Staff Directory 270190981

Liz Sawyer

Reporter | Breaking news, crime and corrections
Phone: 612-673-4648
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

Liz Sawyer covers breaking news, crime and corrections for the Star Tribune. She previously wrote about suburban life in the south metro.


Sawyer graduated from Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications with a degree in newspaper and online journalism. She worships her alma mater's college hoops team and believes that an orange is, in fact, a suitable mascot.
Recent content from Liz Sawyer
Don Amorosi has kept his son’s bedroom as it was, with Archer’s poster of Muhammad Ali, boxing gloves and photos of other athletes.

Father of slain Chanhassen teen fights for police reform on mental health calls

Since his son was killed by deputies in Chanhassen, he has fought for reform.
Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell took part of a Jan. 25 tour of Stillwater prison.

Minnesota Corrections Department shakes up leadership at state prisons

Commissioner Paul Schnell called the move an opportunity for "fresh perspectives" at Minnesota correctional facilities.
Firefighters were at the scene of an accidental explosions at a Metro Transit building during training in St. Paul on Wednesday.

Metro Transit officer hurt in accidental explosion at St. Paul facility

The blast happened during a canine training exercise at a bus facility in St. Paul.

Suspect arrested following police pursuit and crash into Maplewood home

No one was hurt, but several residents were evacuated.
In 2011, a sign posted inside Kohler Hall, a high-level secure building at Totem Town School, advised visitors of the rules.

Boys Totem Town in St. Paul set to close as numbers drop

The move reflects a shift away from confinement for juvenile offenders.
Agent Rick Defiel, left, talked with Daniel, a former inmate on supervised release, during a surprise evening visit.

Growing number of felons strain probation system in Minnesota

Minnesota has 5,000 more felons under supervision today than in 2014. But the number of agents who check on the highest-risk offenders has remained stagnant.
Judge Kathryn Quaintance

Judge makes Mohamed Noor trial evidence available for public viewing starting May 24

The notice from Judge Kathryn Quaintance's court stipulated that journalists and members of the public can examine 300 trial exhibits.
Mohamed Noor's Department of Corrections booking photo.

Star Tribune, MPR seek copies of public evidence from Mohamed Noor's trial

Letters to the city of Minneapolis, the Department of Public Safety and the Hennepin County Attorney's Office requested release no later than Friday.
Aadan Muuse Abdilahi was last seen about 9:40 p.m. Friday.

Minneapolis police ask for help in finding missing 56-year-old man

Aadan Muuse Abdilahi was last seen Friday night and is in need of his medications.
Amber Hopkins

Woman found in Minneapolis snow pile had overdosed

But it remains unclear how Amber Hopkins, 31, wound up covered in debris behind an abandoned home on the city's North Side.
Dr. Thomas J. Stillwell

Minnesota doctor dies in plane crash near Moose Lake airport

The Navy veteran was flying to the Twin Cities.
Edward Yoshikawa

Edward Yoshikawa, who went from internment camp to WWII unit, dies at 94

"They were out to prove they were loyal citizens," said Pearl, his wife of 71 years. "They fought together to save America."
Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman’s housing nonprofit is behind again on property taxes and also owes three contractors more than $160,000, a

Blake Huffman to step down from Ramsey County Board

The resignation came a day after a conflict-of-interest ruling on his nonprofit's dealings.
Minneapolis firefighters responded Tuesday to a report of a hazardous substance in a Dinkytown-area building. Residents, many of them University of Mi

Dinkytown residents get OK to go home, hazardous material being evaluated

A Dinkytown-area residence was ev­acu­at­ed after an "un­con­firmed re­port of ri­cin," ac­cord­ing to the Fire Department. Hundreds were displaced by the response to the Marshall, a build­ing that caters to University of Minnesota students.
Shakopee women's prison

4 Shakopee corrections officers fired in connection with sexual assault of inmate

One is charged with sexual assault, others with covering it up.
Police: Girl, 11, in critical condition after being struck while exiting school bus

Police: Girl, 11, in critical condition after being struck while exiting school bus

