Drunken driving made headlines in ’13

Other top news stories for 2013 in the Elk River area:

Drunken driving made headlines in 2013

The Star News reported on Feb. 23 of the number of cases of DUIs in Sherburne County increased to 168 in 2011. Sherburne County also remained one of the 13 deadliest counties in the state for the number of DWIs it issued.

Sherburne County Attorney Kathleen Heaney said the message needs to get across to individuals that drinking and driving is not a good choice.

Then on Feb. 26 there was a fatal crash that claimed the life of Suzanah Van De Walker, a St. Francis woman, on Twin Lakes Road. Carlos Molinas Flores was charged with two felony counts of criminal vehicular operation, including one that called attention to the fact that his blood alcohol concentration level was above 0.08.

A recent jury trial for the case in November was deemed a mistrial after a jury could not come to a unanimous decision on Flores’ guilt or innocence.

Flores crossed the center line and struck Van De Walker in her lane, but jurors wrestled with the fact that she had also been drinking that night and Flores was the only witness to the crash. An autopsy showed her blood alcohol concentration to be .24. That coupled with Flores testimony cast doubt prosecution’s case.

The prosecution and the defense reached a plea agreement, each side deciding it was a better route than risk another hung jury or losing altogether.

Flores will not go to prison, provided he follows the conditions of his 10-year probation.

Four high-speed  chases started or ended in Elk River

There were four high-speed chases that started or ended in Elk River in a less than three months in 2013.

One involved an Aitken man who entered the city on Nov. 25 on Highway 169. Law enforcement chased him down Highway 169, across 221st Avenue before getting on County Road 1. It was at the intersection of county roads 1 and 33 that he crashed.

Another chase happened on Nov. 1 when a motorcyclist fled Champlin Police and led police through three cities before they were able to pinch the motorcyclist off the road at Dodge Street.

There was another one on Oct. 18 when two 15-year-olds suspected in a string of burglaries led police on a chase from Elk River to Coon Rapids.

And the first chase happened on Aug. 27 after a 12-mile pursuit ended in the 22000 block of Meadowvale Road. The motorist fled on foot after crashing into a pond but was apprehended.

Elk River did not have any chases in 2012 and only provided one agency assist in all of that year.

Homes for abandoned snakes left for dead

Homes were found for two abandoned snakes who were apparently left for dead in February on the side of Yankton Street near Highway 10 in Elk River.

The snakes were transported to Barrington Oaks Veterinary to find out if the snakes were microchipped and their original owners could be identified.

Barrington Oak Veterinary staff handled the two snakes that were brought there by Elk River Police.

There were not microchips implanted in the snakes. To the surprise of everyone, however, the snakes came to life once they warmed up.

The larger of the two snakes was a bull snake, and it has been adopted by a local man.

The other one, an anerythristic corn snake, was delivered to a staff member of the Minnesota Herpetological Society in Northeast Minneapolis.

Locals in Boston during marathon bombing

Nine marathoners from the Star News area ran at the Boston Marathon when the century-old classic race was rocked by two terrorist bombs in April, leaving three dead and more than 170 injured, many critically.

First-time Boston qualifiers Amy Visci, 38, and Katie Eberley, 34, both of Elk River, friends and YMCA workout partners, were accompanied by their husbands to Boston.

They and others provided locals a glimpse into the tragic turn of events. That list included Elk River Area School District teachers Tina Ostroot and Theresa Lensing, who vowed they would not let the terrorist bombs prevent them from returning.

Kate Kramer, a 2007 Elk River High School graduate, locked herself in her Boston residence while police searched for the bombing suspects.

Elk River parks had a banner year in 2013

2013 has been a banner year for Elk River’s park and recreation system.

One milestone was the opening of Bailey Point Nature Preserve in August. The park is located at 1 Morton Ave., where the Elk and Mississippi rivers flow together.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony in August, Mayor John Dietz described Bailey Point in two words: “A jewel.”

Another popular development was the opening of a destination playground at Orono Park in June. The $260,000 attraction was paid for by profits from the city’s two liquor stores.

City officials also worked with The Conservation Fund in 2013 to secure funding to buy the 335-acre Houlton Farm and turn it into a nature-preserve-type park. The farm adjoins Bailey Point.

At year’s end, the deal had not been finalized. City Administrator Cal Portner said The Conservation Fund has submitted a grant request to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  “We are awaiting word on whether we were successful,” he said.

Fire swept through apartment building

Fire swept through a 16-unit apartment building at 365 Evans Ave. in Elk River on Dec. 5.  Firefighters from Elk River and seven other fire departments battled the blaze in single-digit weather. Everyone got out safely, but about 40 apartment residents were displaced.

Heroin emerged as a growing problem

Heroin continued to emerge as a growing problem in Minnesota, and locally, in 2013.

Authorities have reported at least four heroin overdose deaths in Elk River since January 2012.