Judges set bail for alleged heroin dealers

Seven Rice County residents accused of dealing heroin are awaiting second hearings after arraignments at Rice County District Court on Monday morning.

Some arraignments occurred in courtroom 2, where Judge Thomas Neuville presided, and some in courtroom 3, where Judge Bernard E. Borene presided. The judges set bail of varying amounts for each of the defendants.

Alexander Bruce Benson, 19, of 300 Aster Dr., Northfield, is facing two charges of aiding and/or abetting in the sale of heroin on Sept. 29 near Greenvale Apartments on Greenvale Avenue, which is a public housing zone, and one charge of aiding and/or abetting the sale of heroin.

The apartment complex was home to Jillian Marie Wetzel, 25, who authorities determined died of an accidental heroin overdose on Aug. 23. Wetzel’s death by overdose was the most recent of five of such fatalities to occur in Northfield in the past year and a half.

Photo by Benjamin Haynor Caption: Rice County District Court on Oct. 27, 2008

Benson allegedly sold 0.8 grams of heroin for $200 to a “confidential reliable informant” working with the members of the Rice County Drug Task Force on Sept. 24 in the parking lots of the Subway restaurant and the Country Inn off State Highway 3, according to a “statement of probable cause” filed in district court.

Neuville set Benson’s next hearing date at Nov. 10 at 1:30 p.m. in district court. The maximum sentence for aiding/abetting a heroin sale in a public housing zone is 25 years in prison and/or a $500,000 fine. Aiding/abetting the sale of heroin could bring a sentence of 20 years in prison and/or a$250,000 fine. Neuville set Benson’s bail at $10,000 with a list of conditions or $50,000 without conditions.

Lucas Patrick Benson, 19, of 404 Harrison Ave., Edina, is facing a charge of aiding/abetting in the sale of heroin and a charge of obtaining heroin. Benson allegedly drove another of the defendants in a 2006 Jeep Cherokee to a police-arranged heroin buy on Oct. 19.

Neuville set Benson’s next hearing date for Nov. 4. He set Benson’s bail at $2,500 with conditions and $5,000 without conditions. Obtaining heroin can bring a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

Jacob Andrew DeMann, 21, of 601 Railway St. South, Dundas is facing one charge of aiding and/or abetting in the sale of heroin and a charge of aiding and/or abetting a plan to obtain heroin.

The charges refer to DeMann’s actions on Sept. 29, when police arranged for an informant to buy heroin in Northfield from a person who allegedly rode as a passenger in a 2004 Pontiac DeMann was driving.

DeMann “admitted that the transaction did indeed occur in his vehicle and that he has given Defendant Peterson rides in exchange for heroin,” members of the task force wrote in the statement of probable cause.

Neuville set DeMann’s hearing date on November 4 at 1:30 p.m. The judge set bail at $5,000 with conditions or $10,000 without conditions. The maximum sentencing of Bail Bonds in Phoenix, AZ for aiding and/or abetting in the sale of heroin is 20 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. For aiding/abetting a plan to sell, the sentence could be 5 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

John Blaze Frank, 21, of 423 3rd St. Northwest, Faribault, is facing two charges of selling heroin on Sept. 29 near Greenvale Apartments, and four counts of selling heroin on Sept. 16.

Police working with the Rice County Drug Task Force used an informant to buy heroin from Frank five times between Sept. 16 and Sept. 29, according to the statement of probable cause. The informant/s allegedly bought 3.5 grams of “high-quality” packaged heroin and .3 grams of cocaine total from Frank using $800 in pre-recorded government buy funds, according to the statement.

Neuville set Frank’s next hearing date on November 4 at 1:30 p.m. The judge set bail at $30,000 with conditions or $50,000 without conditions.

John Shelby Hanks, 21, of 10500 295th St. West, Northfield is facing a charge of aiding/abetting in the sale of heroin on Sept. 25. to a police informant. Hanks allegedly told police he “would drive Defendant Frank to the Cities in exchange for heroin,” according to the statement of purpose. Borene continued Hanks’ case to Nov. 11 at 1:30 p.m. and set his bail at $5,000 with conditions and $50,000 without.

Travis Roy Peterson, 19, a Northfield resident who could not give a specific address to the judge, is facing one first degree charge of selling heroin, two second degree charges of selling and one count of possessing heroin. Peterson, according to the drug task force’s statement of purpose, is allegedly the largest heroin dealer in Northfield. Peterson allegedly sold the task force informant 22.2 grams of heroin for $5,600 between Sept. 11 and Oct. 24., according to the statement.

Neuville set Peterson’s bail at $100,000 with conditions or $200,000 without. He set his next hearing for Nov. 4 at 1:30 p.m.

Patience Carol Stopke-Huisentruit, 18, of 27 Oak St., Farmington, is facing one first-degree charge of selling heroin, one second degree charge of selling and one charge of possessing heroin. Borene set her next hearing date for Nov. 10 at 1:30 p.m. and set bail at $5,000 with conditions or $50,000 without conditions.

Benjamin Haynor contributed to this report.

Above: Statement of probable cause for John Blaze Frank, Alexander Bruce Benson, John Shelby Hanks.

Above: Statement of probable cause for Travis Roy Peterson, Jacob Andrew DeMann, Patience Carol Stopke-Huisentruit, Lucas Patrick Benson.

Update 10/28 11 a.m.: Jim Haas, who posted a comment on this story, told me I incorrectly wrote the judges “posted bail” when the correct terminology is “set bail.” I corrected the term in the article.

Update 10/28 1:30 p.m.: The district court released defendant DeMann on bail on Monday.

Update 10/29 9 a.m.: After doing some online research, it seems the court documents contained a spelling error in Patience Carol Stopke-Huisentruit’s name. I’ve corrected it in the article.

Update 10/31 12 p.m.: The courts also released defendants Stopke-Huisentruit and Lucas Benson on bail early this week.

Update 10/31 7 p.m.: I saw five of seven arraignment hearings in Rice County District Court on Monday morning and the following were my observations of the defendants.

Judge Thomas Neuville saw Travis Roy Peterson first in Courtroom 3 just after 11 a.m.

