- Associated Press - Friday, August 15, 2014
‘Buy the Farm’ ruling puts utility on hook

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A small organic dairy in southern Minnesota has prevailed in forcing a buyout by a utility that’s building high-voltage power lines along the property.

The case involving the Cedar Summit Farm near New Prague was seen as an early test of Minnesota’s revised “Buy the Farm” law. The ruling, made public Thursday by Scott County Judge Caroline Lennon, applies only to that farm, but other landowners preparing their own legal fights along the route of the CapX2020 line from South Dakota through Minnesota have been watching closely.

David and Florence Minar elected to force a purchase of their legacy farm rather than operate under the new power lines. Lennon ruled they were within their rights to do so and now the utility is on the hook for possibly $1.4 million or more once the case moves into an appraisal phase.

“We’re very relieved,” David Minar, 73, said Friday. “We’re so glad the judge saw the common sense of the law that was intended to help us get out from under the power line.”

Minar was born on the farm and says it will be extremely difficult to leave it behind. But he and his wife are searching out new locations to carry on the dairy operation they hope to pass down to their children and grandchildren. It could take years, as wherever the relocate to must be certified as organic and have enough room for 130 cows to graze, a milking parlor and a creamery where they can sell their products on site.

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Man accused of killing officer held on $2.5M bail

HASTINGS, Minn. (AP) - The man charged with fatally shooting a Mendota Heights police officer is being held on at least $2.5 million bail.

Police said Brian Fitch Sr., 39, is accused of killing Officer Scott Patrick during a traffic stop July 30. Fitch had three warrants out for his arrest at the time.

The day before the shooting, Fitch told his ex-girlfriend that he was willing to use deadly force on police, according to court documents. The woman told investigators that Fitch sounded weird and angry when she spoke with him, the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1m18ekihttp://strib.mn/1m18eki ) reported. She also said Fitch had been using methamphetamines every day.

Fitch faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1kHKzKphttp://bit.ly/1kHKzKp ) reported.

Fitch slumped in silence during a Friday hearing, and defense attorney Lauri Traub questioned whether he was coherent enough to understand the proceedings. She said he had recently taken pain medication.

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Gas station shooting suspect charged, still on run

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The man suspected of shooting and killing his former lover this week remains at large, but prosecutors have charged him with second-degree murder and issued a national warrant for his arrest.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office said Friday that anyone harboring 44-year-old Lyle “Ty” Hoffman could be charged with a felony.

Hoffman is accused of killing 48-year-old Kelly Phillips, a Boston Scientific executive. They drove to an Arden Hills gas station Monday, and Phillips was shot in the head and back as he tried to run from the gunman.

A judge has sealed Hoffman’s criminal complaint until he’s arrested, to avoid releasing information that could hamper the investigation.

Ramsey County Undersheriff Joe Paget tells the Minneapolis Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1vSuNkShttp://strib.mn/1vSuNkS ) there’s no evidence that Hoffman is dead or outside the country.

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Ex-cop officer waives hearing in suitcase slaying

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) - A former police officer accused of killing two women and hiding their remains in a pair of suitcases is headed to trial after waiving his preliminary hearing in southern Wisconsin.

Steven Zelich is charged with first-degree homicide and hiding a corpse in Kenosha County, where he’s accused of killing Jenny Gamez, of Cottage Grove, Oregon.

A criminal complaint says the 52-year-old former West Allis officer killed the 19-year-old college student during a sexual choking game and then hid her body in his home and car for months before dumping it in Walworth County in early June.

Prosecutors typically use a complaint during a preliminary hearing as the basis to convince a judge to hold someone for trial.

Zelich also is a suspect in the death of a Farmington, Minnesota, woman.

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