman to a prison term exceeding state recommendations for stealing more than a quarter-million dollars from a River Falls care facility. Elizabeth A. Palo, 49, was sentenced to five years in prison for felony theft from a business Feb. 16. She must also pay back $310,000 to Kinnic Health and Rehab, a River Falls nursing home and care facility where she used to work as an office manager. Palo pleaded guilty to embezzling the money in December.
St. Croix County is slated to pay less interest than expected on its proposed highway maintenance facility after approving the lowest bid for the project's general obligation bonds. The lowest of nine bids came from Minneapolis-based Northland Securities, Inc., which offered a 3.0051 percent interest rate for the $27 million project. That rate will tack on about $9 million in interest over 20 years, which is about $1.3 million less that the county projected earlier this year. County supervisors approved the bid with a 17-2 vote Feb. 8.
A new commission set to launch for St. Croix County will seek possible routes to address the area's growing transportation needs. The Transit Commission will develop policy regarding any transit programs the county develops, including transit options for senior citizens, people with disabilities and businesses whose employees commute. Commissioners' tasks will include contracting potential private partners, applying for transportation grants and purchasing new equipment. Any funding decisions, however, will remain under County Board authority.
St. Croix County will add two additional Children Services staff members as communities throughout the state struggle to serve children of families ensnared in substance abuse. The number of children the county's Health and Human Services department took into custody more than tripled from 2016 to 2017, marking the highest number in nearly a decade. Supervisors unanimously approved a budget amendment to fund the additional staffing at their Feb. 8 meeting.
A Cottage Grove man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife following a failed murder-for-hire plot. A Washington County jury convicted Stephen Carl Allwine of first-degree premeditated murder Jan. 31, concluding a week-long trial. Washington County District Judge William B. Ekstrum handed down the life sentence Feb. 2. First-degree murder convictions come with a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
A Cottage Grove man has been convicted of first-degree premeditated murder. Stephen Carl Allwine drugged and shot his wife, Amy Allwine, before attempting to stage her 2016 death as a suicide, prosecutors said. Her death followed the failure of an elaborate, months-long plot Stephen Allwine hatched to have his wife killed. Jurors agreed, issuing a guilty verdict Jan. 31 after nearly eight hours of deliberation, the Pioneer Press reports. Sentencing is scheduled Feb. 2.
STILLWATER — Washington County prosecutors allege a Cottage Grove man spent months plotting his wife's murder rather than divorce her and jeopardize his esteemed role with a local church, but his defense attorney said the state's evidence has been fraught with "distractions" and "red herrings." Opening arguments in the trial of Stephen Allwine began Jan. 23. A 15-member jury will determine whether Allwine is guilty of of first-degree premeditated murder.
A three-term state representative from Woodbury will not seek re-election in 2018. Rep. JoAnn Ward, a Democrat, announced Wednesday she plans to retire from the Minnesota Legislature after this year's session. "It has been a joy for me to represent these caring, compassionate and engaged communities," Ward said in statement. "I have met and worked with so many neighbors who actively seek a positive future for everyone in the East Metro and the state of Minnesota."
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.
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.