Day care provider sentenced for pulling 3-year-old’s ears

BISMARCK — A former Bismarck day care provider convicted of child abuse for grabbing a 3-year-old’s ears was sentenced Monday, June 10, to 1 1/2 years in prison, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Marlene Steedsman, 56, also must spend three years on probation and register as an offender against children, according to court documents.

A witness testified at Steedsman’s trial in January that one of the boy’s ears was red and swollen and bruises were forming when he was picked up from her in-home day care. The boy told the witness Steedsman had tried to “break ears off” because he wet his pants.

The conviction is Steedsman’s second related to the injury of a child in her care. In 2017, she pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false information to law enforcement. In that case, she admitted to not telling police or the child’s parents that a 5-month-old had fallen from a swing while being pushed by another child in her care. Steedsman instead told police the child had a minor scratch on her head before later admitting the full incident.

The injured child was airlifted to a Minneapolis hospital with blood hemorrhages around her brain, retinal hemorrhages in her left eye and a skull fracture that was discovered later.

Man accused of burning down Fort Berthold church indicted

WHITE SHIELD — A man accused of burning down a historic church on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation has been indicted on one charge of arson, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

The Memorial Congregation Church about 10 miles northwest of White Shield was destroyed by fire April 22. Court documents do not indicate how or why the fire started.

A federal grand jury last week indicted Rode Wayne Vocu, 22, of New Town. Vocu’s attorney, federal public defender Christopher Bellmore, declined comment Monday, June 10.

The church was originally built in 1926 and located in Elbowoods, a town flooded in 1954 due to construction of the Garrison Dam. The flooding displaced many members of the Three Affiliated Tribes.

The church was relocated and eventually closed after its membership dwindled, according to Ed Hall, of Parshall. He said the congregation later opened another church in Parshall.

Hall and other members of the Memorial Congregational Church’s board of directors plan to hold a meeting Wednesday, June 12, to decide whether to rebuild the church or place a monument where the burned debris and remnants remain.

Vocu is scheduled for trial Aug. 5. He is being held at the Burleigh-Morton Detention Center.

Plans move forward for new Bakken, Rockies oil pipeline

BISMARCK — Two companies announced Monday, June 10, that they plan to move forward with a new oil pipeline to transport Bakken crude to Oklahoma, but the route of the project is not yet clear, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Phillips 66 and Bridger Pipeline announced they have formed a joint venture to build the Liberty Pipeline to transport growing volumes of crude oil from production areas in the Bakken and the Rockies.

If approved, it would be the first major crude oil transmission pipeline built in North Dakota since Dakota Access, which began operating in June 2017 to transport oil to Illinois.

The North Dakota portion of the Liberty Pipeline is proposed for the southwest corner of the state, said Bill Salvin, a spokesman for Bridger. North Dakota crude would flow to Guernsey, Wyo., and then on to Cushing, Okla., though the exact route is still being determined, he said.

The project, which will need approval from regulators, is expected to transport up to 200,000 barrels of oil per day from the Williston Basin to Cushing, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.

The $1.6 billion pipeline could be in service as early as the first quarter of 2021, the companies announced. Previously, they said the project would have a total capacity of up to 350,000 barrels per day.

Phillips 66 will lead the project construction and operate the pipeline, according to a news release.

The pipeline will need approval from regulators.

Also Monday, Phillips 66 and Plains All American announced plans for the Red Oak Pipeline system, which would transport crude from Cushing to locations in the Gulf Coast.

Panel selecting North Dakota ethics commissioners to meet

BISMARCK — A panel tasked with selecting members of North Dakota’s new ethics commission will meet later this month, according to a meeting notice posted late Monday afternoon, June 10.

The selection committee isn’t expected to make final decisions during its June 21 meeting, but officials are preparing to winnow down their choices for the five-member commission. The state constitution requires the governor and the Senate’s majority and minority leaders to reach a consensus on the appointments.

Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, said Tuesday the three officials were tasked with identifying their top 10 or so candidates. She said the applicant pool included “excellent” choices.

Nearly 70 people applied for the ethics commission by last month’s deadline.

A survey sent to eligible candidates asked whether they hold public office or are a lobbyist, candidate for public office or political party official, all of which are barred from serving on the commission. The survey also asked about how they’ve handled conflict resolution and making unpopular decisions.

Voters created the ethics commission with the passage of Measure 1 last year. The panel will be able to write rules on transparency, corruption, elections and lobbying as well as investigate allegations of wrongdoing.

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