Star Tribune – Freelance Articles

I’m traveling to SE Asia this fall and decided to not get a “career job” this summer. I did not want to get tied down to anything in Minnesota, since I bought only a one-way ticket to Bangkok and hope to stay out of the US for as long as possible. Fortunately, I was still able to continue writing by freelancing a few articles for the Star Tribune now and then. My last article will be published on September 28. Articles and photos by me (screenshots taken from the Star Tribune website):

Stillwater Log Jam Festival
Stillwater Log Jam Prep

Woodbury teen raising money for playground in Africa
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Washington County Fair and 4H Contests
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Summer Tuesdays on the St. Croix River
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Short Film / Documentary: Dykes Do Drag


Photography, videography, interview and film production by Callie Sacarelos
Narration by Heather Spear

Dykes Do Drag (DDD) is a queer performance art cabaret that takes place five times a year at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater in Uptown, Minneapolis. Each show is put together by a fluctuating cast and crew of folks of all genders and orientations who perform traditional drag, burlesque, boi-lesque, live music, modern dance, lip syncing and visual art. For this film, I compiled photographs and video I shot at the 17 April 2014 performance with my audio interview with the show’s producer Heather Spear, also known as The Gentleman King. This year is the show’s 15th anniversary.

If you want to learn a little about drag, gender and queer culture, check it out.

All photographs and video were taken with a Canon Rebel T5i HDSLR. All songs in this film were featured in the live show. Credits appear at the end.

For more information:
Bryant Lake Bowl –

Star Tribune – Quirky News

My time with the Star Tribune has been great, but some weeks are greater than others. Last week was a little slow and I was given a story assignment to write about a Sheriff’s award ceremony that happened in March. I must be really good at writing soft news… But I do appreciate that my editor puts value on feel-good-news, something that is usually missing in major newspapers. Anyway, I read through the list of award recipients and decided to focus on the story I felt would be the most overlooked. Why write about life-saving ski instructors when you can write about jailhouse cooks who rock?

Jailhouse cooks win service award from Sheriff’s Office
As a snowstorm swept into Stillwater, they stayed on the job overnight to make sure inmates didn’t go hungry.
April 19, 2014

By Callie Sacarelos

When Food Service Director Pauline Samb slept on a cot in a locker room at the Washington County jail that nasty February night, she said she was simply doing her job.

The biggest storm of the season was hitting Washington County hard, covering the roads with snow faster than it could be cleared.

Samb knew that if she went home that night, the jail’s inmates would go hungry the next day.

“We’re responsible for feeding the inmates,” Samb said recently, thinking back to the storm. “If I couldn’t make it back to work, I wouldn’t be able to take care of the job I’m here to do. It was just a part of my job.”

While Samb’s actions went unnoticed by the inmates, they won the attention of Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton, who awarded her a letter of appreciation at a recent recognition ceremony.

Gail Ennis, another county jail cook, was also recognized for staying at work that evening. Ennis was outside clearing off her car in the worst of the storm, but like Samb, quickly realized she should stay put when the snow kept piling up on her windshield.

“Pauline is a very giving person. She doesn’t think twice about it,” said Cmdr. Cheri Dexter of the Sheriff’s Office. “She actually gets embarrassed when you mention it.”

Although spending the night at the jail is not in their job description, Samb and Ennis did it again during a flash blizzard that dumped another 6 inches of snow on parts of the county earlier this month. Instead of sleeping on cots, however, they upgraded to mattresses on the floor of the kitchen.

In addition to Samb and Ennis, more than a dozen other citizens and employees were recognized by the Sheriff’s Office for outstanding service. They were:

• James Matzke, who received a Life Saving Award for rescuing a man who was taking scuba diving lessons at Square Lake last summer. Matzke, an instructor for the company giving the lessons, dove into the water and pulled the man to safety.

• Jose Yasis, the general manager at Afton Alps, and ski instructor Kevin Neubauer, who collaborated with former Washington County Deputy Shane Linehan to perform CPR on a 17-year-old boy who experienced cardiac arrest after his first ski run of the season.