A 60-year-old man was arrested and is jailed on suspicion of criminal vehicular operation.
Martha Perea was comforted by a friend while clutching a photo of her husband on the steps of the house where the couple lived. Martha Perea’s husba

Brooklyn Park man charged in death of Minneapolis motorist while fleeing police

The victim, Jose Madrid Salcido, is survived by a wife and four young children.
Women gathered at the Karmel Village Apartments after two children fell from an apartment building at S. 28th and Pleasant Avenue Thursday May 2, 2019

Brothers fell 55 feet from roof, landed on patio, police say

They climbed over a barrier meant to prevent falls and plummeted from the roof of the building on Minneapolis' Midtown Greenway.

St. Paul police investigating fatal shooting in city's North End

No arrests have been made in the death, which was the city's eighth homicide of 2019.
Martha Perea was comforted by a friend while clutching a photo of her husband on the steps of the house where the couple lived. Martha Perea’s husba

Victim's family grieves, suspect in fatal crash awaits charges

The 27-year-old suspect from Brooklyn Park had been convicted on a charge of fleeing police just weeks before Wednesday's fatal crash at N. 36th and Aldrich avenues in Minneapolis.
Police investigated a multi-vehicle crash involving a SUV fleeing police that left one person dead near N. 36th and Aldrich avenues in Minneapolis on

Driver struck, fatally injured by suspect fleeing Minneapolis police

The crash happened 3 blocks from the spot where a suspicious vehicle peeled away from officers.
Shakopee women's prison.

Shakopee guard charged with felony sex crime for contact with inmate

Male officer is accused of pursuing female inmate.
Woman killed in two-vehicle crash in north Minneapolis

Woman killed in two-vehicle crash in north Minneapolis

Officers responded to the intersection of N. Washington and Dowling avenues, just east of Interstate 94, around 9 p.m.
Get ready for another shutdown of Interstate 35W south of downtown Minneapolis because of weekend construction.

I-35W closed this weekend from I-94 to Crosstown

Starting Friday night, drivers need an alternate route to downtown Minneapolis.

Star Tribune wins seven National Headliner Awards for local coverage

The Star Tribune has won seven National Headliner Awards, including two first-place honors. The newspaper’s journalists were distinguished for a variety of projects, ranging from…
A BCA investigator photographs the scene of an officer-involved shooting near the 9900 block of Foley Blvd., Thursday in Coon Rapids.

Relatives, friends identify man shot by police in Coon Rapids

John Fairbanks Sr., 40, leaves behind a pregnant wife and young son.
Aaron Doering

University of Minnesota professor and explorer pleads guilty to domestic assault

Climate change expert Aaron Doering will serve 180 days in the workhouse and complete two years of probation.
Abby Honold joined Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and others to roll out the Minneapolis Police Department's sexual assa

Activist Abby Honold appointed to Minnesota sentencing guidelines commission

Honold has advocated for better police training since a 2014 rape.
Missing Belle Plaine teen found safe

Missing Belle Plaine teen found safe

Andrew Cunat was reunited with his family late Wednesday.
A file photo from the outside of Highland Park Elementary School. In a letter, the principal assured families that "no threats were made, and there wa

Loaded gun confiscated from second-grader's backpack at St. Paul school

Police said the student's mother could face charges.

St. Paul police investigating homicide after man found dead in his home

They say autopsy results suggest victim found in W. Seventh area was killed.
Are rowdy basketball fans to blame for vandalized "M" at Gold Medal Park?

Are rowdy basketball fans to blame for vandalized "M" at Gold Medal Park?

Vandals appear to have stood on the letter and pulled like crazy, according to an official of the company that manages the park. Eventually, the welded bottom broke free.
The Virginia Cavalier and Texas Tech Red Raider mascots

Get to know the schools: Final Four has come down to Texas Tech and Virginia

Tradition runs deeper than on the floor for the two finalists, neither of which has ever won a men's basketball championship.

