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Minn. roundup: Threatening, racist note left on St. Olaf black student's car a 'hoax'

NORTHFIELD, Minn.—A threatening note reportedly left on a black student's car at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., was apparently a hoax intended "to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate," according to emails from St. Olaf President David Anderson to students and faculty.

The note, which included a racial slur and an admonition to "Shut up or I will shut you up," was reported to St. Olaf officials in late April and prompted hundreds of students to boycott classes in protest on May 1.

An investigation by the private liberal arts college found the note was the work of a student who confessed that it was not a genuine threat, Anderson said in his emails. He added that student privacy laws prohibit him from publishing the identity of the note's author.

"We confronted a person of interest who confessed to writing the note," Anderson wrote. "We've confirmed that this was not a genuine threat."

"It was apparently a strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate," he added later.

Anderson also assured students and faculty that the college would continue to earnestly investigate other reports of racist incidents and messages on campus.


Two die in separate accidents on same Minnesota highway 5 hours apart

AURORA, Minn.—A 66-year-old Aurora woman and 26-year-old Eveleth man were killed in separate crashes on Wednesday on the same stretch of a northern Minnesota highway.

Marilyn Louise Kriner died after the car she was driving sideswiped a semi-truck and then was struck broadside on the passenger side by an oncoming SUV on State Highway 135 in Biwabik Township just before 7 p.m. Wednesday, the Minnesota State Patrol reported.

It was the second fatal crash of the day on the highway. In the first, about five hours earlier and a few miles away, Elias James Cersine of Eveleth died when his vehicle collided with another car that had crossed the centerline north of Aurora.

In the evening crash, the driver of the oncoming SUV, Mary Michelle Walker, 48, of Hibbing, was airlifted to Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth, where she was listed in fair condition Thursday. The semi driver, 40-year-old Todd Anthony Statsman of Eveleth, was not injured, the Patrol reported.

The earlier crash occurred at 2:06 p.m. Wednesday just north of Aurora on Highway 135. The Patrol reported that Ryan Patrick Hughes, 37 of Aurora, was traveling south when the 2013 Ford Taurus he was driving crossed the centerline and collided with Cersine's 2005 Chevrolet Impala.

Hughes was taken to Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. Alcohol was not involved in either of the crashes, the Patrol said.


Minnesota man, 38, who raped, got 14-year-old pregnant gets 12 years

WILLMAR, Minn. — Jeramy John Wharton of Belgrade was sentenced to 12 years in prison Tuesday for raping and impregnating a 14-year-old girl.

Wharton, 38, pleaded guilty in March in Kandiyohi County District Court to first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He will be eligible for conditional release after serving 10 years of his sentence.

He must also pay $3,090 in court and victim assistance fees from his prison earnings and must register as a predatory offender.

According to court records, a 14-year-old girl told law enforcement that she woke up one night in April 2015, and Wharton was naked and on top of her. She said he claimed it was a dream.

She didn't tell anyone about it at first, because she was afraid, she said. She later gave birth to a child, and DNA results provided strong evidence that Wharton was the father.

When he was interviewed in April 2016, he told the detective that he took sleep medication and did not remember what he did while on the medication.