That courtroom, unlike another I visited later that day, is designed in a way that hides the defendant behind one of the room’s supporting beams. Peterson stood in a wooden, boxed-in area and occasionally peered out around the beam to see the prosecuting attorney and the members of the audience behind him. Otherwise, the defendant’s image was projected onto a few television monitors around the room for easier observation.

Peterson, like every defendant, wore an orange jumpsuit and orange handcuffs. He appeared unshaven, but more or less emotionally composed. Neuville asked Peterson if he wanted him to appoint a public defender, or if Peterson planned to hire a private attorney. Peterson intermittently chewed his bottom lip while the judge spoke.

“Well, how much would that cost?” Peterson asked the judge, regarding the fees of a private attorney.

The judge replied that each lawyer charges something different.

Peterson said he wanted an idea of the cost so he could begin saving money to pay a private attorney, if he needed to.

The judge asked Peterson for his address. Peterson said he didn’t know, but pointed to a person in the courtroom audience and said that person would know. That man said Peterson lived in Dakota County, but did not know the specific address.

During the discussion of setting the terms of Peterson’s release, the prosecuting attorney highlighted the reasons why a jury could one day find Peterson guilty of heroin-related crimes. He told the judge he believed Peterson is a threat to others and to himself.

The attorney read a portion of a police “statement of probable cause” that said Peterson could have been selling about $1,000 a day worth of heroin. At that, Peterson raised his eyebrows in a way that seemed to indicate skepticism.

When the judge set Peterson’s bail at $100,000 with conditions, Peterson had his head lowered into his hands.

Neuville saw Lucas Patrick Benson next. When Benson first spoke to answer the judge’s questions, he leaned in toward a small microphone at the stand. He appeared to have a private attorney, since a representative sat at a desk beside the prisoner’s box and spoke for him on a few occasions. Benson appeared clean-shaven and wore a white T-shirt beneath his orange jumper.

The judge said he would change one of the charges against Benson to include the words “subsequent offense” because Benson had been serving a probationary sentence on another, separate drug charge. The prosecuting attorney said Benson presented a danger to others and himself. Benson did not look at the attorney while he spoke. Benson’s attorney argued the opposite of the prosecutor, emphasizing that Benson could likely begin working a job if released.

Neuville saw John Blaze Frank next. Frank also appeared unshaven. The judge pointed out Frank was serving probation on another charge.

“You look familiar,” the judge told Frank.

Frank seemed to agree, saying he had recently been to court because he had violated the terms of his probation.

The judge asked Frank his preference for an attorney.

“Yeah, if I could get a public defender, that’s be great,” he told the judge.

The judge said it appeared Frank was eligible, since his income was below poverty level.

After the prosecuting attorney requested the judge to set a certain bail amount, the judge asked Frank if he had anything to say about the amount.

“I don’t have any money so I’m not going to make bail anyway,” Frank replied.

The other arraignments happened in Courtroom 2. I made it inside to catch Patience Carol Stopke-Huisentruit’s hearing.

Stopke-Huisentruit, beneath a stylish haircut, appeared composed while she waited her turn before Judge Bernard Borene. The courtroom was designed in a way that made in easy to see everyone in the room. Stopke-Huisentruit sat legs crossed, her white tube socks showing beneath orange shackles and brown plastic flip-flops.

The prosecuting attorney told the judge Stopke-Huisentruit had prior convictions, was a danger to others, and might have even overdosed on heroin in the recent past, according to the police’s statement of probable cause, and so could be a danger to herself.

The judge asked if Stopke-Huisentruit’s parents wanted to speak. Her mother Joni of Farmington and her father Duane of Northfield sat together in the audience. Her father got up to sit beside Stopke-Huisentruit and talk to the judge.

“This is our baby-girl, Patience,” Duane Huisentruit said.

He told the judge Patience has been in treatment for her drug addiction in the past.

“We are still in the process of supporting this girl. We’re still at her side,” he said.

“I agree with what he just said,” Patience said when her father finished speaking.

She told the judge the treatment and probationary sentence helped her to stay clean. She tried “really, really hard to stay clean,” once probation ended, she said, but then began “struggling a little bit.”

“I’m really thankful my parents are here,” she said. “Oh yeah,” she added, “With the overdose thing, I really don’t think I overdosed.”

Update 11/3 9:30 a.m.:

Rice County Heroin Bust Press Conference 10/27/08 from Ben Haynor on Vimeo

Here is the full-length video, thanks to Ben Haynor! For shorter edited version see https://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/6154/

Update 11/3 9:45 a.m.: At the prompting of a reader, I called Dr. Charles Reznikoff at Northfield Hospital and Clinics who has been treating heroin addicts since administrators hired him to do the job two months ago. Dr. Reznikoff said he has not, to his knowledge, noticed a change in his workload following the arrests of the alleged heroin dealers last week. As per usual, however, he said he continues to see new patients nearly every day. He would not disclose specific numbers about patients, but he said he is certified to have no more than 100 of them.

Update 11/4 5:45 p.m.: A judge scheduled third hearing dates for defendants Peterson and Frank today and denied Peterson’s request for a reduction in bail, according to a clerk at the Rice County District Court. Meanwhile, the courts rescheduled second hearing dates for defendants Lucas Benson and DeMann. Peterson is scheduled to next appear in court on Nov. 12 at 1:30 p.m. as is Benson; Frank, Nov. 19 at 1:30; DeMann, Nov. 25 at 1:30.

Update 11/14 2:15 p.m.: On Monday, a judge scheduled a fourth hearing for Peterson and a third hearing for Lucas Benson for Dec. 10 at 1:30 p.m. A judge also saw defendant Hanks on Monday and scheduled his third hearing for Nov. 26 at 1:30 p.m.

Update 11/19 4:15 p.m.: Judge Bernard E. Borene continued John Blaze Frank’s case to Dec. 16 at 10 a.m.

Update 12/02 3 p.m.: District court judges set omnibus hearings for three more of the defendants. Jacob DeMann is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 14 at 1:30 p.m. and John Shelby Hanks and Patience Stopke-Huisentruit are scheduled to appear Dec. 17 at 1:30.

Update 12/11 3 p.m: Carol Weissenborn, Travis Peterson’s public defender, asked to continue Peterson’s omnibus hearing to another date. Peterson is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 10 at 1:30 p.m.


