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Interfaith Day planned for Legislature

PIERRE | Ten years after he was elected statewide leader for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Rev. David Zellmer returns to his former church and South Dakota’s Capitol next week for Interfaith Day at the Legislature.

The event in Pierre is Jan. 10, the second day of the 2018 legislative session. Zellmer, who now lives in Sioux Falls, previously was senior pastor at Lutheran Memorial Church in Pierre. He was chosen as bishop in 2007.

He heads an Interfaith Day group that includes former legislator Stan Adelstein, a Republican from Rapid City; Betty Oldenkamp, chief executive for Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota and a former cabinet member for state government; and representatives for the Episcopal Church, Catholic Diocese, Benedictine Sisters of Yankton, Muslim Community Center of South Dakota, and Buddhist Center in Sioux Falls.

The schedule calls for coffee and discussion at 8 a.m. MST at Lutheran Memorial Church, adjacent to the Capitol grounds, followed by an 8:30 a.m. walk across the street to the Capitol.

In the Capitol rotunda are planned a 10:30 a.m. CST prayer and introductions.

Lunch will follow back at Lutheran Memorial Church. The Interfaith Day participants then return to the Capitol for the 11 a.m. MST start of the Wednesday activities in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Interfaith Day participants can attend the 12:30 p.m. MST State of the Judiciary address to a joint assembly of the 105 legislators in the House chamber. David Gilbertson, chief justice for the South Dakota Supreme Court, is scheduled to deliver the speech.

According to the South Dakota ELCA website, “Honoring our commitment to ecumenical and inter-religious outreach, we would be grateful if you would join us for a day at the Capitol as we stand in solidarity with our neighbors of other faiths across this great state.”

To register for Interfaith Day, visit

Court finds Box Elder man guilty of rape

The court convicted a Box Elder man of rape Tuesday after the man decided to forego a jury trial in favor of an agreement that the judge described as “unusual.”

Toby Rolfe, 44, didn’t plead guilty to his charge of third-degree rape, but he consented to the judge’s issuing a verdict based on information presented to the grand jury.

“This is an unusual situation,” Judge Robert Mandel said at the Pennington County Courthouse on Tuesday morning. He described the hearing as a “stipulated facts trial,” using the transcript of Rolfe’s grand jury indictment.

Rolfe’s lawyer, Ellery Grey, said his client entered into the agreement to prevent a jury trial and preserve his right to an appeal.

Authorities accuse Rolfe and another man of sexually assaulting a 28-year-old woman at Rolfe’s home in 2016 after she consumed a drink at his place and passed out. The prosecutor has told the court it holds “overwhelming” evidence against the defendants, including people who witnessed the assault and the victim being found at the scene.

Rolfe’s co-defendant, Marvin Payne, 50, pleaded guilty in October to being an accessory to a crime. The Colorado man admitted taking cellphone photos as Rolfe allegedly molested the woman, an acquaintance they invited to party at Rolfe’s place.

Rolfe has maintained his innocence and was originally set for a three-day trial starting Tuesday morning. Payne had agreed to testify against Rolfe, whose third-degree rape charge carries a penalty of up to 25 years in prison.

Under Rolfe’s agreement with the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office, the prosecutor will recommend no more than eight years in prison, the judge was told Tuesday. Afterward, Mandel reminded Rolfe that the court wasn’t bound by the agreement and that the sentencing decision rests with the judge.

Rolfe is scheduled to be sentenced in February. Payne’s sentencing hasn’t been scheduled; he faces up to five years in prison for being an accessory. Each man is free on bond.

Report cites December rise in Midwest economic conditions

OMAHA, Neb. | A business conditions index for nine Midwest and Plains states rose over the past month, pointing to continuing improvement in regional economic conditions, an economist said in a report released Tuesday.

The Mid-America Business Conditions Index climbed to 59.0 from 57.2 in November, the report said. The October figure was 58.8.

