Foster mother's boyfriend indicted on first-degree murder charges in child's death

   A Dakota County grand jury has indicted Charles Homich on charges of first-degree murder in connection with the June 2017 death of 3-year-old Zayden Lawson, a foster child in Homich’s girlfriend’s home.
   The first-degree murder indictment escalates the charges against Homich, 28, who was originally charged with second-degree murder last April and replaces the original criminal complaint. If convicted of first-degree murder, Homich could be sentenced to life in prison. Homich has been held at the Dakota County jail since he was first charged in April 2018.
   The indictment against Homich includes four alternate counts of first-degree murder, alleging Homich killed Lawson on June 7, 2017, while committing child abuse. The indictment alleges a history of child abuse. The indictment, handed down after a grand jury session that ran from Dec. 18-21, also includes three alternate counts of second-degree murder.
   Fourteen witnesses, including Lawson’s foster mother and Homich’s co-defendant, Zeporia Fortenberry, 31, testified before the grand jury, according to court records. Like Homich, Fortenberry was charged last April in connection with Lawson’s death. Fortenberry, of 1645 Oakridge Circle, Eagan, was released on bail last April on lesser charges of second-degree manslaughter. She is scheduled to return to court later this week.
   Prosecutors allege Fortenberry left Lawson and three other children—another foster child and her own two children—in Homich’s care while she worked at night. Lawson’s lifeless body was found when paramedics were called to Fortenberry’s 1645 Oakridge Circle home at about 3 p.m. June 7, 2017, because the child was not breathing. An autopsy the following day revealed the three-year-old had suffered multiple injuries, including blunt trauma, according to a criminal complaint. 
Three-year-old Zayden Lawson was found dead in his foster home at
1645 Oakridge Circle, Eagan, on June 7, 2017.
Fortenberry's boyfriend, Charles Homich, has been indicted on charges of first-degree murder alleging a pattern of child abuse.
Lawson's foster mother, Zeporia Fortenberry, was charged with second-degree manslaughter last April and was included on the grand jury witness list.

Cleaning up the mess

Fallen trash cans lined a city street Dec. 27 after plows passed through. Eagan missed the center of a major midwestern storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in northern Minnesota and the Dakotas Thursday. About two inches of snow, followed by rain, fell in Eagan Thursday.

Minneapolis woman accused of theft

   A Minneapolis woman is facing felony charges based on allegations she is part of a shoplifting ring stealing Michael Kors handbags and other items from the Eagan Marshalls and other area stores.
   Kris Megenuph, 42, of 2434 Ogema Place, Minneapolis, has been summonsed to appear in Dakota County District Court Feb. 4 on felony charges of possession of burglary tools and theft, according to a criminal complaint. The charges stem from a July 19 complaint to Eagan police.
   Megenuph is suspected of stealing designer Michael Kors brand merchandise from Marshalls stores in Anoka and Hennepin counties, according to court records. During one of the thefts, Megenuph, who told police she is a heroin addict, cut her arm, bloodied merchandise in the store, and left a trail of blood, according to a criminal complaint.   
   Three days later, on July 12, police allege Megenuph and an accomplice entered the Marshalls store at Central Park Commons in Eagan shortly after 8:15 p.m. Megenuph purchased two items for a baby, left the store, and returned minutes later, police allege. The accomplice allegedly used a large magnet to remove Michael Kors handbags from a locking tether. The pair then allegedly placed the handbags in the store plastic bag containing the previously purchased baby items and headed for the exit, according to a criminal complaint. Megenuph allegedly told a store manager near the exit she had a receipt.

Appeals Court affirms Eagan criminal case

    The Minnesota Court of Appeals this week affirmed the conviction of a man arrested by Eagan police checking vehicles in hotel parking lots, concluding that the man should have felt free to leave when an armed police officer approached his car and asked for his identification.
   Gary Granger, 58, of St. Cloud, was convicted in September 2017 of receiving stolen property, possession of burglary tools, and fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance and sentenced to 295 days in jail, according to court records.
   Granger was arrested following an inquiry by Eagan police, according to the court. An Eagan police officer was checking the license plates of cars parked in a hotel parking lot shortly before 12:15 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2015. The Eagan officer discovered that the car in which Granger was sitting was registered to a woman who was wanted on an arrest warrant. The officer approached the car and asked Granger for identification, according to the court. During the questioning, the officer noticed a catalytic converter on the back seat of the car.
   The police officer called for back up, according to the court. After other officers arrived, police searched the car and “discovered drugs, paraphernalia, and burglary tools. It was later reported that the catalytic converter…was stolen,” the court wrote.
   Granger sought a ruling that police could not use the evidence against him at trial, arguing that police violated his constitutional rights. The Court of Appeals concluded that Granger, who was sitting in a parked car when police approached, had not been “seized” when the police officer asked for his identification.
   Under the circumstances, the Court of Appeals ruled, Granger should have known he was free to leave when the armed police officer approached his car and asked for his identification. “Although [the Eagan police officer] was in uniform and had a firearm,” the Court of Appeals wrote, “there is no evidence that he drew his firearm, turned on his emergency lights, ordered appellant to get out of his car and go to his squad car or told appellant he was not free to go.”
   “[N]one of these actions/events represent a physical force or show of authority [by the police officer] that would make a reasonable person believe that they were not free to leave,” the court wrote. 
Local students performed at a recent holiday jazz concert at Eagan High School.

Thomson Reuters sharpens the hatchet;
12 percent of workers to be cut, offices to close

In a graphic shown to Thomson Reuters investors Dec. 4, the company showed plans for job cuts and office closings until 2020.
   As Eagan city officials prepared for a public hearing on the city’s share of a double-digit property tax increase Tuesday, Thomson Reuters, one of Eagan’s largest employers and the host of this year’s state of the city address, announced to investors it would be slashing 3,200 jobs, about 12 percent of its workforce.
   The company has not disclosed a specific number of job cuts in Eagan or what offices will be closed in the next year. The Eagan facility has been cutting jobs over the past several years, down from about 7,500 to an estimated 5,000. The company has already eliminated enough jobs that it closed off parking lots at its campus between Wescott and Yankee Doodle roads and has been advertising space for lease. Workers at the Eagan facility have been training overseas Thomson Reuters workers to do their jobs.
   TR’s rounds of job cuts has shifted the workforce at the Eagan site from a largely full-time staff with pensions and benefits to departments that rely on temporary workers. Many of the workers cut in the latest round at TR have been long-time employees with pensions. Many of the newer workers at the Eagan facility are workers from countries such as India brought in on H1B visas or temporary contractors who don’t receive health insurance, paid time off, or other company benefits.
   During a presentation to investors in Toronto Tuesday morning, the company said, in addition to cutting jobs, it will also continue cutting the number of its offices, from 185 at the end of this year, to 133 in 2020.
   The company told investors it has reduced its number of offices from 328 to 209 over the past four years and closed 216 data centers since 2012.
   The Eagan Thomson Reuters office was the site of Mayor Mike Maguire’s 2018 state of the city address. The mayor praised the company at the start of his speech, saying, “Thomson Reuters is Eagan’s largest employer and a pillar of our community.”
   The auditorium where the mayor gave his speech then closed, and its seating was removed.