  1. Josh Hinnenkamp said:

    This saddens me to such an extent I can’t even describe my feelings right now. I think the community needs to show a little empathy and a little compassion before people go for blood. If what has been reported is indeed true (remember it only alleged at this point), it means that work needs to be done. Regardless of what happens in these busts work needs to be done. Why are kids heading down this path? What we can we do to help addicts and what can we do do prevent these poor choices by our community’s youth and young adults? I don’t have all the answers, but I know that we have many young addicts in out community. Many have been addicts for years. The police department has their place in busting users and dealers, but we must also remember we need to start focusing on treatment for addicts and measures to prevent this from happening again. There will always be drug users in our community. That is something we can be sure of. But I think we as a community maybe needs to have some more public dialogues about the issue with factual and realistic prevention and treatment becoming a norm in this community. I applaud the work of the many who do their best to help in these aspects, but know that these people can’t take it all on themselves.

    October 28, 2008
  2. kiffi summa said:

    Josh: Once again you’ve proved why you are such a great leader for youth in our town.

    On the newspaper site comments, we are once again cautioned NOT to look back while we’re “beating a dead horse”…

    We NEED to look back to see where the actions were that we hope will not become repeated mistakes.

    All Gary Smith got from this community was criticism, when his courage in holding that heroin press conference should have brought him praise.

    No one wanted to hear it, and anyone who said he had to do it the way he did, because the ‘powers that be’ weren’t listening, were labeled as ‘negative’ .

    As I recall, when the NFNews printed portions of Chief smith’s long statement to the community, almost everything about the school district response to his concerns was edited out.

    Another year, more young lives wasted, who knows how many more threatened, and partially because NF just couldn’t listen to their Police Chief.

    It is NOT ‘beating a dead horse’ to listen to the lessons of the past, especially this most recent past…

    We must give all our support, and get our local institutions to make their support , and remedies , and resources , focussed on the problem.

    Please don’t be afraid to talk about this, again…

    October 28, 2008
  3. David Henson said:

    Nice work Bonnie ! Did the police give any indication of moving up the distribution channel ? Clearly this 19 y.o. must have been being supplied heroin from someone. Does that become an issue for some state or federal law enforcement ?

    October 28, 2008
  4. Bonnie Obremski said:

    Josh-thanks for your input, what you said is important to keep in mind with this story, I think.

    David-thanks! I’m going to be writing more today about what the authorities said during the press conference yesterday. As quick answers to your questions, the county sheriff said they were continuing the investigation. But, it seemed like they believed they had already caught some of the most major players. In the statements of purpose, police wrote that Peterson’s supplier was in the Cities and that supplier got heroin from Chicago. Police did not trace it farther than that in the report. I’ll ask them more about that today.

    October 28, 2008
  5. Jim Haas said:


    Terminology correction: Judges set bail, defendants (if they have money) post bail.

    October 28, 2008
  6. Bonnie Obremski said:

    Ack! Thanks, I will correct that.

    October 28, 2008
  7. Jim Haas said:



    On a more substantive note, I am very pleased that the drug task force has built what appear to be solid cases against these alleged dealers. Josh H. is correct, though, in saying that the response needs to be more than just enforcement, which can temporarily address the supply side. Many in the county are working on or already providing responses that address the demand side.

    October 28, 2008
  8. Jane Moline said:

    I have heard that the heroin users in town are/were afraid of “Rork” (Peterson). (More than one person told me he is violent and would kill someone.) Many were in debt to him for his supplying them with drugs–no doubt some of these addicts were “used” by Peterson. I am glad they have taken him off the streets and I hope the bail is high enough to keep him in jail until he stands trial. Ditto for Franks.

    I hope our community can show compassion to help the families of addicts–these famiiles–parents and brothers and sisters need our support as they face this terrible burden where their love for their son or daughter is not enough, where they are unable to change the path their son or daughter has chosen, and where they must wait out every minute wondering if the next phone call will be that their child has died from a drug overdose.

    October 28, 2008
  9. Gilly Wigley said:

    I believe Peterson’s nickname is spelled Roarke.

    In any case, this is very saddening. What I would like to know, is in this last year, what has been done in the community to help lower the heroin (or any drug for that matter) problem? I know the Key was holding community discussions at the Armory. Trying to do more than just “plan” and “talk” about the issues. Did anything ever come of those meetings? Even outside the Key’s discussions, are there any other organizations that have done anything?

    Maybe I haven’t heard of anything, because I don’t live in Northfield at the moment. But I check LoGroNo, Nfld.org, and the Nfld news sites on a pretty regular basis, and I haven’t heard anything in a long time. This doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been, I’m just curious to see what progress/improvements we’ve made, if any.

    October 28, 2008
  10. Holly Cairns said:

    It sure sounds like people knew about Rork or Roarke.

    October 28, 2008
  11. Gilly Wigley said:

    Knew Roake? Yes.
    Knew about this? No.

    October 28, 2008
  12. Jane Moline said:

    Holly: I think the younger group knew he was a dealer and they also knew he was not a good or nice person–but he was also only 19.

    I have heard that he came from a challenging background-tough childhood–was a good kid until he became a heroin addict and then became nasty.

    I am concerned about the other heroin addicts he is dragging down with him.

    Gilley: Unfortunately we can do everything we can possibly think of except make choices for people. Of course it is best to make sure drugs are not available for them. So we all talk as much as we can, trying to find some way to persuade kids to avoid drugs. It is difficult to help those that refuse help and resist our interference.

    I really believe we need a way for kids to rat out who is using so that we can get in their face right now–before they are arrested or dead. Surely the kids can see that it is better to get someone in trouble with their parents than to risk getting in trouble with the police or taking an overdose.

    At the same time, for an addict, it may take getting arrested for them to be motivated to want to change–I really don’t know the right answer, but I think sticking drug addicts in prison is the wrong answer.

    When I confronted a college roommate about her being an alcoholic, I was shunned, ridiculed, ostracized, and made to feel miserable and stupid. But I knew I was right–her boyfriend and her Mom refused to listen to me.

    Confronting addiction is difficult and not at all rewarding–there is nothing good about it. Everyone would rather not. I don’t expect that teenagers would be very good at helping their classmates caught up in drug use–I know of students who have left town to avoid their friends who went over to the “dark side.” This is a terrible mess.