"Although the inflation gauge is elevated, I would characterize the region as having a 'Goldilocks' economy," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. "That is not so hot as to push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at a stepped-up pace, but not so cool as to slow employment gains."

The regional wholesale inflation gauge cooled to a still strong 71.3 from November's 71.4, reflecting the regional inflationary pressures.

"Even though both our regional wholesale inflation index and the U.S. inflation gauge are elevated, I expect the Federal Reserve to forgo a short-term interest rate hike at the next meeting of their rate-setting committee on Feb. 1." Goss said. But he also said he expected a quarter-point increase at the March 15 meeting.

The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth in that factor. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Looking ahead six months, the December business confidence index rose to 73.2 last month from 71.9 in November.

"Healthy profit growth, still low interest rates and the recently passed tax reform package pushed business confidence to its highest level since January 2011," Goss said.

The regional jobs picture showed improvement as well, as the December employment index climbed to 57.7, compared with 53.6 in November.

"Over the past 12 months, the regional manufacturing sector has added approximately 29,000 jobs, a 2.1 percent expansion," Goss said. "This annual regional manufacturing growth rate significantly exceeds the 1.5 percent growth for U.S. manufacturing."

Midwest economy: December state-by-state glance

The Institute for Supply Management, formerly the Purchasing Management Association, began formally surveying its membership in 1931 to gauge business conditions.

The Creighton Economic Forecasting Group uses the same methodology as the national survey to consult supply managers and business leaders. Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss oversees the report.

The overall index ranges between 0 and 100. Growth neutral is 50, and a figure greater than 50 indicates an expanding economy over the next three to six months.

Here are the state-by-state results for December:

South Dakota: South Dakota's overall index hit 58.2 in December, compared with 55.4 in November. Index components were new orders at 65.2, production or sales at 58.3, delivery lead time at 55.8, inventories at 57.2 and employment at 54.5.

Arkansas: The December overall index for Arkansas jumped to 56.8 from November's 51.9. Components of the index were new orders at 70.1, production or sales at 56.3, delivery lead time at 56.7, inventories at 48.6 and employment at 52.3.

Iowa: The Iowa overall index dipped to 54.3 in December from 55.2 in November. Index components were new orders at 63.4, production or sales at 56.9, delivery lead time at 49.0, employment at 53.0 and inventories at 49.3.

Kansas: Kansas' overall index climbed to 62.0 last month, a regional high, and up from November's 58.0. Index components were new orders at 72.4, production or sales at 63.9, delivery lead time at 57.0, employment at 60.5 and inventories at 56.3.

Minnesota: December's overall index for Minnesota slipped to 56.8 from November's 57.8. Index components were new orders at 69.5, production or sales at 63.4, delivery lead time at 49.0, inventories at 49.3 and employment at 53.0.

Missouri: Missouri's overall index fell to 55.3 last month from 59.2 in November. Index components were new orders at 60.5, production or sales at 54.6, delivery lead time at 46.4, inventories at 55.6 and employment at 59.2.

Nebraska: The overall index rose to 57.6 last month in Nebraska from 54.8 in November. Index components were new orders at 67.2, production or sales at 59.9, delivery lead time at 52.4, inventories at 52.2 and employment at 56.2.

North Dakota: North Dakota's overall index climbed to 55.1 in December from 52.3 in November. Index components were new orders at 53.1, production or sales at 62.3, delivery lead time at 44.5, employment at 58.8 and inventories at 56.6.

Oklahoma: The state's overall index slipped to 59.3 from November's 60.8. Index components were new orders at 69.3, production or sales at 61.4, delivery lead time at 54.2, inventories at 53.8 and employment at 57.9.


Mitchell arts center flooded

MITCHELL | A broken sprinkler system pipe caused minor flooding at the Mitchell High School Performing Arts Center on New Year's Day.

Fire Department Battalion Chief Ben Vanden Hoek told The Daily Republic that everyone inside left the building, and the sprinkler system was shut off. There was no fire — Vanden Hoek says a system malfunction likely caused the pipe to break.