• Johnathan Kellogg, who rescued a woman and her dog from Lake Elmo Lake after he spotted the woman in distress holding onto a pier with her dog nearby. The water temperature at the time was in the mid 50 degrees, potentially exposing the woman to hypothermia.

• Deputies James Roush, Joel Legut, Chris Howard, Becky Engel, Craig Olson and Craig Cilley, correctional officer Lois Arends, Deputy crime analyst Rebecca Broome and Jeanine Nelsen, who provides office support.

• The Sheriff’s Office dive team.

• 911 dispatchers Christy Clark, Jennifer Bruner and Kandice Rappe-Hutchison, and Sgt. Gwen Martin.

Star Tribune – MN Supreme Court Story

A few weeks ago I helped report a story that involved the US Supreme Court, the MN Supreme Court, murder and a family stricken by tragedy. It was a huge learning experience for me, navigating the court systems, understanding judicial lingo and figuring out how to talk to a father about his murdered daughter. I couldn’t have done it without my colleague Kevin Giles. This post includes the original article (which was featured on A1 of the Star Tribune) as well as a follow-up article when the MN Supreme Court issued a ruling.

Woodbury family terrified that daughter’s killer may be paroled
Relatives are upset that a recent Supreme Court ruling could eventually free the teen who killed Jolene Stuedemann.
March 30, 2014

By Callie Sacarelos

Clasping his big hands in anger, Jim Stuedemann talked about the rage he felt 13 years ago when he saw his daughter’s killer in the courtroom.

“I stared daggers at him. My one great regret in life is that I didn’t kill him the first time I saw him,” Stuedemann said of Tony Roman Nose, who was 17 when he stabbed and raped 18-year-old Jolene ­Stuedemann in a vicious attack in her family’s Woodbury home in 2000.

“I thought, ‘I could take care of this now.’ My eyes must have lit up or something because as I watched, the bailiff to my right looked at me and shook his head no.”

Roman Nose, convicted of first-degree murder while committing criminal sexual conduct, was sentenced to life in prison without hope of parole — or so the Stuedemann family thought.

Now, because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Jim and Jeanne Stuedemann and their surviving daughter, Jessica, find themselves living the nightmare all over again.

In a swift change of legal fate, Roman Nose could leave prison after he serves 30 years, in 2031. The thought terrifies the ­Stuedemanns, who believe he will kill again and that he will target Jeanne or Jessica.

“We don’t believe that he should ever be let out,” Jim Stuedemann said. “No family should ever have to go through what we went through. As long as there’s a chance that he could re­offend, just having the potential is nerve-wracking.”

A legal quandary

The Roman Nose case re-emerged in 2012, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller vs. Alabama that the Eighth Amendment prohibits mandatory sentences for juveniles who commit murder and that judges should decide whether life sentences should include parole.

About 2,500 teenage murderers nationwide are sentenced to prison without parole.

After a Washington County district judge resentenced Roman Nose to prison with the possibility of release after 30 years, the county attorney’s office appealed the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court on grounds that the judge didn’t allow a hearing to determine whether a reduced sentence was justified.

A second legal question, said County Attorney Pete Orput, is why retroactive sentences should be granted even though the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t address that issue. Orput solidly backs the family’s position.

“If I take someone else’s life, do I get the opportunity to enjoy mine?” he said last week. “The victims’ families are relegated to a life of sadness. They’ve been given their own prison sentence. When people say, ‘We shouldn’t put children in prison,’ I say, ‘He didn’t hesitate to put other people in their own psychological prison.’ ”

Roman Nose, now 31, is one of eight teenage murderers in Minnesota who went to prison before the Miller ruling and could be affected by it. Collectively, they killed 10 people.

Timothy Chambers was 17 when he rammed a stolen car into the squad car of a Rice County deputy, killing him. After Miller, he appealed to the state Supreme Court for a reduced sentence but was denied. But the Roman Nose appeal raises questions about whether the Chambers ruling would apply to all types of first-degree murder.

Meanwhile, two bills before the Legislature seek to mitigate state law requiring prison without parole for teenagers who commit first-degree murder. Neither has gained much traction.