    October 28, 2008
  13. Bright Spencer said:

    During the nineties, I tried to convince some kids that by buying cocaine, they were helping poor South American women to go to jail, and be separated from their kids. They all but laughed at me. Now, it’s the poppy fields of Afghanistan, where many farmers could grow something else, but prolly not as lucrative.
    When you have no respect for life and don’t see that we are all in this together, this is what happens.
    Many years ago I read a something about a whole city full of opium addicts in (fill in any town so I don’t get accused of nationalism or something), and the bridges of the town where the townsfolk tended to go and shoot up were covered with needles. No one worked, few bathed or shaved. They were all about the opium and doing stupid things to get it. Few sights are more pathetic than to see an entire city of people going down the tubes that way, but it has happened. And for what? A few head cartoons. Yep.

    October 28, 2008
  14. john george said:

    Jane- In answer to your comment, “…Surely the kids can see that it is better to get someone in trouble with their parents than to risk getting in trouble with the police or taking an overdose…”, actually, no, I don’t believe they do see that, and for all the reasons you cited in your own experience. There is no simplistic solution, IMHO, to this problem, since drug use is a symptom of deeper problems. Until a person is able to get these dealt with and supportive relationships built around him, the symptom will continually arise. I believe that for any program to work with young people, there must be a restoration of their relationship with their parents or guardians who can give proper support and influence in their lives. Without this foundation, any network that is built around them will will not have the strength to sustain them. As I have said before, perhaps there is as much need for training in parenting as there is for training in a profession. Empathy is a great start, but we must act on that empathy to accomplish anything.

    October 28, 2008
  15. Jane Moline said:

    John, I agree with what you are saying about the youth–I just wish they would see that we are trying so hard to help.

    I also know that many of the heroin addicts in Northfield come from wonderful families with good parents. The problem is that when one becomes an addict, all the support in the world doesn’t matter when you want your fix. Addicts find a million reasons to be an addict, and in spite of all of the loving support they may have, they chose their drug over family and friends and church and money and love. Please do not infer that all of these addicts are a product of poor parenting. It just isn’t so.

    Some of the addicts do not come from loving homes–and those relationships cannot be restored–I think we need to bring community to bear on these problems so that all members of our community–addicts or not–know that we will support them in becoming better people.

    October 28, 2008
  16. Holly Cairns said:

    Now I get it, Gilly! 🙂

    October 28, 2008
  17. john george said:

    Jane- I think for generations, parents have wished their teenage children would see that they had their best interests in mind. Part of this is just growing up and finding out how to deal with the expanding horizons in their lives. I know my children had much more opportunity than I had when I was growing up. All my children had the priveledge of traveling outside the US before they were old enough to drive. With this kind of opportunity out there, it is really hard to keep up, sometimes. The world is not like it was when I was growing up, so I did not expect my children to handle it the same way I did.

    As far as drug abusing youth coming out of “good” families, I agree here. I didn’t mean to infer that all drug adiction problems can be traced to “poor parenting.” Sometimes, it seems, this thing rears its ugly head in the most unlikely situatuations. I have a pastor friend that had one of his children jump off the deep end, and completely unbeknownst to him. So I don’t have any illusions that a seemingly normal family will be unscathed. I have seen good family settings be a redemptive setting for those caught in addiction, though, as was able to happen for my friend.

    I have personally had teens living with us from broken or disfunctional families. Most of these are now married, productive members of society. Only one did not succeed, and that person had physical effects, FAS, from their childhood that could not be overcome in a normal family setting. As I said before, there probably are as many root problems leading to addictions as there are young people that need to be dealt with individually.

    October 28, 2008
  18. I agree that we do need to take these people off the streets but when we do take them off the streets we need to make examples of them. I don’t mean that we should lock the up in jail but we should out them in treatment and make sure they turn their lives around. Constant drug testing and long term probation would be the best solution. There shld be some jail time however to let them see what will happen if they start doing drugs again or start missing probation.

    October 29, 2008
  19. Bonnie Obremski said:

    I’d like to know about these young people so I can put them into context. My direct contact information is: RepJNorthfield@gmail.com, 774-272-0730

    October 29, 2008
  20. Holly Cairns said:

    Jane said:

    I have heard that he came from a challenging background-tough childhood–was a good kid until he became a heroin addict and then became nasty.

    Poor kid. He used, too, then?

    Good idea to use treatment and follow-up for these kids, Michael. Jail time, too, but important to mention treatment. I have heard of at least one family where a good kid is hooked, enough so that the “moment of clarity” feeling fades and he uses again, much to everyone’s dismay.

    I wonder what they do in treatment– does it include finding a path to success?

    October 29, 2008
  21. Jane Moline said:

    Anne: Thanks for the link. I think they are getting a bit more practical in California. Finally.

    October 29, 2008
  22. Jane Moline said:

    Holly: It would take a book to explain treatment. Suffice it to say, an addict has to keep trying until they can hold their own. Recovered addicts talk about continually craving it 10 or 20 years after they have stopped using.

    An addict in treatment has few opportunities to get a job–who wants to hire a drug addict? It is difficult for them to see any future where it may get better or even a little bit easier. So success is measured in small increments of getting through the next minute or hour or day or days–each minute is a success.

    It just isn’t the kind of success we all think of. I am worried that there is such a stigma about addiction that we do not approach it as the public health problem it is–we treat it as a criminal problem. If somebody’s kid has cancer we offer to help and pitch in and even have a fund raiser for treatment.

    In this case, the person’s poor decisions led to an unbelievable sickness of body and soul. Sometimes I think we make that the basis of shunning them or making their families feel like failures. Haven’t we all made mistakes in life?

    I think we need to know who these sick people are, so we can recognize them on the street and ask how they are doing and ask if they need help–and call their parents if we think they are slipping–I think it takes a village to support and reform a heroin addict.

    October 29, 2008
  23. Ayla Otto said:

    I don’t think we need to get to know them, we just need to think of them as people, and not “Those people who were arrested.” Yes, they were arrested, and they obviously deserved it, but they just got into some bad stuff. I agree with Michael that they need treatment so maybe they can go back to their normal lives or at least come close. Jailing them and charging them with all of this crap can do some thing, but not as much as treatment could.

