School district abandons search for new superintendent, elevates interim to top post

   School District 196 abandoned a planned search for a new school superintendent and has instead elevated its interim superintendent to the post.
   The decision, according to school board chair Jackie Magnuson, was made during a special school board meeting, a closed meeting not televised like regular school board meetings, held before the board’s Oct. 22 meeting. The board will negotiate a new contract with the new superintendent, Mary Kreger.
   Kreger, formerly the district’s head of special education, was appointed interim superintendent last spring after the previous superintendent, Jane Berenz unexpectedly announced her retirement, effective at the end of the last school year. At the time of that announcement, the school board appointed an interim superintendent saying it expected to conduct a lengthier search for a permanent replacement. The board announced Monday that search would not occur.
   The school board this week also announced the sudden appointment of another major position in the administration, new finance director Mark Stotts. Stotts, a District 196 outsider and long-time friend of the current finance director, will replace the district’s current financial chief, Brian Solomon. Solomon will retire in January after 30 years with the district. The school board has not disclosed the salaries of the newly appointed administrators. Kreger was given a $41,000 bonus when she was appointed interim superintendent.
   The turnover in district administration follows the administration’s prediction of a $25 million deficit, about seven percent of the current operating budget.

Friends of fugitives facing felony charges

EAGAN, MN – Two Dakota County women are facing felony charges after an apparent crackdown on people assisting fugitives.
   In one case, an Eagan woman was charged with aiding an offender following a search of her home and neighborhood June 5. Porsche Kirkwood, 22, of 4068 Meadowlark Curve, Eagan, was charged with the felony after Eagan police responded to a report of a domestic dispute at her home.
   Kirkwood had called police because the father of her child had come to her home and taken her car without her permission. During her conversation with police, according to the criminal complaint, Kirkwood allegedly acknowledged she had known her child’s father, whose identity was shielded in the criminal complaint in the manner of crime victims, was wanted on arrest warrants but allegedly told police she had allowed him to stay at the home.
   Eagan police then reminded Kirkwood “that it was a crime to harbor a fugitive,” according to the complaint. Police alleged Kirkwood told them she would call if the man returned to her home.
   Eagan police then surrounded the area and began to search for the man. The search, according to court records, included “multiple officers, a K-9 unit, and announcements to the neighbors warning about an ongoing pursuit.”
   While police were searching her neighborhood, police allege, Kirkwood allegedly called Eagan police and said the person they were looking for was en route to Richfield or Minneapolis. Suspicious, a police officer then returned to Kirkwood’s home, according to the complaint, and told her he believed the suspect was in her house. Kirkwood, according to police, “eventually acknowledged this and admitted to lying about [the suspect]” who was then found in Kirkwood’s home and arrested.
   In another case, Brigitte Julio, 27, of 5480 Blackberry Trail #309, Inver Grove Heights, was charged with two felony counts of aiding an offender on May 18 stemming from an investigation by the North Star Fugitive Task Force, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint.
   According to the criminal complaint, the fugitive task force was surveilling apartments in Inver Grove Heights on May 18 looking for a fugitive wanted on a Department of Corrections warrant. Police spoke with the management of the apartment building, which then questioned employees as to whether they had seen the man.
      Julio, one of the employees, allegedly told the agents the suspect was staying at her apartment and gave them permission to search, according to court records.
   About 45 minutes after they arrived, task force agents were watching the apartment when they saw a man fitting the suspect’s description near the pool with a cell phone to his ear. The suspect looked at one of the agents then took off running, according to the complaint.
   Police searched the suspect’s phone and allegedly found three text messages from a number believed to be Julio’s warning the suspect to “leave the house” “now”.
   The two women have been summonsed to appear in Dakota County court to answer to the felony charges in December.

After being deported twice, man tries to get U.S. visa by faking his own kidnapping

   A twice deported man from Mexico pleaded guilty in federal court in Minneapolis Tuesday to crimes related to faking his own kidnapping to obtain a visa.
   Alejandro Mario Cortes, 46, who also uses several aliases, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, pleaded guilty Oct. 23 to one count of visa fraud and one count of illegally reentering the United States. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Cortes conspired with a friend to fake a kidnapping from Chicago. As part of the scheme, the two drove from Illinois to Minneapolis and stayed in a self-storage unit for several days before Cortes’ friend, at Cortes’ request, bound Cortes’ mouth and hands with duct tape and left him near Randolph Ave. in St. Paul.
   A snow plow driver reported the man bound with duct tape to police. Cortes was taken to Regions Hospital for treatment, where he received gift cards from a charitable organization providing services to crime victims, according to U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald.
   Cortes told investigators he had been grabbed off the street in Chicago and thrown into a van. During the investigation of the alleged kidnapping, Cortes showed investigators text making reference to “the KKK.”
   Cortes staged the kidnapping, according to prosecutors, in an attempt to obtain a U-Visa to stay in the United States. U-visas are intended for crime victims.
   Cortes, who was previously convicted of drunk driving in Minnesota, was deported in 2001 and again in 2010, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Swim coach charged with sex crime against second teenage student