“The thinking is that juveniles don’t have a fully developed mind and they’re prone to impulsive and stupid acts and that should be factored in,” Orput said. “But I think the bigger question is, where is that line between immature and mature? What about two months before you’re 18? Two weeks before you’re 18? Is there something magic about the number 18? …

“Can someone, a kid or adult, do something so ­heinous that they forfeit their right to be a part of society? I think that’s the big question.”

Torture and nightmares

Jim and Jeanne Stuedemann were vacationing in northern Minnesota in July 2000 when Jessica found Jolene’s body. She had been stabbed 29 times with a screwdriver and raped. Roman Nose crammed news­paper into her mouth and throat to stifle her screams.

Jolene and Roman Nose were students at an alternative school in Cottage Grove, but knew each other only as acquaintances. During a recent hearing before the state Supreme Court, public defender Steven Russett said Roman Nose was “immature and suffered from poor judgment” when he committed the crime, and noted a dysfunctional childhood and fetal alcohol struggles. Russett couldn’t be reached for comment.

Minnesota Department of Corrections records show that Roman Nose has committed 15 violations at Oak Park Heights prison, including disorderly conduct, disobeying direct orders and assaulting another inmate. Some violations were serious enough that he served time in segregation.

Jim Stuedemann recalled what the medical examiner told him during the trial.

“He said very rarely does he have autopsies with that amount of injuries that were suffered,” Stuedemann said, his eyes filling with tears. “He said it was borderline torture. I asked him if she died quickly and he said no.”

Liz Hare, president of the National Organization of ­Victims of Juvenile Murderers, said it’s critically important for families to know that killers will remain in custody and never threaten anyone again.

‘Unnecessary suffering’

“There’s unnecessary suffering caused by Miller vs. Alabama,” said Hare, who lives in Minnesota. “They have to relive that whole experience all over again. There are hundreds of people who will have to face the offender again.”

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, director of Marsy’s Law for Illinois, a group that advocates for the rights of crime victims, said the law should take care of victims’ families more than teenage murderers.

“All of this focus is on the killer, the poor killer, the young killer,” she said. “There aren’t any words to tell you how bad it is. It’s retraumatizing. It’s torture. It’s a nightmare. There aren’t strong-enough words. To never have any legal finality in the case and have to keep ­revisiting it is nothing short of a torturous nightmare.”

Jim Stuedemann said he wishes he could post Jolene’s photo in Roman Nose’s cell to remind him of her “bright smile and sparkling eyes every day and know what he took.”

Of Roman Nose, he added: “He should never have hope.”

Supreme Court ruling will keep teen killer in prison
State high court says the killer of a Woodbury teenager is not eligible for retroactive sentence.
April 16, 2014

By Kevin Giles and Callie Sacarelos

A Woodbury killer’s hope of someday getting out of prison ended Wednesday when the Minnesota Supreme Court reinstated his original sentence of life without parole.

Tony Roman Nose’s quest for freedom had for months riled the family members of his victim, 18-year-old Jolene Stuedemann. They said her rape and stabbing were so horrific that they never would feel safe if Roman Nose were released.

The high court decision also appears to close the door to any possible appeals for retroactive leniency by other Minnesota killers who, like Roman Nose, committed their crimes while teenagers.

“It’s like a weight is lifted off my chest. I can sleep better now,” said Jim Stuedemann, who had lobbied for a death penalty in Minnesota after Roman Nose killed his daughter in the family’s Woodbury home in 2000.

“He could still appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but I’m not sure if they would listen to him,” the father added. “And the Legislature could change [the law]. But this ruling gives us some relief that this particular chapter is over.”

The Roman Nose decision struck at the heart of a complicated legal argument over sentences conferred nationwide on teenage killers. In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller vs. Alabama that sentencing juveniles to spend their entire lives in prison without consideration of age and age-related characteristics violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

However, the Miller vs. Alabama decision didn’t categorically restrict life without parole for juveniles, but it said judges must have the opportunity to consider mitigating circumstances before imposing the harshest penalty possible.

