Police nab alleged jewel thief at Eagan burglary

   A Backus man is facing a burglary charge after Eagan police caught the alleged jewel thief in the act shortly after Christmas.
   Tuan To, 41, of 2524 10th Ave. N.W., Backus, was charged with burglary in connection with the Dec. 28 break-in of a home on Clippers Road. Eagan police surrounded the house after a burglar alarm sounded shortly before 2 a.m. The residents of the home were not home at the time, according to court records.
   Police responding to the house alarm spotted fresh footprints in the snow leading from the driveway of the house to an open door on the side of the garage, according to a criminal complaint. Police surrounded the house and saw a light turn on in the back of the house. A man wearing gloves and a scarf covering his face then came out of the house and was ordered to the ground by police. Police ordered the man to crawl towards them. While the man was crawling, according to police, he lost a flashlight and a box full of jewelry.
   Police arrested the man and found “a large amount of jewelry” inside his pockets, according to the criminal complaint. Police then discovered the house had been ransacked and jewelry boxes opened.
Joe Ellickson

City hires Franken staffer to handle spin

EAGAN, MN – The city has hired a director of Al Franken’s 2014 senate campaign as its new communications director at a salary of more than $124,000.
   Joe Ellickson, currently on the city of St. Paul’s communications staff, is scheduled to begin working for the city of Eagan on Jan. 14, according to city documents. The Eagan City Council formally approved Ellickson’s appointment at its Jan. 2 meeting. Details of Ellickson’s appointment were buried in a memo attached to the city council’s consent agenda, a list of items approved summarily without discussion or individual votes.
   Ellickson’s appointment to replace retired communications director Tom Garrison does little to negate the appearance of a boys' club in Eagan city government. Few women hold executive positions in Eagan city government. In it’s most recent executive hiring, following the resignation of the city’s police chief, city officials interviewed no women for the position.
   Two members of the city council and the city clerk, all elected positions, are female. At the request of Mayor Mike Maguire, the city council last year voted to remove one of the female councilors from her elected post but later reinstated Council Member Meg Tilley.
   Ellickson served as political director for the 2014 campaign of former Sen. Al Franken, who resigned after several women complained of sexual harassment.

More cost increases to city hall renovation

EAGAN, MN – The Eagan City Council will be starting the New Year with yet another cost increase to the $16 million city hall renovation.
   Architects for the project have submitted another change order, the sixth since the renovation project started, for additional costs of about $60,000, according to city documents. The increased costs include adding a kitchenette to the police station, changing hardware on doors, adding telephone jacks, and re-routing a storm sewer from the entrance of city hall. The storm sewer near the city hall entrance was “uncovered” after the start of construction.
   The additional costs were approved as part of the city council’s consent agenda at its Jan. 2 meeting. The consent agenda is a list of items approved by the council without discussion or a separate vote.

Woman charged with credit card fraud

   An Eagan woman is facing felony charges for financial fraud based on allegations she made unauthorized transactions using a disabled roommate’s credit card.
   Breanna Reed, 38, of 3513 Federal Drive #311, Eagan, was charged with two counts of felony financial transaction card fraud, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint.
   The charges stem from an Eagan police investigation of a theft reported last August. An assisted living caretaker reported fraudulent charges had been made to a client’s credit card, according to court records. The caretaker discovered a credit card, $100 cash, and medication were missing from a locked box belonging to the victim. About the time the victim’s credit card issuer contacted her about questionable purchases, the victim’s roommate, identified as Reed, began receiving packages from Amazon, according to investigators.
   The allegedly fraudulent purchases totaled more than $1,300, according to the complaint.

Minneapolis man charged with mall theft

A Minneapolis man is facing felony charges for allegedly shoplifting from the Eagan outlet mall last summer.
   Keshon Walker, 18, of 3511 6th St. N., Minneapolis, was charged with felony theft over $1,000 and receiving stolen property, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint.
   The charges stem from an Aug. 28 report from an outlet mall store manager that “multiple individuals” entered the store, placed merchandise into mesh bags, and fled the store. According to the criminal complaint, one member of the group ran from the store with “arms full of clothing,” another person followed with a bag full of clothes, and another dropped her bag and fled.
   The store manager ran after them and saw them drive away in a silver Saturn, according to court records. Police stopped the car near the mall and allegedly spotted clothing in the car with security sensors still attached. Police identified Walker as the driver of the car, according to the complaint. Inside the car, police allegedly found more than $2,000 worth of stolen merchandise.