    The notifying parents thing is a little over the top. It’s not our place to check up on them and call a parent or someone every time we know someone slipped. What are the parents going to do? We just need to get them into treatment and help as much as we can in that way. If they end up arrested or whatever again after that, try again. Give them more treatment. Help them until they can function as a member of society again.

    October 29, 2008
  24. Michael HANKS said:

    We need to treat them with the options that we have available and in the future better treatment options will open up. We must have patcience with them.
    For them getting a job i believe their money needs to be watched to see what they are spending it on. Other then symptoms of using herion this is also a good sign that they have started using again.
    I wish it were that simple that the whole town could help a person recover from an addiction but in this day and age that just dosn’t work.

    October 29, 2008
  25. Ayla Otto said:

    I agree with Michael. Watching their money usage would be beneficial, but it’d take a lot of work on someone’s part. I bet most people wouldn’t like the fact that there would be a lot of time spent on these kids. Just a thought though.

    October 30, 2008
  26. Scott Oney said:

    Bonnie: I understand you attended the arraignment. I’m curious about the defendants, and in particular Travis Peterson and John Frank. Did either of them show an appearance consistent with someone 60 hours into withdrawal? Were they able to sit through the arraignment? The reason I’m asking is that several posters here seem to have jumped to the conclusion that all of those arrested are addicts. Some may be, but I haven’t seen any credible word one way or the other. It wouldn’t surprise me if they all use heroin on a somewhat regular basis, but that alone would hardly qualify them as addicts in need of treatment.

    I’m also curious about Travis Peterson’s history in Northfield. Details are still sketchy, but he appears to have been enrolled at Northfield High School in the fall of 2004. Does anyone know if he grew up in Northfield? And Jane, can you tell us more than you mentioned? What do you mean by a “challenging background”? I’d call it less than a hunch at this point, but there may be some surprises here.

    October 30, 2008
  27. Jena Fredrick said:

    I would like to say in response to something Jane said a while back, but I’m not sure if she was just saying this to Holly or quoting her. Anyways this is what was said, so that you don’t have to go back:

    Holly: I think the younger group knew he was a dealer and they also knew he was not a good or nice person–but he was also only 19.

    I’m assuming she is talking about Rourke (Travis), I was friends with him for a while and I think that it is unfair to say that he is not a good or a nice person when you don’t even know him, just what he’s done. I’m not condoning him for what he did, but maybe if you were in his shoes, and dealt with what he’s dealt with, you would have done the same.

    October 30, 2008
  28. Jane Moline said:

    Jena: NO, that is why we are not heroin addicts. Unfortunately, even a 19-year-old can choose a road that is very bad–

    I have asked to know more about him so that I am less likely to just write him off–but he has stacked the cards, not me.

    His using other drug addicts for his dirty work and to further his habit is disgusting–being a heroin addict and destroying your and your families life is bad enough–dragging others into it is worse.

    I hope he can get treatment, but I also hope that he will be in no position to drag others down with him.

    October 30, 2008
  29. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi Jena,

    Right. I’m with you on that one. Everyone has a story, and I’m not casting any stones. I’d just like us to move on to helping people. Heroin is nasty, but maybe not right away? Maybe right away. Yes?

    Do you have any ideas on how to help?

    October 30, 2008
  30. Jena Fredrick said:

    Roarke has had a tough life, and I don’t deny that he could have chosen a better path for his life, but I personally feel like he might have thought he didn’t deserve better. I believe he can get better if he gets the right kind of help, but if he has no friends to be there for him when he needs it, then what’s the point?

    Holly: when you ask if I have any ideas how to help I assume you mean help make sure this doesn’t happen to other people. All I can say is that if you have kids, you should encourage them in everything they do. Teach them about drugs and sex so that they can come to the conclusion that it’s not worth it for themselves (and for the sex that they have to be smart about it). I think that kids who turn to drugs are either lacking in support, are depressed, or are just curious (of course I’m no expert and I’m not limiting the reasons to what I have just said), but if they have someone in their life who cares and who they feel they can talk to openly, and if they know all the reprecussions, maybe so many kids wouldn’t be turning to drugs.

    October 30, 2008
  31. Jena Fredrick said:

    Jane: (sorry but I’m commenting on another previous comment that I had missed) I personally have never seen Roarke violent, angry and upset yes, but I also find it laughable that someone would think he was capable of killing someone, at least intentionally. That just isn’t the Roarke that I know. And your comment that you hope his bail is so high that he stays in jail til he stands trial just seems cruel to me. maybe I am just taking your comments too personally, but it feels to me that you have no problem tearing down what little standing
    Roarke has left in this community. When he is let out do you really think he’ll want to stay in a community where people are talking about what a violent and evil boy he is behind his back?

    Also when you mention that he is Only 19 or say that Even a 19 year old, it makes me feel like you wouldn’t expect a 19 year old to make important decisions, it makes me feel like your looking down on the youth to being susceptible and naive. As a 19 year old women, I of course feel at least mildly offended at even the smallest implication that age determines the ability to cope with ones own personal decisions no matter how big. If I am wrong on this thought or have in any way blown this out of proportion then I apologize, but I do feel like my own accomplishments are if anything more impressive for my age.

    October 30, 2008
  32. BruceWMorlan said:

    Jena, you mention that you are at mildly offended at even the smallest implication that age determines the ability to cope with one’s own personal decisions. But this flies in the face of studies that show definitively that on average (meaning for a significant proportion of the people) good decision making capability has not developed until the mid 20’s. On average. Statistically you may be (from your writing, I’d say probably are) mature in that dimension for your years. But that just makes you exceptional. The science says you are exceptional. But is also says that society is justified in assuming that a random 20-year old is not well developed until proven otherwise. That’s the statistics of it. To go against that finding is to put both society and the youth at risk.

    October 31, 2008
  33. Jena Fredrick said:

    I guess that when you put it that way I really don’t have the right to be offended. Honestly I don’t know why but when I read some of the things people are saying here I just get myself into a bit of a huff, and without much forethought I just write what I feel.

