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By Luke Nichols/Daily Sun sports editor 

Beatrice's Drew Arnold looks for the pin during a dual against Fairbury Thursday at Fairbury High School.

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Chocolate extravaganza coming back to Beatrice

Whether it’s served as a drink, wrapped around caramel or melted between a couple of graham crackers, it’s hard to beat chocolate. Especially when it’s free.

The Chocolate Lovers’ Shopping Day Extravaganza returns this Saturday, and it will bring with it the chance to taste all kinds of chocolate at businesses in downtown Beatrice. From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Feb.3, chocoholics can get their fix and do a little shopping at Main Street Beatrice’s eighth annual free event.

The event starts at 601 Court Street for registration. Visitors that register will get a shopping bag full of goodies like coupons, flyers and a map, as well as a punch card, before heading out to do some shopping.

There are 20 different businesses participating this year, said Main Street Beatrice Executive Director Michael Sothan, and each one is offering their own take on the chocolate theme.

“It's a variety,” Sothan said. “Some of the businesses go out and purchase or get someone that specializes in different desserts to make their different candy and such. Others do make it homemade.”

In the past, he said, businesses have offered up homemade truffles, specialty dessert pizzas and one year, a Beatrice bar even had chocolate martinis on offer.

The only requirement for participating businesses is to provide something made of chocolate, and that could include drinks, cakes, cookies, truffles or any other cocoa-laden dessert, that’s up to them.

The chocolate shopping route winds its way through downtown from Black Crow to the east, up to Valentino’s to the west and from Tall Tree to the north and the Salvation Army to the South.

“It's one of those things where the majority of our people do make it to every single one of the stops,” Sothan said. “The nice thing is, they don't really have to walk that far. Everything's within just a couple blocks.”

On Thursday afternoon, Sothan was busy setting up the registration desk with Sandi Steele who also works at Main Street. Steele has been around for several of the Extravaganzas and said it keeps getting bigger each year.

They’re expecting about 25 or 30 more people they had than last year’s record crowd and quite a lot more than the 50 people who showed up on the snowy day the first one was held.

“We had 149 last year,” Steele said. “That was those who signed up for the event. There had to be another 30 to 40 that trailed along that were not old enough.”

While kids can tag along, the event is really aimed at those 21 and up, Sothan said. They encourage people to stop for lunch, he said, and stopping for a glass of wine is a good way to cleanse the palette.

For the people who make it to each of the 20 locations, they can return to where they registered to be entered into the grand prize drawing. This year, Main Street Beatrice is offering two Valentine’s Day-themed baskets for the lucky winners.

Sothan said that the Chocolate Lovers’ Shopping Day Extravaganza is one event in Beatrice where nearly half of all the people who attend are from out of town. They get people from as far away from Fairbury, northern Kansas, Pawnee City, Tecumseh and even Lincoln, he said, which really picks up downtown foot traffic.

“We do see people walking around with shopping bags in their hand,” Sothan said. “Whether that's a pair of shoes or something from the antique store or whatever it might be, we have definitely seen it be successful.”

Making it a day for just eating some free chocolate is fine, Sothan said, but there are a lot of visitors who are dedicated to a day of shopping, which is something that retailers have seen as well.

“Talking to a lot of our business owners, a lot of them have noticed that,” he said. “This is an event that we like to say does help ring the cash registers.”

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Fewer felony cases in 2017 for public defender

The Gage County Public Defender’s Office reported that criminal cases in 2017 were on par with the 10-year average for the county.

Public Defender Lee Timan presented the annual report to the County Board this week. The report included statistics of criminal cases opened in Gage County in 2017. It was noted that the figures only represent cases in which a public defender was appointed, and do not represent all criminal cases in Gage County.

Last year, a public defender was appointed to 71 felony, 149 misdemeanor, 96 juvenile, 12 miscellaneous and 20 probation violation cases, for a total of 348.

Compared to 2016, public defenders handled 10 fewer felony cases, one additional misdemeanor case, three more juvenile cases, six additional miscellaneous cases and the same number of probation violations.

Last year was the third year in a row the department handled exactly 348 cases.

“We’re pretty much on pace with the 10-year average, as far as most categories,” Timan said. “Juveniles continue to be high, but I think that’s just a combination of truancy cases continuing to mount up and some juvenile neglect cases where children are removed from the home. If there’s multiple children, sometimes they’ll file it as a separate case for each child. So if you’ve got three kids in the house, it’s going to be three cases, even though it’s really one thing that you’re handling.”

