Archive for Gabe Licht

‘Her life was big’

Marleena Dieterich is pictured with her dog, Chica.

Marleena Dieterich is pictured with her dog, Chica.

DELANO, MN – Those who were close to Delano High School senior Marleena Dieterich want her to be thought of as more than just a crash victim whose life ended March 2.

“I just think it’s important that Marleena gets remembered as more than a high school student who died on Highway 12,” her father, Thom Dieterich, said. “She was bigger than that . . . Marleena’s story is too short, but it’s a good story. I don’t say this just because I’m her parent. Marleena was the best of us. She was just mortal.”

“She was totally alive,” her grandmother, Faye Dieterich, added. “Her mind was extraordinary. She had to be absorbing all that information all the time.”

That desire to do so came at an early age.

“She got very frustrated when she was 2-and-a-half years old because other people would pick up her book and read it to her,” Faye said. “She would pick up her book and she couldn’t read. I was sitting beside her once. ‘Grandma, I don’t understand why they can read and I can’t. She was just so frustrated. By 4 years old, she could read, and she never stopped. There’s a stack of books on the table that she was reading.”

Marleena’s sister, Lydia Dieterich, has book stories, as well.

As teachers, she and her mother, Deb Dieterich, would often go to book sales, and Marleena would tag along.

“We’d be there three hours,” Lydia said. “We’d turn around and the cart would be  packed with books and she would come around the aisle with more books in her hands: cookbooks, arts and crafts, things you could do with your hands. She enjoyed drawing and arts and crafts when she had time. She always wanted to do 20 things at once, but didn’t have the time to do it all.”

Stories about books are fitting when remembering Marleena, as she excelled and challenged herself academically.

“She had one of the hardest schedules you rarely see students take,” said Principal Steve Heil, who also served as her advisor. “She took four college classes all day long: Spanish, chemistry, calculus, and psychology. It was amazing . . . She was working two part-time jobs and participating in extracurriculars. I couldn’t have done that. I always saw her as a ball of energy. Her family and friends said she was like the Energizer bunny 24/7.”

She used all that energy to experience a lot of different things.

“She wasn’t afraid to try something new,” Lydia said. “It would have been interesting to see how she tied all her interests and enjoyments together with a career.”

Growing up, her life was filled with variety.

“She enjoyed diversity,” Deb said. “She loved trying to do a lot of things, both physical and academic. She did cheer, she had a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, she loved swimming, and she did dance and gymnastics . . . She loved Destination Imagination. She had gone to globals, as well.”

Deb said Marleena looked beyond herself and her immediate surroundings.

“She was wanting to be out there and try different things and different cultures,” Deb said. “She was not confined to Minnesota or the US.”

Other countries were so interesting to her that she was considering studying at University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.

Heil had no doubt that she would be successful, no matter where she went to college or what she studied.

“I think she was just starting to realize really how intelligent she was,” he said. “ . . . She worked so hard that I think learning seemed easy for her. I think she was just realizing, ‘I can accomplish anything, do anything, as long as I work hard.’ She had a work ethic like you couldn’t imagine.”

One way she used her work ethic was to practice and play a variety of instruments: piano, French horn, and guitar.

“She picked the French horn because it’s the hardest instrument to do anything on,” Thom said. “She decided she wanted to pick up guitar because I had picked it up to self teach myself.”

He said she was better at playing the guitar than he was, she was better than him at a number of things, and he challenged her to be better than him at everything.

Thom remembers when Marleena had to choose between band and advanced classes.

“There was no room for band,” he said. “It was a huge decision for her. She really wanted to keep playing. It just wasn’t in the cards.”

She also did not like that she was unable to be a cheerleader her senior year, as there were not enough students interested to fill out an entire team.

“She was very disappointed,” Deb said. “There was nothing she could have done.”

“She was trying to line up resources so there would be a team next year and the girls could experience the camaraderie,” Faye said.

She had the attitude of a cheerleader, whether she was in the uniform or not.

“If you really get down to who she was as a person, she really went out of the way to help people, motivate people, really cheer for people,” Heil said. “One of her good friends was struggling in Spanish. She took time to not just help her in Spanish, but to be more of a tutor, making color-coded note cards, and went the extra mile as a friend to help her friends when they needed help.”