Mitchell Technology and School Security Director Dan Muck said damage was concentrated to only a small part of the building, and he doesn't expect a lengthy cleanup process.

Big jackpots tempt lottery players

DES MOINES, Iowa | Lottery players have a chance at winning two giant jackpots that together amount to nearly $800 million.

The Mega Millions drawing took place Tuesday night, offering players an annuity jackpot of $343 million, paid over 29 years. The game's cash option is an estimated $215 million. It's the largest Mega Millions prize since a $393 million drawing last August.

Tonight, players of the Powerball game will seek a $440 million annuity prize, or a $278.3 million cash prize. Powerball hasn't had such a big prize since August, when a Massachusetts player won a $758.7 million jackpot.

The odds of winning jackpots in either game are incredibly small. Mega Millions has odds of one in 302.6 million and Powerball is slightly better at one in 292.2 million.

Pilot lands plane without wheels 

FARGO, N.D. | A pilot and three passengers escaped injury when their single-engine airplane made an emergency landing at the airport in Fargo.

Officials at Hector International Airport say the pilot put the plane down on its belly after its landing gear failed Monday evening. Airport Authority director Shawn Dobberstein tells KFGO the Trinidad plane left the airport in Moorhead, Minnesota about 5 p.m. A short time later the pilot determined the landing gear didn't work, which was confirmed by the control tower at Hector in a fly-by.

The pilot landed the plane shortly before 6 p.m. Air traffic was diverted for about 90 minutes while the damaged plane was cleared from the north-south runway.

Warrant issued in Neb. slaying

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. | Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for a homeless man suspected of killing a 19-year-old in Grand Island.

Police said in a news release Tuesday that the warrant for 24-year-old Herbey Portillo Jr. lists charges of first-degree murder and a weapons crime. Police say he may be armed with a semi-automatic handgun.

He's accused of shooting to death Trevor Sok, who officers found wounded around 3:45 a.m. Monday at a Grand Island home. Police said he died later at a hospital.

No arrest has been reported. Court records don't list the name of an attorney who could comment for Portillo.

Man charged with abandoning puppy

GILLETTE, Wyo. | A 24-year-old Wyoming man is charged with felony animal cruelty after a hound mix puppy was found abandoned in a dumpster in Gillette in sub-zero temperatures.

The Gillette News Record reports people walking by the garbage bin heard the puppy whining Saturday morning. The dog was rolled up in an air mattress and unable to escape.

Sgt. Eric Dearcorn says police posted a picture of the puppy on its Facebook page, which led to the identification of the owner. Manuel Rodrigues was arraigned Sunday and his bail was set at $10,000 cash. He remained jailed Monday. Jail records did not indicate if he had an attorney.

The Animal Medical Center of Wyoming says the 4- to 6-month-old puppy, Missy, is in intensive care and has a long road ahead of her, but that her strength is inspiring.

Boy crashes into parked squad cars

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. | A 15-year-old Fort Totten boy is facing a charge of driving under the influence after crashing into two unoccupied Devils Lake police vehicles.

The Highway Patrol says no injuries were reported in the incident about 5:30 a.m. Monday.

Authorities say the boy was trying to back a pickup truck into a street when he struck the two parked police sport utility vehicles. The boy then backed into an unoccupied car that was parked in a driveway, pushing it into a fence.

Man sentenced for assaulting teen

MINOT, N.D. | A man has been sentenced to serve three years in prison for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old runaway girl while working as a hotel clerk in Minot.

Authorities say 24-year-old Mohammed Siddiqui offered to let the girl stay in a vacant room and then assaulted her when she came to the Astoria Hotel on Oct. 31, 2016, to use the internet after running away from the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch.

The Minot Daily News reports Siddiqui eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of sexual imposition. He was sentenced Friday, and given credit for more than a year he has already served behind bars.