Crime scenes, courtrooms marked the past decade
The top story of 2010 centered on "Operation Broken Arrow," a law enforcement effort to break up a massive drug trafficking operation in the Iowa Great Lakes.
"We'll never really stop it," O'Brien County Sheriff Michael Anderson said a the time. "But at least we can maybe slow it down a little bit."
The effort to combat crime through the court process made headlines throughout the 2010s.
The multi-agency "Broken Arrow" undercover drug investigation culminated in more than 50 felony charges against 25 individuals in the Lakes Area and sent shock waves through the community in the spring of 2010.
The public first learned of the investigation on April 28 that year, via a statement released by Spirit Lake Police Chief Jeff Hanson. His office spearheaded an operation that drew in 15 other law enforcement agencies, including those associated with the Iowa Great Lakes Drug Task Force. The operation also involved an ATF Special Agent who infiltrated a large network of drug and gun traffickers in the Lakes Area.
The case led to arrests after one of the defendants hired the undercover ATF Agent to violently assault and disfigure a local man. The intended victim was then taken into federal protective custody and was unharmed.
One vehicle, cash, guns and narcotics including marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine and Ecstasy (MDMA) were seized by the Spirit Lake Police Department as part of the operation.
Eighteen individuals were identified as defendants. On April 7 and May 19, four individuals apprehended in O'Brien County were confirmed to be a part of those charged in connection with the Spirit Lake-based Broken Arrow investigation.
An at-large suspect was apprehended in late September in Perrysburg, Ohio.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Wednesday, Dec. 15, announced that a 49-year-old Hartley man was convicted of one count of conspiring to distribute crack cocaine and one count of distributing and aiding and abetting the distribution of crack cocaine. Chief Hanson confirmed Dec. 21 that a guilty plea entered in the previous week in federal court had ties to the Broken Arrow Investigation.
• The decade also started with an arrest in Milford and a murder investigation in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Samuel Blue Lint was initially held in the Dickinson County Jail and faced drug charges locally for activities that may have a connection with the discovery of a frozen body Jan. 4, 2010 in Sioux Falls.
South Dakota investigators think Lint shot 19-year-old Michael Stevens of Sioux Falls three times on Dec. 30, 2009, in a parking lot at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds. An expo building employee in Sioux Falls found Stevens in his car and a shotgun connected to the murder was found in a nearby snow bank.
Lint’s murder case took a bizarre twist while he was being detained awaiting trial. Authorities filed additional charges when Lint tried to arrange the death of his girlfriend – a key witness – from his jail cell.
Lint entered a guilty plea on July 19 to second-degree murder in Sioux Falls. He received a life term without the chance of parole as part of an agreement with prosecutors. Lint faced the prospect of the death penalty had the case gone to trial.
• James Naujock was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday, Nov. 3. The decision came about a month after Judge John Duffy found him guilty of attempted murder in a bench trial.
He waived his right to a jury. Naujock's case was heard by Duffy on April 19-20, 2011.
Duffy was convinced that Naujock intentionally tried to end the life of a Spirit Lake woman on July 27, 2010. Duffy, in his written verdict, said he was convinced Naujock used a fireplace poker as a baseball bat and hit his victim in the face and body. Testimony suggests Naujock also pressed the fireplace poker across her neck in an apparent attempt to cut off her airway. She spent five days in a hospital.
• Another emergency call and attempted murder investigation marked the end of 2011.
The court process was under way following a stabbing in the early morning hours of Saturday, Nov. 12, along Lakeshore Drive near the Emporium retail complex in Arnolds Park. The victim was identified as 25-year-old Spencer man.
Police charged 48-year-old Kenneth Leroy Scott with attempted murder on suspicion he "unlawfully had intent to cause death by repeatedly stabbing another," according to a criminal complaint filed by Arnolds Park investigating officer Stacy Lowry. The stabbing victim was taken by ambulance to Lakes Regional Healthcare in Spirit Lake, then flown by medical helicopter to Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He was released within a week of the incident.