She often went beyond just cheering or helping.

“She was a great defender,” Faye said. “If she saw someone being taken advantage of or being persecuted in some manner, she would quietly but pointedly defend them. If you didn’t need to be defended, you had better be defending someone else and not wallowing in self-pity. She didn’t accept that at all. She thought we all had responsibility and, I think, she thought she could single-handedly stop hate. She was definitely going to try, even if she didn’t succeed.”

Marleena’s friend, Madeline Ess, shared a story to that end.

“At homecoming, people were being mean to one of our friends because he’s gay,” Ess said. “She went out the next day and bought us all rainbow T-shirts. It was really sweet. She wore it for, like, a week . . . She was just really sweet, and nice, and cared about everybody.”

“Everyone’s unique, but she made sure everyone knew they were unique, and she was there for you,” friend Shianne Judge added. “There are no good words to describe her except that she was herself.”

Lydia said Marleena made an impression on people that was not forgotten.

“I have friends who met her only once but said even that one time meant a lot to them and they remembered her smile, and meeting her one time made an impact,” she said. “Everyone is just kind of in shock.”

Marleena’s Spanish teacher, John Fitzer, said his initial reaction was shock, followed by sadness.

“Marleena, like most of the kids that I have gotten to know well, was like one of my kids,” Fitzer said. “She was friendly, smiley, pleasant, easy to get along with. My feeling is that everyone knew who she was and that Marleena always had a pleasant hello or smile for them.”

Her caring attitude toward people influenced her decision to become an organ donor.

It led to a desire to study bioscience and, potentially, premed. She also told Heil that she believed that by learning different languages – such as Spanish, French, and Mandarin – she would be able to help others in a different way.

“She had an innate desire to help all living things,” Thom said.

Consistent with that desire, she asked family members to make donations to the World Wildlife Fund in lieu of presents.

“She was dedicated to help the earth, but she hated the outdoors, except she loved to fish,” Thom said. “ . . . She’d tell me fish were hiding somewhere. I’d explain to her why they wouldn’t be there. She cast her line. There was an explosion of water as a bass nailed her bait and she reeled it in. I said, ‘Well, you can ignore everything I say.’”

In addition to fishing in the summer, she also enjoyed swimming and helping with summer school.

“She volunteered here in Delano for many years,” Deb said. “I was in the Minnesota Reading Corps. I worked in the summer, as well. She did it, and kept it going.”

Regardless of the season, she enjoyed socializing with friends, which often included some retail therapy.

“She loved to go shopping,” friend Shianne Judge said. “She would save a lot of money from work and go shopping. She loved to get deals. She was a bargain shopper. She waited until something went on sale.”

Ess said they frequented area Goodwill stores and Starbucks.

“She liked to get the vente pink drink,” Ess said. “She’d always get me a grande double chocolate chip frappe and she’d always buy me cake pops.”

Marleena worked at two different Starbucks and enjoyed experimenting with different recipes she saw online or thought up herself.

“One of the last times we were at Target, she was experimenting with a drink she learned from Instagram,” Lydia said. “She was excited to try it.”

On the day of the crash, she was on her way to buy an espresso machine, Faye said, after saving money to pay for it.

She had done the same thing when she decided she wanted a canine friend.

“She said, ‘I want a dog,’” Thom said. “We had a dog who had attached itself to me. She did her chores, saved her money, went to a rescue, and found Chica.”

Chica accompanied her in the pool, on her own flotation device, and was also a part of Marleena’s senior photos.

Thom remembers a time when she was on the other side of the lens.

When she was 4 and attending Montessori school, she was given an assignment to take a picture of “something that made her say ‘Wow,’” Thom said.

“One of the pictures she took was a pile of decaying leaves and struggling flowers,” he said. “At 4 years old, she looked at it and went, ‘Here is all this death and there is something beautiful coming out of it.’ Most adults would never have seen that. I was flabbergasted and shocked at the depth of a 4-year-old and was wondering what part of me contributed to that. It set the tone for the 18 years I had her.”