6 Rochester officers present at fatal encounter are identified

Albert Dashow, 39, died in the March 27 altercation. The exact cause of his death is still under investigation.
Family and friends of Amber Hopkins kept vigil at the site where her discarded body was found in north Minneapolis.

Death of woman found in Minneapolis snow pile haunts family and community

Relatives of Amber Hopkins can't fathom how she wound up in an abandoned lot in north Minneapolis covered in brush, trash and debris.
Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said investigators are treating an abandoned North Side house as a crime scene after a woman's body was found

Body found in north Minneapolis was woman missing since January, her family says

The body was found in the backyard of an abandoned home near N. 36th and Dupont avenues.
Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell, second from left, is pushing for a five-member board to which inmates receive supervised release. Minnesota is

Could parole board make a comeback in Minnesota?

New corrections commissioner says advisory group could reduce bias in decisions to free offenders.
Pedestrian fatally hit by vehicle on Kellogg Boulevard was North St. Paul man

Pedestrian fatally hit by vehicle on Kellogg Boulevard was North St. Paul man

The crash occurred around 6:30 a.m., killing 54-year-old Dan Lytle, his family said.
Minneapolis firefighters responded to a fire Wednesday at the Grain Exchange building.

Fires damages Minneapolis Grain Exchange building

No one was hurt in the incident, which resulted in the cordoning off of the historic block.
Michael Herzog suffered second- and third-degree burns over nearly 80 percent of his body, according to his CaringBridge page.

Detroit Lakes man in critical condition after Moorhead fish house explosion

Michael Herzog suffered second- and third-degree burns over nearly 80 percent of his body.

19-year-old man turns himself in after St. Paul homicide

The victim of Friday night's fatal shooting in Frogtown was identified as Mark Franklin Jr., 21.
Heavy rains flooded the intersection between Cedar Avenue and Minnehaha Parkway in Minneapolis on Thursday.

Rising water leads to mobile home park evacuation in Jordan

Street flooding intensified in southern Minnesota, as snow hit the north.
The cattle barn at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds collapsed Tuesday night.

Roofs collapse at Shakopee motel, barn at State Fairgrounds

No initial reports of any injuries as rain fell on the already wet and heavy snow.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and former U.S. President Barack Obama

Rep. Ilhan Omar's remarks on President Obama stir up fresh furor

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar is facing a new round of controversy following comments in an interview that implied that former President Barack Obama's political prowess helped him get "away with murder."
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety released this photo of counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl.

Minnesotans warned of deadly counterfeit 'Mexican Oxy' pills

Counterfeit drug is linked to at least one fatal overdose in the state.
Doug McLeod

45TV hockey announcer McLeod says he's 'mortified' after lynching comment

Doug McLeod had been invited back to the 75th annual high school hockey championships at the X with a group of fellow broadcasting veterans.
Jake T. Patterson, charged with kidnapping 13-year-old Jayme Closs and killing her parents last fall, appeared for a brief hearing in Barron County Ci

Wis. man charged with kidnapping Jayme Closs writes he'll plead guilty

Jake Patterson wrote to KARE 11 that he has "huge amounts" of remorse.
This screengrab from a video on Twitter showed a man who was shoved heading backward out the door of a McDonald’s in Eden Prairie.

Man who brandished gun during Eden Prairie McDonald's encounter pleads guilty

Lloyd Johnson will have to comply with a lifetime firearms ban.
Dmitri Moua of Roseville practices in his back yard while his mom Boa watches. loves to dance and is on his school’s dance team in Minnesota. Moua i

Court grants Minnesota boys' request to compete on dance teams

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals cited the 14th Amendment requirement that no state can "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
The newly reborn Armory in downtown Minneapolis.