• Dickinson County authorities investigated a pair of cases involving men accused of kidnapping and sexual assault in 2012. Spirit Lake Police arrested Eduardo Artimo Rodriguez Lopez on May 10 for confining a minor without consent. He was convicted by a jury for acts involving an underage female from May 3, 2006, to May 3, 2012. Judge Don E. Courtney gave Rodriguez Lopez a 25-year sentence for second-degree sexual assault on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
Investigating officers in Milford say 44-year-old Walter Ray Norem forced a woman he knew into another vehicle after breaking out the window of her car and pulling her by the hair, according to court documents. He's accused of taking her against her will from a Milford apartment complex to his Harris address on Thursday, Nov. 15. Norem also faced three counts of first-degree sexual abuse.
• Deputies were called to Tailer Handsaker's listed address of 1 28th St. along East Lake Okoboji in Spirit Lake at 10:25 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, 2013, for an unresponsive female. Authorities found a 36-year-old Jackson, Minnesota woman at the location. She was deceased by the time deputies arrived. Investigators subsequently arrested Handsaker and booked him into the Dickinson County Jail on a charge of first-degree murder. Early court documents suggest the suspicious death may have taken place several days before authorities were called to the remote Spirit Lake neighborhood near Francis Sites. Handsaker pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, a Class B felony, and two lesser charges in 2014.
• Not all court cases involve convictions and overt criminal activity. The owner of Mrs. Lady's — a landmark restaurant in Arnolds Park — learned that lesson in 2014. Carole Hinders' Mexican restaurant didn't accept debit or credit cards – and that policy didn't sit well with the Internal Revenue Service.
"It is a federal law that banks are required to file reports with the government whenever you make cash deposits of more than $10,000," her attorney at the time said. "It's not illegal to make smaller deposits than that if you have a legitimate business purpose. But, if you make smaller deposits for the purpose of evading those bank reports, it's called structuring, and the government can seize your money for that using civil forfeiture – even if they haven't charged you with any crime."
The IRS seized $32,820.56 from the Mrs. Lady's owner. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Cole said in a motion filed Dec. 13, 2014, that the case should be dropped "to conserve judicial resources."
• When Thomas Bortvit disappeared on June 6, 2015, between 300 and 350 people tried to help find him. The family also searched Spencer and the Lakes Area in an effort to find answers. Law enforcement eventually traced Bortvit's disappearance and murder to Lee Christensen, a former Estherville Lincoln Central athlete. Bortvit was a full-time college student and Fareway employee — Christensen considered him an obstacle in the attempt to reconcile with an ex-girlfriend. In a Friday, June 7, 2019, ruling, the state's highest court restored the July 1, 2016, second-degree murder conviction for Lee Samuel Christensen.
• Violent crimes led to injuries and a pair of high profile cases at the Dickinson County Courthouse.
Witnesses at Barb's Corner Restaurant & Lounge reported a male suspect who entered the rural Everly establishment, brandished a shotgun and demanded money from employees on March 11, 2016. Deputies think 40-year-old Joshua Emerson Mandelkow of Lake Park attempted the robbery. He is suspected of leaving Barb's Corner in a silver vehicle and heading north. A short time later, a vehicle matching a description of the suspect's vehicle was spotted by a citizen approximately 7 miles west of Fostoria.
Mandelkow continued north into Dickinson County, with authorities in pursuit, before slowing and sustaining a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He received specialized care in Rochester, Minnesota, and then was taken into custody on June 24. He received a 15-year sentence for second-degree robbery and intimidation with a dangerous weapon in 2017.
• Local officers were in the line of fire in the spring of 2017. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation was called in after a standoff and exchange of gunfire April 30 in a Milford neighborhood near Okoboji High School. The DCI thinks 52-year-old Robert Brunner pointed a handgun at responding officers from Milford and Arnolds Park. Shots were exchanged between Brunner and a Milford police officer. Authorities were eventually able to enter Brunner's Milford home at about midnight and found him dead inside the home. Results suggest Brunner sustained a gunshot wound to his torso and a fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head.