Roman Nose, convicted in 2001 of first-degree murder while committing criminal sexual conduct, fell into mandatory sentencing guidelines in Minnesota that required life without parole. Three months after Miller vs. Alabama was issued, he filed a petition in Washington County District Court seeking a reduced sentence. Judge William Ekstrum resentenced Roman Nose to life in prison with possibility of release after 30 years — in 2031.

But Wednesday, the Minnesota high court reversed Ekstrum’s order, rejecting the defense argument that Miller vs. Alabama applied retroactively to the Roman Nose case.

Roman Nose and Stuedemann were fellow students at an alternative school in Cottage Grove and acquaintances, when he broke into her house and stabbed her 29 times with a screwdriver after raping her.

At the time, he was two months shy of his 18th birthday, which the Minnesota Supreme Court distinguished in maturity from the 14-year-old boy represented in Miller vs. Alabama.

“Thus, any immaturity, impetuosity, or failure to appreciate risks and consequences that was due to Roman Nose’s age was not appreciably greater than that of an average 18-year-old,” Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote in her denial of his appeal for leniency. “In light of Roman Nose’s age, the brutal nature of his crime, and the overwhelming evidence of his guilt, such a windfall would undermine the public confidence in the judicial system.”

A reduced sentence for Roman Nose came in “direct conflict” with another Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, Chambers vs. State, issued in May 2013, the high court wrote. In that ruling, involving teenager Timothy Chambers, who was sent to prison without parole for murdering a Rice County deputy, the court ruled that Miller vs. Alabama didn’t provide for retroactive sentences.

Prosecutors at the Washington County attorney’s office, who had opposed Roman Nose’s reduced sentence, applauded Wednesday’s decision.

“He’s serving life without parole, and at least at this point it’s final,” said Fred Fink, who heads the criminal division. “It’s important that when these new procedural laws come down, that old cases can’t be reopened and relitigated. Our criminal justice system is based on the notion of finality, that once a conviction and sentence are issued, they’re final.”

Wednesday’s decision likely will halt further appeals in Minnesota by teenage murderers whose crimes preceded Miller vs. Alabama, Fink said, but he acknowledged it’s possible that Roman Nose and his attorneys could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roman Nose’s attorney, Steven Russett, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Besides Roman Nose and Chambers, six other teenage murderers in Minnesota went to prison before the Miller ruling. Collectively, they killed 10 people.

Roman Nose, now 31, is being held at Oak Park Heights prison.

“They came to the right decision,” Jim Stuedemann said Wednesday of the Minnesota court ruling, “and we’re all extremely happy.”

Foundry Prof. Wayne Potratz – University of Minnesota


Last semester I produced this video about the University of Minnesota’s foundry professor, Wayne Potratz. The audio levels need to be adjusted, which I haven’t done yet. But I wanted to post it anyway for those who were involved. Other than the audio, I was happy with this video because it was a huge improvement over the first video I made in that broadcasting class.

The Orwells at The Triple Rock Social Club 2014

I saw this band on David Letterman and knew I had to see them the next time they were in town. Too much talent and stage presence to pass up. My concert buddy Chris already had tickets so I decided to meet him there and take my camera along with me to fulfill a photography assignment for school. As I stood on the stage steps (after unknowingly asking Grant Brinner if I could have his spot), I met Alec Berry, a freelance writer for City Pages. He asked if I was the photographer for his show review and I said no, but his question got me thinking. I didn’t see any other photographers around and I knew this band was worth talking about. After the show, I pitched my photos to the CP music editor and the next morning they were posted on the Gimme Noise music blog, along with Alec’s review. Just goes to show it doesn’t hurt to ask and always talk to everyone, all the time. Note to self: I need to get some business cards. And a website…

Fun little tidbit: As I was shooting, I saw Mario walk out of my frame, but I kept my focus on the guitar player. I’m crouched down on my haunches on the stairs next to the stage and I feel like I’m getting some good shots (the lighting is brutal at Triple Rock). All of the sudden I feel the entire weight of an 18 year old man on top of me. I turn my head as best I can and see this blonde puff of curly hair all up in my face. Mario is literally laying on top of me. He’s writhing around on my back, singing and causing me to practically fall off the stairs. Fearing for my camera’s life, I set it down on the stage and just brace myself for what seems like an eternity. I’m just laughing and laughing because this is so random and two hours earlier I didn’t think I would be onstage at a rock show with a singer on top of me. As my friend Chris texted to me after the show, “That’s rock and roll, baby.”