    October 31, 2008
  34. Bonnie Obremski said:

    Hi Jena,

    I’m curious about what you know of Mr. Peterson’s background. I spoke with a young woman this week who said she is a close friend of his. She said Roarke had a positive relationship with his mother and had probably just been peer-pressured into starting on heroin. Before he knew it, he was hooked. The reason I’m curious is I’m trying to find out as much as I can about what makes someone try heroin. If I were a parent, I’d want to know that, so I could do what I could to try and keep my child from starting.

    October 31, 2008
  35. will oney said:

    The fact is that for a long time Travis has been exploiting Northfield youths to fuel his own addiction. I don’t think he is an evil person or that he would seriously hurt someone let alone kill them, however he is a grave threat to society and should be removed from it. For those stressing the importance of treatment I agree that for most addicts this is the case, however in cases such as his the goal should be containment.
    As for how we can keep the next generation of kids from getting caught up in the same downward spiral, I believe we need to re-examine drug education in our town. Programs like D.A.R.E and health classes mean well but only teach so much. Perhaps some sort of program where young, local addicts in recovery could speak to kids on addiction we be beneficial. It seems to me that kids who get into heroin completely underestimate how quickly and completely it takes hold of and changes you.

    October 31, 2008
  36. will oney said:


    October 31, 2008
  37. Jane Moline said:

    Jena: I think 19-year-olds are capable of important decisions–I am lamenting that in a very short time Travis was able to make so many bad decisions. And please don’t lump all heroin addicts into one pot–many of these people have loving and supportive families that were in their lives–I just don’t think that is the whole story on Travis Peterson. I would like to know more, but until they can reform him, I am glad he is locked up.

    October 31, 2008
  38. David Ludescher said:

    Scott and Will: Some good suggestions. I especially like Will’s suggestion of “containment”. Containment is a much better policy than than conviction.

    Scott: I am guessing that Gary Smith didn’t want to listen to you because of big plans for a bust, and that is troubling.

    I have a serious concern that kids (adults) who are believed to be using drugs are allowed to continue to use and/or sell so that law enforcement can finally pin a rap on them. The big busts get all of the news and the money; but, a quick non-criminal intervention, even by law enforcement, could go a long way to nipping these drug problems before they get bigger.

    October 31, 2008
  39. Jane Moline said:

    David: I agree. I wish that there could be effective interventions that would not lead to jail time. Sick people need treatment.

    October 31, 2008
  40. Bonnie Obremski said:

    Just added a new update!

    October 31, 2008
  41. Griff Wigley said:

    We’ve had several anonymous comments submitted to this discussion thread. Some are from parents whose children have been affected by chemical abuse. Others are from young people who are recovering. Others are from young people who know one or more of the accused.

    I don’t generally allow anonymous comments but I do make exceptions for cases like this where making one’s name public could have adverse consequences.

    However, I do try to verify the authenticity of the commenters by contacting them via email and then phone. This takes a while.

    Lastly, anonymous commenters should know that I still expect you to abide by the rest of our Discussion Guidelines.  

    November 1, 2008
  42. Griff Wigley said:

    Here we go again: 250 area heroin users or 15-20?

    In today’s Strib: Northfield drug probe nets 8; more charges possible.

    In 2007, then-Police Chief Gary Smith ignited a political firestorm when he charged that up to 250 local youths were engaged in widespread heroin use, leading to a spike in other crimes, including thefts and burglaries.

    Other community leaders reacted with disbelief and anger, and two weeks after that Smith began a medical leave that ended five months later when he accepted a job in Kansas.

    Cook said Friday that a drug task force believes there are only about 15 to 20 regular heroin users in Northfield and that there’s no evidence of any dealing in the local high schools or colleges.

    On Friday night, Smith stood by his earlier estimates and said that while he was glad to hear of the arrests he was saddened by the ongoing string of fatal overdoses. The most recent death was in August.

    November 1, 2008
  43. Patrick Enders said:

    If there are only 15-20 ‘regular’ users, wouldn’t that put the death rate for heroin users in this town at ~30%?

    November 1, 2008
  44. David Henson said:

    Bonnie – nice writing on 10/31 !

    Patrick – I think we found a point of agreement. The arrests would also have been near 50% of the heroin users in town. Seems unlikely the police could arrest a dealer and half his clientelle in one fell swoop. Not to mention many users go to Mpls for their drugs.

    November 1, 2008
  45. Curt Benson said:

    This article from the NFN said:

    “Peterson, Cook estimated, served about 15 to 20 users daily, selling approximately $1,000 of heroin a day. In all, Peterson, is alleged to have sold more than 22 grams of heroin on 15 different occasions over six weeks.”


    Bonnie, you were at the press conference Monday. Do you remember Cook giving an estimate like the Strib said? (I don’t remember that, but could be wrong.) I thought the 15 – 20 number was an estimate of how many heroin users one dealer, Peterson, was estimated to supply. I don’t recall an estimate of the total number of users.

    It seems like a call to Cook is in order.

    November 1, 2008
  46. Ben Haynor said:


    I’m Ben Haynor, I’ve been working with Bonnie on this story. We were both at the arraignments and the press conference, and you are correct. Cook said that the Rice County Drug Task Force estimated Roarke’s $1000/day of heroin would support 15-20 users. The STrib was inaccurate in its reporting. We spoke to Cook again on Thursday, and he repeated the same thing. Bonnie and I will upload the video of the press conference. Cook speaks about the numbers around five minutes into the movie. My computer is converting the video file as we speak.

    November 1, 2008
  47. Curt Benson said:

    Thanks, Ben. Nice work.

    November 1, 2008
  48. Scott Oney said:

    Patrick: Could you please expand on your analysis? You asked the following question:

    If there are only 15-20 ‘regular’ users, wouldn’t that put the death rate for heroin users in this town at ~30%?

    I know you’re a doctor, so you must be smarter than I am, but are you suggesting that deaths would only be expected among the pool of current regular users? And what about the much more numerous group of casual or occasional users that would be expected (at least by me) to surround them?

    Do you happen to know what the life expectancy is for a hardcore junkie? I don’t know how likely they are to OD, but the ones I’ve seen never looked very healthy.