   A 61-year-old former Burnsville swim coach is facing more criminal charges stemming from allegations he had sexual contact with a second teenage girl he coached.
   Alfred O’Neill, also known as “Rocky” has been charged with three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, according to the Dakota County Attorney’s office. Prosecutors allege O’Neill had sexual contact three times with a 16-17-year-old girl he coached in 1997-1999.
A copy of the criminal complaint was not available because of restrictions shielding the release of information regarding sex crimes and child pornography.  
   Burnsville Police received a report of the second victim after O’Neill had been charged with a felony sex crime based on allegations he had sex with a 17-year-old student 30 years ago.
Alfred "Rocky" O'Neill

Eagan man charged in county melee

HASTINGS, MN – An Eagan man was arrested after a series of events in which witnesses reported he struck families driving in their vehicles, ran away wearing no pants, gouged a firefighter’s eyes, and repeatedly spat on a paramedic.
   Michael Papa, 46, of 1388 Lakeside Circle, Eagan, is facing several criminal charges, including a felony charge of threats of violence, in connection with the Oct. 6 episode, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint.
   Papa was arrested after police were called to the scene of a vehicle crash at the intersection of 160th Street E. and General Sieben Drive in Marshan Township and arrived to find the suspect vehicle, a white Hyundai Elantra, had left the scene and caught fire. The suspect than fled on foot. An officer found the suspect standing next to a truck, banging on the door. Police described the suspect, later identified as Papa, as “wearing a white t-shirt, dark-colored jacket, and his pants had fallen down around his ankles.”
   Police allege Papa refused to follow a police officer’s commands and instead walked up to one of the damaged cars and yelled at the driver “I’ll kill all of you.” Papa continued to yell and resist arrest, shouting “I’ll kill him. How many do I have to kill today?” according to police.
   Papa is accused of ramming into the truck of a driver who stopped to help him after his car appeared to be broken down in the roadway. Witnesses reported they were driving their 2016 Dodge Ram when, thinking the driver needed help, they stopped behind a stationary car with its flashers on. The witnesses reported the Elantra then backed up, driving around the truck that stopped to help, rammed the Good Samaritan’s truck from behind, and sped away. The victim tried to follow but was unable to safely keep up at the speed the vehicle was driving.
   The victim called 911. Then watched as the car that struck his struck an SUV. The driver of the SUV told police she had been driving with her son when he cautioned that a car was quickly approaching theirs. The approaching vehicle then rammed the victim’s Chevy Equinox from behind, spinning the car until it faced the opposite direction, and injuring the mother and son.
   The driver who hit the victim’s car got out of his car and began pounding on another vehicle, trying to get in, before running from the scene according to police. A witness reported the fleeing driver as “a heavy set male with a shaved head [who] appeared to be on drugs…he had a white t-shirt on and his pants kept falling down.”
   A passerby stopped and spoke to the crash victims, according to court documents. When she saw Papa standing in the road, she honked her horn at him. The suspect, whom she described as wearing a navy sweater and no pants, reached into her car window, grabbed her hair and the car door handle, and yelled “get the [expletive deleted] out.” The passerby sped off and called 911.
   Another passerby reported a man with no pants running towards his car. The passerby asked the man if he was OK, then drove off as the man tried to open his car door.
   A firefighter driving through the area with his wife and child then came upon the crash scene. When he saw Papa in the road, the firefighter started to open his door to get out of his truck. Papa then allegedly charged at the firefighter, gouged his eyes, scratching the firefighter’s eyeballs, and began throwing haymaker punches, according to the complaint. After removing Papa from his truck, according to court documents, the firefighter then put on his gear to fight the car fire.
   Police then arrived and arrested Papa, according to the complaint. He was transferred from police car to an ambulance. While medics were tending to Papa, he allegedly removed a towel used to cover his face and began spitting at one of the paramedics. Police obtained a search warrant to test Papa’s blood and are awaiting results, according to court records.

Michael Papa