Just as Marleena could see life coming out of death, Lydia believed she could always find positives amongst the negatives, and help others do so, as well.

Lydia quoted Dumbledore from the “Harry Potter” series, which was a favorite she shared with her sister.

“‘Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light,’” Lydia quoted, adding, “She’d always look for that light or be the light for people who needed it.”

Crash injures Montrose man

BUFFALO, MN – A Montrose man suffered noncritical injuries as result of a crash in Buffalo Wednesday.

According to the State Patrol, a 2005 Buick LeSabre driven by Robert Krause, 88, of Buffalo, was westbound on Second St. S. at Highway 55 in Buffalo when it was struck by a 2006 Dodge Caravan driven by Mary Fosse, 71, of Annandale.

Krause’s vehicle then hit a light pole and was struck again by Fosse’s vehicle.

Krause was transported to Buffalo Hospital, as was Fosse, who suffered noncritical injuries.

Krause’s passenger, 83-year-old Donna Krause, of Montrose, was not injured.

Road conditions were wet at the time of the crash, according to the State Patrol.

All individuals were wearing seat belts, and alcohol was not a factor.

Fire destroys home in Rockford Township

This home at 3692 Darrow Ave. SE is a total loss following a fire Wednesday evening.

This home at 3692 Darrow Ave. SE is a total loss following a fire Wednesday evening.

ROCKFORD TOWNSHIP, MN – Carl Stegeman returned to his home at 3692 Darrow Ave. SE just before 6 p.m. Wednesday and found smoke pouring out of it. He opened the door just long enough to let his dog out, and then called 911.

The house was a total loss, Delano Fire Chief Bob Van Lith said.

When Van Lith arrived, flames were visible on the north side of the house.

Watertown Fire Department automatically responded to the fire, per an agreement with the DFD, and Van Lith also paged Montrose Fire Department. A total of about 35 firefighters responded.

A large response was needed due to a number of factors.

With no fire hydrants in the township, firefighters drove to the West Metro Business Park in Delano to access water.

Cold weather and snow were also factors.

“To drag the hoses through the snow when it’s up to your belly, it’s a lot of work,” Van Lith said.

He said he is not 100 percent sure of the cause of the fire.

In addition to the fire departments, the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, Allina Ambulance, Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association, and American Red Cross responded.

Howard Lake man pleads guilty to drive-by shooting in Delano

BUFFALO, MN – A Howard Lake man is expected to serve 41 months in prison, and will be ordered to pay restitution, after pleading guilty to felony drive-by shooting in connection with an incident that occurred May 1, 2018, in Delano.

Joshua Moist

Joshua Moist

According to Assistant County Attorney Brian Lutes, 35-year-old Joshua Thomas Moist entered the guilty plea in district court Monday.

“The defendant pleaded guilty to the crime he committed: felony drive-by shooting,” Lutes said. “He admitted firing a 9 mm firearm from his moving vehicle towards the vehicle driven by another individual. It is very fortunate for the defendant and all involved that the driver was not hit by a bullet. The charge would have been much more serious had the driver been struck by a bullet. The sentence the defendant is going to receive is a sentence authorized under the Minnesota sentencing guidelines.”

According to a formal complaint, Moist allegedly told a relative he believed he had figured out who had killed his cousin and “he was going to take care of it.”

Authorities believe that led him to Delano in the early-morning hours of May 1, 2018, and eventually to him firing at least five shots at a vehicle, according to the complaint.

The Wright County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene at 2:24 a.m.

The victim – Joseph Campbell, now 37, of Watertown – told law enforcement he had observed a silver vehicle with one headlight sitting in the parking lot of the Holiday gas station in east Delano. When he turned onto County Line Road, he discovered the vehicle traveling behind him.

As the victim attempted to turn around in the Stahlke Bus Service lot at 5280 County Line Road, the other vehicle accelerated and began to pass on the right shoulder. At that time, the victim heard gunshots coming from the vehicle.

Bullets struck the victim’s 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe, with one or more rounds hitting and shattering the passenger-side window, propelling glass fragments into his face.

The victim was not able to identify the suspect, who reportedly continued on County Line Road and drove away.

