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Spring Valley man faces burglary and arson charges


Fri, Jan 4th, 2008
Posted in Court

PRESTON - Christopher Dean Ward, 27, of Spring Valley, is being held in the Fillmore County Jail on $20,000 conditional bail after being charged in Fillmore County District Court on multiple charges related to an incident in Spring Valley on December 30, 2007.

According to court records, it is alleged that Ward entered an apartment complex in the city where an ex-girlfriend lived and tried to break into her apartment. It is further alleged that Ward shut off the power to the woman's apartment and cut the phone line. The woman locked herself in the bathroom and called 911 on a cell phone.

The criminal complaint also alleges that when police arrived, Ward hid in an empty apartment in the building. He then called police to report three false 911 calls in an attempt to divert law enforcement.

When law enforcement broke into the empty apartment, they discovered a fire had been set. Ward was discovered hiding in the apartment and was arrested.

Ward faces two felony counts of burglary and one felony count of arson. In addition, he is charged with several misdemeanor counts, including interference with a 911 call, falsely reporting a crime, criminal damage to property and negligence in causing a fire.

Judge Robert Benson scheduled Ward's next court appearance for January 14, 2008.

Felony Charges

• Donald Gilbert Berry, 50, of Manley, Iowa, was charged in District Court with one felony count of possession of marijuana.

According to the criminal complaint, Berry was pulled over in the city of Chatfield for a traffic violation on October 10, 2007. The arresting officer noticed a strong smell of marijuana coming from the car. A search of the vehicle revealed a small bag containing marijuana. In addition to the possession charge, Berry also faces misdemeanor charges of driving while under the influence of a controlled substance.

Judge Robert Benson released Berry on his own recognizance pending his next court appearance on January 14, 2008.

Felony Sentencing

• Michael Patrick Howlett, 49, of Chatfield, was sentenced in District Court by Judge Robert Benson to five years probation after pleading guilty to possession of cocaine.

According to court records, the Southeast Minnesota Narcotics and Gang Task Force, in cooperation with Chatfield Police and the Fillmore County Sheriff's Department, exercised a search warrant of the Howlett premises on February 10, 2006. The search discovered a package containing small amounts of cocaine as well as drug paraphernalia containing residue of marijuana. In addition, the search turned up a sawed off shotgun.

Judge Benson stayed adjudication of guilt for five years. In addition to probation, Howlett was sentenced to 60 days electronic home monitoring and ordered to pay a $1000 fine.

Howlett was represented in court by public defender Fred Suhler, Jr. The state was represented by Fillmore County Attorney Kelly Wagner.

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