•A Spencer man accused of kidnapping, assault and robbery at a Wahpeton apartment could spend up to 17 years in prison.
District Court Judge David Lester on Sept. 25 sentenced 20-year-old Tanner Meysenburg on three charges stemming from a pair of incidents in February 2017.
Meysenburg and 23-year-old Jordaen Duhn of Spencer were accused of forcing their way into a residence as part of a Feb. 20 robbery attempt at 1127 Lakeside Ave. in Wahpeton. An occupant at the apartment was then transported against his will to Milford. The 19-year-old was "able to escape by crawling out of the vehicle's window as it traveled down Highway 71," according to a Feb. 22 sheriff's statement. The teenager ran to a place of safety. Authorities think it was Duhn and Meysenburg who then fled the scene. Meysenburg agreed to charges of second-degree burglary — a Class C forcible felony — and assault while participating in a felony, a Class D forcible felony as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
• Two Spirit Lake investigations led to attempted murder charges filed at the Dickinson County Courthouse in 2017.
Judge David Lester on Dec. 4 signed off on a year-long sentence for 55-year-old Scott Sidles of Spirit Lake. He intentionally fired a pistol at a group of people. The bullet hit one of his neighbors who was sitting in a chair on her porch the night of Oct. 2, 2016. Sidles was sentenced to one year in the Dickinson County Jail following guilty pleas in September to "reckless use of a firearm," a Class C felony and "assault with a dangerous weapon," an aggravated misdemeanor.
Just over a week later, Lester put another attempted murder case on hold. He ordered 30-year-old defendant Nicholas Thompson of Spirit Lake to undergo a mental health evaluation. Thompson was taken into custody June 22, after investigators think he used an 8-inch knife to attack a man in the 900 block of 22nd Street in Spirit Lake. He was charged with attempted murder, a Class B felony; willful injury causing serious injury, a Class C felony; going armed with intent, a Class D felony and assault while displaying a dangerous weapon, an aggravated misdemeanor.
• 2018 began with a lawsuit over East Loch Estates, a planned development of about 400 housing units north of Chalstrom Beach.
The year ended with construction plans still in limbo.
The proposed project required farmland near Chalstrom Beach to be rezoned from its A1 agricultural district to an R3 multifamily residential district.
County boards approved the rezoning of the 66 acres in late 2017, and a group called Concerned Citizens of Dickinson County wanted the courts to weigh in on the rezoning procedures.
The Citizens group named Dickinson County, its board of supervisors, its board of adjustment and the zoning administrator as defendants at the start of 2018.
The development was expected to be built in five phases over a period of approximately 10 years. The land's current owner Leo "Butch" Parks Jr. told audiences at the county meetings he was disappointed by the opposition to the project. In February 2018, Parks filed a countersuit naming the Citizens group as defendants.
• As 2019 came to a close, authorities were still looking for the 43-year-old man suspected of stabbing a female victim Nov. 18 at the Kum & Go in Spirit Lake.
Teangelo Grice of Spirit Lake has been charged with attempted murder, false imprisonment, first-degree burglary and assault while displaying a weapon.
Spirit Lake Police said the attack was called in just before 11 p.m. from the convenience store. He also has been charged with third-degree domestic abuse assault as well as violation of a no contact order.
"Although Teangelo has not yet been taken into custody, this was not a random act of violence," Spirit Lake Police Lt. Daren Diers said. "We don't have any reason to believe the general public is in any danger."
The female victim was listed in good condition in the days after the attack. Officers describe Grice as a 5-foot-11 black male weighing 200 pounds with brown eyes. Court records suggest he was previously arrested at the start of November for domestic abuse assault and listed a 27th Street address in Spirit Lake at the time.