Foster mother charged with manslaughter gives birth

   The Eagan foster mother facing manslaughter charges in connection with the death of a 3-year-old in her care gave birth to another child, prompting social workers to search for the newborn and the Dakota County Attorney’s office to seek a warrant for her arrest.
   The prosecution dropped the arrest warrant for Zaporia Fortenberry after the man believed to be the baby’s father agreed to turn the baby over to the Department of Social Services, according to court records.
   Fortenberry, 31, of 1645 Oakridge Circle, Eagan, is charged with two alternate counts of second-degree manslaughter in connection with the June 7, 2017 death of a foster child in her care, 3-year-old Zayden Lawson. Investigators believe Lawson was repeatedly beaten before paramedics were called to Fortenberry's home after the child stopped breathing.
   Fortenberry, who had two biological children and two foster children, was released on a $50,000 bail bond in April with conditions she not have unsupervised contact with children, including her own.
   According to court records, prosecutors learned on Dec. 6 that Fortenberry had given birth a week earlier and had been released from the hospital with her newborn. Social workers then began looking for Fortenberry and the baby. A Ramsey County social worker went to a house in Minneapolis where Fortenberry was believed to be staying.
   A man at the Minneapolis home told the social worker Fortenberry and the baby had been staying there the past three nights, but were not there at the time. While social workers were looking for Fortenberry, a warrant was issued for her arrest for violating the conditions of her release from jail.
   After the warrant was issued, according to the court, Fortenberry contacted Ramsey County Social Services and claimed she was staying in Burnsville without the baby. She later acknowledged she had been staying in Minneapolis, according to court records. The baby was placed with Ramsey County Social Services after the father, who was not identified, was directed to do so by his parole agent. The prosecution then quashed the arrest warrant for Fortenberry, but continued to ask the court to find Fortenberry had violated the conditions of her release.
   Following a Dec. 27 hearing on the issue, Dakota County District Court Judge David Knutson allowed Fortenberry to be released on conditions including she not contact Lawson’s family, witnesses in the case or her co-defendant Charles Homich, her live-in boyfriend at the time of Lawson’s murder. Homich is charged with first-degree murder in connection with Lawson’s death.
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.

Babysitter charged with assaulting Zayden Lawson shortly before 3-year-old's death

    Eagan police have charged a third person with abusing Zayden Lawson, the 3-year-old Eagan foster child who died June 7, 2017. In a criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County, police charged the child’s babysitter, 30-year-old Laronna Bourne, with two felonies – assault and malicious punishment of a child – alleging she abused the child on June 6, just one day before the child died.
   Police allege Bourne and Lawson’s foster mother, Zeporia Fortenberry, exchanged horrific and racially charged Facebook messages and photos about the abuse. Bourne was supposed to be caring for the child while Fortenberry worked the overnight shift at Walmart. According to court records, Fortenberry would drop Lawson off with Bourne at the Eagan transit station and Lawson would spend the night with Bourne at a hotel room in Bloomington.  Bourne, who had a previous address of 990 Rose Ave., St. Paul, had been staying at the Bloomington hotel where Fortenberry’s boyfriend, Charles Homich, worked because Homich was able to get a reduced rate, according to court records. Bourne is out of jail on $25,000 bail, according to court records.
   A Dakota County grand jury indicted Homich last week on first- and second-degree murder charges in connection with Lawson’s death based on allegations he beat the child, punching him in the stomach, after the child messed his diaper. Fortenberry allegedly left Lawson at her 1645 Oakridge Circle home with Homich on the last night of the child’s life, rather than leaving him with Bourne, in order to give Bourne “a break,” according to court documents filed in the case.
   Bourne was included on the witness list appearing before the Dakota County grand jury in the case against Homich. In order to convict Homich of murder charges, all the jurors at his trial would have to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he inflicted the injuries that caused the child’s death. That could be more difficult, given charges alleging another person abused the child just one day before.
   As part of its investigation into Lawson’s murder, Eagan police obtained search warrants to look for evidence in Fortenberry’s home and cars. Police also searched through Facebook and cell phone messages, according to court records.
   Investigators allegedly discovered evidence where Lawson’s foster mother condoned the babysitter forcing the child to stand naked in a corner and beating the 3-year-old. In the criminal complaint against Bourne, the prosecution described communication between Bourne and Fortenberry.
   In communication the day before the child’s death, Bourne, Lawson’s babysitter, allegedly told Fortenberry, Lawson’s foster mother: “Ok girl I’m finna beat this n[**** (racial term deleted)] feet again he done stood in the f[***ing (expletive deleted)] corder N pissed instead of saying that he gotta use the bathroom [angry emojis].”
  Bourne also allegedly said to Fortenberry: “Sis I don’t even want to sleep till he do but I’m finna strap his a[**] down completely till u get here.”
   Fortenberry allegedly replied to Bourne: “lol did you whoop his a[**] lol … Bad a[**] little f***er
   Bourne then allegedly messaged: “Girl, I beat his feet so bad he on his tippy toes N can’t stand.”
   Fortenberry was first licensed as a foster parent by Dakota County Community Services on May 11, 2016, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Her license was renewed for two years less than a week before Lawson’s death, on June 1, 2017. Her license was temporarily suspended the day after Lawson was found dead in her home, according to the state, and indefinitely suspended in September 2017.