    November 1, 2008
  49. Scott Oney said:

    Patrick: It looks as if 30% may be in the ballpark for overdose (not necessarily fatal) among regular users (http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/312/7044/1435):

    Interviews with 320 heroin users in Sydney found that two thirds had had a drug overdose, a third within the past year, and that 80% had been present at the overdose of another user.

    Here’s another concern (http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/article/3681):

    Drug users who inject heroin after completing 21-day methadone programs or after release from jail or prison may have a high risk of overdose, according to UCSF researchers. The researchers explained that lowered tolerance levels in each of these situations may increase overdose risk.

    So your 30% figure seems plausible.

    November 1, 2008
  50. Patrick Enders said:

    I don’t believe 30% is a believable figure for death from overdose. Therefore, either they were not counting a much larger number of non-‘regular’ users, or they were just citing flawed data.

    Ben’s answer seems to clarify where the Strib got it wrong.

    November 1, 2008
  51. Jane Moline said:

    I believe the 200 to 250 number that Gary Smith was using came from an estimate made by a Hazelden employee who was basing it on their method of estimating the problem. I can’t remember if it was a multiple of 10 or 15 or 20, but they said that the number of users seeking treatment were a subset of the number abusing; based on the number of heroin addicts seeking treatment at Hazelden, they estimated that there were 200 to 250 users in Northfield.

    I do not know the statistics on “casual” users, although I understand that some people do try heroin and do not become addicted, while others may become addicted the first time they use. Why one person becomes addicted and others don’t (or at least not until they have used repeatedly), I can’t tell you.

    It makes sense that those going through treatment are at a higher risk of overdosing. If they have not been using for a while or they are trying to overcome the blocking drugs that they are taking for treatment, they would be more likely to overdose. Also, they may be in a more fragile state where they are less afraid of dying than of missing out on getting high. I would think drug addicts are more likely to be depressed, as well, which can lead to carelessness in preserving your own life.

    And, they are taking an unregulated drug with unknown purity cut with an unknown substance. They really would not be able to accurately dose themselves. Maybe 30% is low for (non-fatal) overdoses.

    November 1, 2008
  52. Scott Oney said:

    Patrick: The 30% figure was yours. At first it seemed high to me, but I found a source that would offer you some support. Again, I’m not sure what pool you’re talking about, and now I can’t tell what you think would be a likely percentage. It would help if you could supply some refs.

    Jane: You raised a good point when you said,

    I would think drug addicts are more likely to be depressed, as well, which can lead to carelessness in preserving your own life.

    Beyond that, overdoses aren’t always accidental. Here’s something from one source (http://www.springerlink.com/content/b567140712415586/):

    The study involved interviews, with 256 heroin overdose survivors successfully resuscitated by Melbourne Ambulance Service paramedics. A substantial minority (17%) of the sample indicated that they had ever had an intentional overdose, and 67% had one within the last 6 months (11% of the total sample). Of those who had ever intentionally overdosed, 21% did so at the overdose for which they were recruited into the study (4% of total sample). . . . Intentional overdose appears to comprise a relatively low proportion of overall heroin overdoses. However, given the complexity of suicidal thought and behavior, it is possible that some heroin overdose survivors who report their overdose to be unintentional were in fact experiencing some degree of suicidal thinking at the time of the overdose.

    (NOTE: This quote is from the abstract of the paper, and one number seems wrong. The 67% must refer to a portion of those ever having an intentional overdose; as written, it looks like 67% of the whole sample, but interpreted the way I suggest, the other numbers come out right.)

    November 1, 2008
  53. Bonnie Obremski said:

    Hello folks, just posted an update and included a video of the full-length press conference, which Ben Haynor uploaded to Vimeo.com. (Thanks Ben!) The video includes the question and answer regarding how many people Peterson could have hypothetically supplied.

    November 3, 2008
  54. Cady said:

    I struggle with this tragedy for so many reasons.

    Some seem to think that so many are out for “blood” with these drug addicts/dealers. Although I don’t believe that to be a true statement, I do agree with being angry, yet satisfied that the ball has started to roll and things are being done.

    I have used a different name to not only protect myself, but to also protect my family. We have been on the side of the drug addicts. We have been through the treatment program with one of our children. And, we have experienced the pain, heartache and the feeling of complete disbelief – that this could happen to one of ours. One person in particular that is named with the accused had befriended my child many years ago. He introduced marijuana first, and then as time passed, and my child was able to steal enough money from his parents, the bigger and “better” drugs came into the picture.

    Being naive was my biggest downfall. I never thought for a second that I would ever have to worry about my children and drugs. I never thought for a second that everything that I tried to teach them had gone in one ear and out the other. However, as time passed, and all the signs were missed, the violence started. The stealing was first, the physical violence was next. The scars on my face – as a mother, are there as a constant reminder to my son everyday.

    Why are so many looking for compassion? I find it very hard to be compassionate to these “kids” when they knew full well what they were doing. Should the public now be responsible to get them the treatment they need? I’ve paid my dues many times over and at this point in my life, am not willing to help those who have continually hurt my family.

    It sounds harsh doesn’t it? I’m angry. Very, very angry, and I’d give anything to stand in that courtroom and tell the judge just exactly what I went through at the hands of one of the accused.

    My child is now clean and has been for the past two years. However, not a day goes by when I don’t go back to the day of the intervention, and the words that my child said to me…. “Mom, I used to lie in bed at night and try to think of ways to kill you without getting caught.” That, my friends, is a very, very hard thing to live with.

    All of them should be held accountable for their actions and all deserve jail time – to sit and think about what changes need to be made in their own lives. That time would also give them the opportunity to figure out the right words to say to their loved ones who take the brunt of it on the outside.

    November 4, 2008
  55. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for sharing your painful story, Cady.

    (Moderator’s note to others: we’ve approved this anonymous comment because the author confirmed their identity via email and we agree with their rationale for wanting to remain anonymous. We’re attempting to do this with other anonymous comment submissions, too.)

    November 4, 2008
  56. Arlen Malecha said:

    Cady –

    Thank you for sharing your story. I think many Northfielder’s, like myself, don’t know what to feel (anger, compassion, disgust, etc) or how to help or if that is even possible.

    I pray that you and your family are / will soon be whole again.