The number of cases is slightly higher than the 10-year average of 341.1. The 10-year high occurred in 2007, when the public defender was appointed in 392 cases. The low occurred two years later with 313 cases.

The 10-year average for felony cases was 70.6, with a high of 84 felonies in 2007 and a low of 49 felonies in 2009.

Timan said a felony cap is in place to prevent him from being spread too thin with cases, and he can only be handling 40 felonies at a given time.

“For felonies, just because of the American Bar Association standards, they typically would like defense attorneys to not handle any more felony cases than they realistically can just because of the potential effects of if you’re stretched,” he said. "If somebody is looking at felonies, there are prison sentences and extra effects on their lives. They try to keep it manageable.”

In other instances, another attorney is appointed to prevent a conflict.

County Clerk Dawn Hill said the county budgets $149,000 annually for the public defender.

Timan said raising the cap would require an assistant attorney to handle the large case load, and more money from the county.

“If we were ever going to up that, it would probably require an associate that could take on some of the case load, whether it’s taking a portion of the felonies and some of the others, or me take all the felonies and they take all the lower-level things,” he said. “The reality of where we’re at is the 40 is something that could be increased, but would require additional funds for me to be able to hire an assistant attorney.”

From July 1 through the end of the year, Timan was at or over the 40-case cap for 76 days and had a low of 33 cases during that period.

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Two arrested for fake prescription

Two people were arrested Monday after allegedly using a fake prescription at a Beatrice pharmacy.

At around 3 p.m. Monday, Beatrice police received information that a fake prescription for liquid Codeine was called into Shopko in Beatrice.

Court documents state workers contacted the doctor's office and were advised it was a fake.

Police responded to the scene and contacted 20-year-old Cassandra Lovgren, of Beatrice, who was allegedly leaving the store with the bottle of liquid Codeine.

Documents state police were shown a message from a man identified as 27-year-old Paul Harris-Evans, of Lincoln, who was on his way to get the bottle from her.

The two arranged to meet at Walmart, where he was to be supplied with the bottle.

A transfer occurred under police surveillance, and he was then taken into custody for misrepresentation to obtain a controlled substance, delivery of a hazardous schedule two drugs and driving under suspension.

He allegedly told police a friend of his calls in the fake prescriptions and Harris-Evans picks them up and mails them to the friend for $500 per bottle.

Lovgren was arrested for misrepresentation to obtain a controlled substance.

Lovgren’s bond was set at $5,000 with a 10 percent deposit, while Harris-Evans’ bond was set at $7,500 with a 10 percent deposit.

Probation given for attempted distribution

A Beatrice man was sentenced to probation in multiple criminal cases involving attempted distribution of methamphetamine and assault.

Joshua R. Wilcox, 29, was sentenced to 24 months probation for attempted distribution of a controlled substance in one case, and third-degree assault in another.

In a third case from 2016, he was allowed to remain on probation for a third-degree assault conviction.

A stipulation of the probation sentence given in Gage County District Court is that Wilcox was ordered to pay restitution to the victim of the assault case to cover medical expenses.

Judge Julie Smith ordered Wilcox to pay $10,771.41 in restitution as part of the sentencing.

In the attempted distribution case, Wilcox was one of two people arrested last October for distribution, following controlled buys conducted by the Beatrice Police Department.

He was arrested following an August 2016 drug sale. According to the arrest warrant, Beatrice police were conducting a controlled buy of methamphetamine from Wilcox in the 300 block of North Seventh Street after a confidential informant gave word that Wilcox was going to sell the informant 1-1.5 grams of meth for $80.

The informant was given $80 by police and followed to Lincoln, where he was asked to pick Wilcox up.

Wilcox got into the vehicle and was followed to Beatrice. The informant contacted police to say he had made the purchase and gave officers a torn Walmart bag with a substance that tested positive for methamphetamine.

In the second case, Wilcox was arrested after an assault in June in Beatrice. Wilcox allegedly punched a man multiple times outside of a Beatrice residence. The victim was transported to a Lincoln hospital for his injuries and court documents indicate the man had a broken jaw and other injuries from the assault.

Wilcox was sentenced last November to probation in the third case heard Thursday, also for assault. He admitted to violating his probation by disobeying laws and failing to abstain from drugs or alcohol.

Scott Koperski /   

Joshua Wilcox