Numerous bullets and bullet fragments were recovered from the vehicle. The bus garage and two buses were also damaged by gunfire. Despite that damage, bussing was not affected, according to an email to parents of students at Delano Public Schools.

Reviewing surveillance video from Coborn’s, detectives were able to identify the suspect vehicle and an image of the driver wearing a distinctive shirt.

When the vehicle was discovered stuck in the mud near a boat access at Lake Rebecca Park, multiple 9 mm shell casings were visible through the front windshield of the vehicle, consistent with the weapon used in the shooting.

Deputies took Moist into custody after witnessing him leaving a relative’s Howard Lake home with another relative, and located a fully-loaded 9 mm handgun in the glove box.

Authorities say that relative had previously approached them at the crime scene looking for Moist, saying he had called her for a ride.

Deputies went to the home where Moist had been located and spoke to that relative, who reportedly told them she had seen Moist’s gun, which he had claimed was a BB gun, and that Moist had told her he had figured out who had killed his cousin, who died June 2017, and was going to take care of it.

Deputies recovered the shirt that Moist had allegedly been wearing that morning and it matched that shown on the surveillance video.

After being advised of his rights, Moist reportedly told law enforcement a friend had used his car.

“The defendant’s statement lacked sufficient detail to be considered credible and was inconsistent with surveillance video depicting the defendant as the driver of the vehicle at the time of the shooting,” according to the formal complaint.

Moist was initially facing felony charges of second-degree attempted murder, drive-by shooting, and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon.

If convicted of second-degree attempted murder, Moist could have faced up to 20 years in prison. Moist could have faced up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine for the drive-by shooting charge he pleaded guilty to, but the expected sentence of 41 months is closer to the minimum sentence of three years. If there are any fines, they will be decided by the judge. The third charge Moist was facing carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and/or a $14,000 fine.

Moist was previously convicted of a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct in 2008.

Highway 12 crash claims a life

A crash involving a semi and passenger vehicle claimed the life of an 18-year-old woman from Delano.

A crash involving a semi and passenger vehicle claimed the life of an 18-year-old woman from Delano Saturday morning.

INDEPENDENCE, MN — An 18-year-old woman from Delano was killed after her vehicle was struck by a semi on Highway 12 near Lake Haughey Saturday morning.

According to the West Hennepin Public Safety Department, a vehicle driven by Marleena Anna Dieterich was eastbound when it lost control on the icy roads and crossed over the centerline and collided with a semi driven by Jesse Eugene Chase, 50, of Princeton.

Dieterich died at the scene. Chase was not injured.

Chase told officers he saw the passenger car coming into his lane.  He attempted to swerve out of the way but was unable to avoid the crash.  Witnesses at the scene stated they saw the passenger car lose control and slide into the path of the oncoming semi.

The Minnesota State Patrol is assisting the West Hennepin Public Safety Department with the reconstruction of the crash.

WHPSD was also assisted on the scene by the Orono Police Department, the Minnetrista Police Department, The Three Rivers Park Police, The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Crime Lab, the Maple Plain and Delano fire departments and also MNDOT.

Shed catches fire in Independence, several departments dispatched

Thirteen fire departments were dispatched to 435 Co. Rd. 110 in Independence at about 8:30 a.m. Friday. Those departments included Delano, Excelsior, Hamel, Hopkins, Long Lake, Loretto, Maple Plain, Minnetonka, Mound, Plymouth, St. Bonifacius, Watertown, and Wayzata. West Hennepin Public Safety, Medina Police Department, Orono Police Department, and North Memorial Ambulance provided assistance.

Thirteen fire departments were dispatched to a shed fire in the 400 block of Hennepin County Road110 in Independence at about 8:30 a.m. Friday. Those departments included Delano, Excelsior, Hamel, Hopkins, Long Lake, Loretto, Maple Plain, Minnetonka, Mound, Plymouth, St. Bonifacius, Watertown, and Wayzata. West Hennepin Public Safety, Medina Police Department, Orono Police Department, and North Memorial Ambulance provided assistance. Hennepin County Road 110 is closed between Hennepin County Road 6 and Moline Road.