    November 4, 2008
  57. Bonnie Obremski said:

    I posted what happened in court today in an update at the bottom of my original post. Two of the defendants attended their second hearings this afternoon.

    November 4, 2008
  58. Anon said:

    I knew most of those who were arrested personally. Many of those people were friends of mine at some point in my life. [alleged dealer] was, to some, a scary person on the outside. Sure, he could make threats and do all that, but he wasn’t the type of person to follow through. [alleged dealer], like anyone else, is scared. I’ve seen him on several occasions nearly in tears over having a gun pulled on him, or people threatening his own life. Regardless, he continued to exploit those in need of his products, just to live his life. He was making the best with what he had, just like the rest of us. Some of you may criticize me for sympathizing with him, but I’ve been in his shoes, I know what its like. Even though at times I’ve hated him to death, I still can relate to him. Fuck, the majority of the last three months I would have loved to never see him again (Just not under these circumstances). A number of my friends had been clean off dope for a number of months, and when [alleged dealer] returned after the death of a close friend it only took a couple minutes for him to get them back on it.

    [alleged dealer] has had a number of chances to turn his life around. He’s been to treatment and jail numerous times, and none of those experiences seemed to do much. Getting arrested may very well be the best thing that ever happened to this man. His incarceration can go one of two ways though. He can either realize that he needs to change and get into the proper CD programming in whatever facility he is being held, OR he can just continue along, making more connections like a number of those imprisoned do.

    I feel like this has just been one long, completely pointless rant… But also, before I forget. The juvenile who was arrested in connection with the heroin “ring” had absolutely NOTHING to do with heroin. I know for a fact he has never touched heroin in his life, much less sold it. I find it ridiculous that our Rice County Drug Task Force has somehow gotten this fucked up.

    At any rate, I hope that those involved will see where their actions and thinking have gotten them. It may take them a long time to finally get clean, some may never. Statistics are against them. When I was in treatment for the first time they told us only 10% of all addicts are able to recover, which meant only one or two of us in my group would maintain, at some point in life, long term recovery. Even though the odds are against them, there’s always a chance they can get clean. I’m only 18 and have spent nearly two full years of my life in outpatient/inpatient facilities. Thanks to that though, I have finally managed to stay clean. I will still be praying for each and every one of them.

    Sorry for the disjointedness and umm… overall lack of structure or coherence. It’s 3:30 in the morning and I need some sleep and of just been typing this as it comes to my head.


    November 5, 2008
  59. Patrick Enders said:

    Thank you for sharing your very moving, personal, and heartfelt story and perspective. I wish you strength and success in your personal journey.

    November 5, 2008
  60. Curt Benson said:

    Anon, Northfield’s opiate problem seems to be somewhat unique. What do think happened that got this trend going? What could have Northfield done differently? Also, what do you think should be done locally to help people recover from addiction? What can be done to prevent young people from starting down the road of opiate addiction?

    Good luck to you and thanks for sharing your story.

    November 5, 2008
  61. disenchanted said:

    As a parent of a Northfield adolescent who became involved with drugs & went to treatment & continued to struggle who has chosen NOT to come back to Northfield I have one comment: LOCK ‘EM UP, give them treatment if you feel a moral responsibility, BUT DON’T LET THEM BACK ON THE STREET.

    I have seen too many families & parent-teen relationships destroyed, & I’m ANGRY. And I am going to stay angry till the law deals with these “pushers”. There are too many weak-kneed treatment programs that don’t do anything but cost lots of money. We give teens “rights” so parents have almost none. It took a judge to get my teen into treatment & I think that is the way most teens get there. We give our kids too much & too many have lost their way.

    November 6, 2008
  62. Griff Wigley said:

    Evidently there were some court hearings this week (Monday) on the accused. Anyone have details? And what’s the best way for a citizen to keep track on an ongoing basis?

    November 12, 2008
  63. I’m calling the Rice County District Court in Faribault today to check up. They don’t open until 12:30 on Fridays, but other weekdays they’re open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Their number is (507) 332-6107. You can call and ask for a person to give you the status of a defendant if you have their full name.

    November 14, 2008
  64. Scott Oney said:

    Griff and Bonnie: The only way you can really find out anything is to go down to the courthouse and sit through the hearings. Two of the defendants had their Rule 8 hearings last Wednesday, 11/12/08. Some surprising, if not shocking, details might have emerged that day, but I haven’t seen them covered on LG.

    Bonnie: If you call the courthouse, I don’t think they can tell you much more than if they’ve got ’em or not, and their next court date.

    November 14, 2008
  65. Ben Haynor, the person I’ve been collaborating with on this story, attended the hearings and told me not much happened. I’m calling the courts in order to get the results of the hearings and the next court dates.

    November 14, 2008
  66. Ben Haynor said:

    In court on Wednesday, they merely set Peterson’s next court date. Peterson’s omnibus hearing is set for 1:30 PM on December 10.

    November 14, 2008
  67. Scott Oney said:

    Ben: I thought I noticed you coming in late, after Lucas B.’s Rule 8 hearing. He has a default omnibus hearing set for Dec. 10 at 1:30 also.

    November 14, 2008
  68. Thank you Scott and Ben for providing that information. John Shelby Hanks also had a hearing on Monday. The judge set Hanks’ third hearing date for Nov. 26 at 1:30 p.m.

    November 14, 2008
  69. Judge Bernard E. Borene continued John Blaze Frank’s case to Dec. 16 at 10 a.m.

    I double-teamed with Josh Rowan, my fiance, at court today. Josh went to Frank’s hearing while I sat in on the Mayor’s at the same time. Josh said Frank appeared calm. (Judge Warren E. Litynski scheduled Mayor Joseph Lee Lansing’s second hearing for Dec. 17 at 1:30 p.m.)

    November 19, 2008
  70. District court judges set omnibus hearings for three more of the defendants. Jacob DeMann is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 14 at 1:30 p.m. and John Shelby Hanks and Patience Stopke-Huisentruit are scheduled to appear Dec. 17 at 1:30.

    December 2, 2008
  71. Carol Weissenborn, Travis Peterson’s public defender, asked to continue Peterson’s omnibus hearing to another date. Peterson is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 10 at 1:30 p.m.

    December 11, 2008

Leave a Reply