Star Tribune – Marine on St. Croix Library

While other college students spent their spring break on a sandy beach or sleeping in and watching Netflix, I took the opportunity to catch up at the Star Tribune and get a few more bylines in, since the last month has been kind of slow for me. I hung out at the Marine on St. Croix library for this story, spending the afternoon in a cute part of Minnesota just north of Stillwater. The story appeared in Sunday’s paper with three of the photos that I took while I was there.

Three years later, volunteers keep Marine on St. Croix library open and vibrant
Residents in Marine on St. Croix didn’t want to lose their small library . Volunteers saved it, and three years later, it’s as vibrant as ever.
By Callie Sacarelos

Marine on St. Croix Community Library

Anneliese Anderson and her mother, Deena, stopped to browse books at the Marine on St. Croix Community Library. It was their first time visiting the library.

The Marine on St. Croix Village Hall looks about the same as it did when it was built in 1888. It still serves as a meeting place for local government and, since 1968, has also been home to the small city’s library. The only noticeable difference is the public book lockers that now sit outside, a reminder of how volunteers saved their library.

The one-room Marine Branch Library was in danger of closing for good in 2011 when Washington County decided to withdraw funding of small branch libraries in Marine on St. Croix, Newport and Lake Elmo, which collectively did 3 percent of the county library system’s book loan transactions.

“It stunned a lot of people,” said Bill Simpson, an avid library patron and volunteer. “The library is one of the main institutions in Marine. The thought of it not existing — it was hard to believe that could happen.”

Rather than watch the library disappear, the people of Marine on St. Croix, Scandia and May Township struck a deal with the county. Today the library is staffed entirely by about 30 regular volunteers who manage seven shifts a week and coordinate community programming for children and adults.

Marine on St. Croix Village Hall

The Village Hall, built in 1888, houses the city library.

Pat Conley, the county’s library director, said she is pleased with how the county, the city and the nonprofit Marine Library Association have worked together. The county now has a similar relationship with Newport’s library. In Lake Elmo, a new city-run library no longer has a connection with the county.

“We hated the thought of leaving those communities,” Conley said. “It was very clear to me early on that the people I was dealing with in Marine were avid library users. It’s the people, with the right mix of enthusiasm and knowledge, that kept it running.”

The county maintains a 2,000-book browsing collection, which it updates periodically and still circulates through the county system. It also provides the technology necessary to keep patrons connected to the interlibrary loans that deliver books to the 24/7 public lockers outside the building. The city donated the space in Village Hall and pays for Internet service and electricity.

“Marine has places to eat and buy groceries, but the library is the only outlet that we have that gives some sort of mental and imaginative stimulation,” said library patron Sue Lieber. “It’s a little quiet place where you can go get lost in the world of someone else’s writing.”

The range of materials in the permanent community library collection would rival almost any other, with audiobooks, large print books, DVDs and CDs available for children, teens and adults.

Marine on St. Croix Community Library books

Library volunteer Sue Logan works to attract more patrons by regularly updating the collection with new books. She said library attendance is up 15 percent from last year.

Sue Logan, a volunteer and president of the Marine Library Association, said having an up-to-date collection is what regular library users want most. Items not available in the small room, such as older history books and research materials, can be delivered through the county’s interlibrary loan system.

A volunteer spirit in Marine on St. Croix has kept the library vibrant, just as volunteers keep the city’s fire department and historical society operating.

“The community as a whole is very volunteer-oriented. It’s kind of ingrained in the population,” said library volunteer Christine Cundall. “Limited resources lead people coming together to get what they want. If you don’t have volunteers, it dies.”