(Mankato, MN) – The staff at Southern Minnesota News has again compiled its annual list of stories with the highest number of hits for the year.

This year’s top ten stories follow a familiar pattern of past years: Readers care about children, crime victims, tragedy, and animals  They also appear to enjoy a taste “WTF” stories, and there were plenty of those in 2019.

These are the stories with the most clicks in 2019:

10. Lafayette newspaper editor pleads women to have sex with him; says he’d ‘squirt any squirt’ for MAGA

Who would have believed that the most bizarre editorial ever written would be born in tiny, little Lafayette, Minnesota? When Lafayette-Nicollet Ledger Editor Lee Zion used his column to beg women to have sex with him, it was widely regarded with dismay.  The Ledger is a small-town newspaper, usually content with printing a local community calendar and farm news.  Zion’s column was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but his pledge to “squirt any squirt” for MAGA bordered on vulgarity for some.

Now that we think about it, perhaps using birth to describe the advent of this editorial is inappropriate.  In any case, it makes us feel as dirty as we did the first time we read it.  Option #2 makes our skin crawl.

9. Faribault man accused of pressure washing Somali children

Zachariah Manahan mugshot

The response to this story was mixed, but reactions were far to one side of the spectrum or the other.  Readers either found it appalling or hilarious when they heard an 18-year-old Faribault man was accused of spraying a group of Somali children with a garden hose connected to a pressure washer.  Zachariah Manahan was also accused of using the hose to soak a family’s living room through an open window.  Manahan was convicted in August of 3rd-degree damage to property.  Charges of felony stalking and disorderly conduct were dismissed.

8. Morristown man killed in freak accident during blizzard

February 2019 was a brutal month, weather-wise in the state.  Blizzards incapacitated southern Minnesota on multiple occasions.  During one storm early in the month, the National Guard was called out to rescue stranded motorists in Renville County.  Later in the month,  a video of vehicles stranded on Highway 14 near Nicollet during a crippling blizzard was captured by an SMN reader.  But it was an incident indirectly caused by the weather is what stunned readers.  A  Morristown man was killed in a freak accident during the late February blizzard.  Travis Pineur, 33, had gone into the ditch when a Waterville man stopped to help him free his vehicle.  The two were using a tow strap when the receiver hitch on the good samaritan’s vehicle snapped, breaking through the rear windows of Pineur’s topper and truck, striking him in the head.  Pineur suffered severe head trauma and later died at the Hennepin County Medical Center.

7. Waseca man accused of sexually assaulting teen who refused bondage advances

A Waseca man enraged readers when details of his alleged assault on a teen girl surfaced.  Zachary Arthur Coldsmith, 23, was accused of sexually molesting the girl after she declined his alleged offer to use his bondage gear with him.  Coldsmith was also accused of choking the girl, who he had apparently met at the Owatonna Alternative Learning Center.   Court documents said that Coldsmith told police he knew the girl was 15.  Coldsmith’s mugshot seemed to garner almost as much attention as the story.  The off-center photo of the Waseca man with his red hair and eyes glancing sideways was widely mocked on social media.

6. Faribault mother accused of abusing child

Faribault mother Jessica Jo Lindberg is a mom to at least one less child after disturbing abuse charges were filed against her.  The 35-year-old was accused of barricading her 7-year-old daughter in the basement and denying her dinner.  The girl was one of two adopted children in the home, where Lindberg’s two biological children also lived.  Lindberg’s children told investigators their mother verbally and mentally abused the girl, while Lindberg herself admitted that she’d once used a ball gag on the girl.  Readers were horrified by the abuse the girl had allegedly suffered at the hands of Lindberg and expressed their outrage.  One woman even commented on social media that she would like to ballgag Lindberg and barricade her in the basement without food for a week.  Lindberg’s court case is still pending.

5.  Teen killed in Waseca crash; deputy suffers severe burns

The death of teen in a small, close-knit town like Waseca is difficult under any circumstances.  But when someone who responds to the tragedy to help is gravely injured besides, it shakes the foundation of a community.  But that’s what happened in Waseca the night of Oct 23.  Sheriff’s deputy Josh Langr was responding to a fatal, single-vehicle rollover when he inadvertently walked into a downed power line.  The 15-year veteran deputy was struck by 14,000 volts, but he miraculously survived.  Langr suffered severe burns to his head and feet, but, according to an article from the Mankato Free Press, he plans to return to patrol as soon as possible. The girl killed in the crash was 15-year-old Alexus “Lexi” Tiegs, a beloved member of the school choir.

4.  Albert Lea dealership owner accused of offering woman vehicle debt forgiveness in exchange for sex

A story that never seems to lose its luster is about lust.  Or is it control?   Albert Lea dealership owner Timothy Mann allegedly took a customer – who was behind on her vehicle payments – for a ride.  But it wasn’t a Sunday drive he was out for, according to court documents.  Police say there was an audio recording made of a conversation that Mann had with the woman, in which he told her he would clear all her past-due payments if she gave him a blow job.   A prostitution charge was filed against Mann.  Several months later, a second alleged victim reported that Mann had tried to force her head down upon his exposed genitals in exchange for her license plates.  He was charged with 5th-degree criminal sexual conduct for the alleged incident.  Mann’s court cases are still pending.

3.  Double fatal crash near Sleepy Eye

The tiny town of Sleepy Eye has seen its fair share of tragedy.  In 2014, four young men were tragically killed in a crash on icy Highway 14 just outside of town.  So when news began to circulate of a nasty crash just east of the city, residents began emailing and messaging SMN.  One man told us the deaths of the four boys in 2014 had set the city on edge, and Sleepy Eye residents were terrified another such tragedy had happened.  SMN learned that two people had died in the crash: a 51-year-old New Ulm man and a Texas woman.  It was later determined that alcohol was a factor in the crash.

2.  Mankato man reels massive muskie out of the Minnesota River

This was one of your favorite stories of the year and we CONCUR!  Johnny Boutchee snagged a 38-pound, 52-inch muskie from the murky Minnesota in November.  Boutchee had decided to do a little fishing at Sibley Park ahead of a big Gopher football game.  He was fishing for walleye with a ten-pound line when the monster muskie bit.  It took him 45 minutes to reel in the fish, which the DNR said was a rare catch in this particular river.  Boutchee’s story was shared all over the state, on social media, and on fishing forums.  He didn’t keep the muskie, but called the experience his favorite fishing memory.

1. Waseca man sentenced to 2 months jail time for rape

Not only did this story get more hits than any other in 2019; it also garnered more outrage than any story we can recall in recent years.  The story of Jack Zimmerman and his rape sentence was picked up by several major news outlets.  The Waseca man’s clean-cut mugshot seemed to irk readers, who felt Zimmerman’s sentence was far too light.  Zimmerman was accused of raping a 17-year-old girl when she blacked out at a party.  The criminal complaint described the rape as aggressive, leaving the victim with bite marks, bruising, and abrasions.  Zimmerman was sentenced to just 60 days in jail, which he was able to serve on work release.  His felony conviction for 4th-degree criminal sexual conduct will be reduced to a misdemeanor if he successfully complies with his probation conditions.

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