Ferris wheel on Nicollet Mall is part of Final Four festivities

A free music festival at the Minneapolis Armory and an outdoor venue is part of the growing list of festivities.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison was among the local leaders at a listening session Wednesday night at the Brian Coyle Community Center in Min

Profiling, housing among top concerns at Cedar-Riverside listening session

Police profiling and lack of public housing were among the top worries.
Christine Giroux exits the voting booth at Transit Town Hall, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. At 91.4 percent, in 2016, Sibley County had one of the highest pe

Minnesota to become a 2020 'Super Tuesday' primary state

State joins potent voting bloc on March 3 as it shifts to presidential primary.
Man fatally shot in head while sitting in a van, St. Paul police say

Man fatally shot in head while sitting in a van, St. Paul police say

A 911 caller reported hearing 10 shots ring out near the intersection of N. Avon Street and Carroll, across from Carty Park.
Abdi Yusuf Hassan

Somali-born U.S. citizen arrested in Minneapolis, charged with taking journalist captive

The defendant and others held their victim captive in Somalia for nearly 2 years and demanded $20 million ransom.
Man in custody after hourslong standoff with police by Maplewood Mall

Man in custody after hourslong standoff with police by Maplewood Mall

It started with a stop over a warrant, but the suspect fled to a nearby parking lot.

Family, friends identify man shot to death in Crystal as 20-year-old

Authorities have identified a person of interest in the shooting but have not yet taken the person into custody, said Crystal Deputy Chief Brian Hubbard.

BCA identifies victims, suspect in deadly Nevis shooting

Bryce Bellomo killed two of his wife's sisters before dying by suicide.
U football player kicked off team after being charged with assaulting police officer

U football player kicked off team after being charged with assaulting police officer

Maxwell T. Janes, 19, reportedly punched a Minneapolis police officer in the face while intoxicated.
Officer, suspect exchange gunfire in Hubbard County, according to dispatch audio

Officer, suspect exchange gunfire in Hubbard County, according to dispatch audio

Details were slim late Thursday, but multiple law enforcement agencies, including the BCA, were involved in the incident.
New Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell has made a point of visiting the prisons he oversees, such as the one in Stillwater he visited.

Openness, optimism are hallmarks of Minnesota's new corrections chief

Paul Schnell aims to make the state's prisons safer and saner.
During the polar vortex, Union Depot was transformed to help house around 100 homeless adults over three nights. But Friday, Ramsey County officials d

Homeless camp out at Ramsey County Sheriff's Office after Union Depot is closed to them

The move came after the Ramsey County Board questioned the depot's use.
Warden Eddie Miles, right, led Minnesota House members Rep. Jack Considine Jr., left, and Rep. Brad Tabke, center, out of Stillwater prison at the end

Minn. legislators go behind prison walls for a deeper look

The unprecedented legislative hearing at Stillwater prison comes as the Department of Corrections is reeling from the deadliest year in the agency's history.
Police say Leigh Elizabeth Meska, 31, of Goodview, Minn., went missing on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019.

Southern Minnesota woman who went missing on way to work is found in Illinois

Leigh Meska, 31, turned up Thursday in Rockford, but authorities did not say how she got there.
A cyclist decked out in cold weather gear rode past the city skyline and a frozen Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis.

Minnesota builds up bragging rights, looks to add more before epic weekend warm-up

For nearly seven consecutive days, the state was designated the chilliest in the Lower 48.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Grant Snyder, center, and Pastor John Steger, with Grace In The City Church, far left, gave out hats, scarves, gloves and hot

Minneapolis police join efforts to hand out cold weather gear to homeless

Minneapolis police join efforts to prevent homeless people from getting frostbite.
TB outbreak tied to Minnesota St., Mankato under investigation

TB outbreak tied to Minnesota St., Mankato under investigation

The infectious disease was found in eight people associated with the school, including mostly current and former students.
Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, spoke in St. Paul in April.

January: Disproportionate traffic stops hit minorities hard, panelists in Minneapolis stress

Community forum in Minneapolis on racial profiling looks to address racial disparities.
St. Louis Park officials said an officer-involved shooting was under investigation Saturday night.

Man dead after officer-involved shooting at St. Louis Park apartments

Incident at Louisiana Court Apartments began as a call on a domestic dispute.
Minnetonka schools, Jewish community denounce photo of Nazi salute, sign

Minnetonka schools, Jewish community denounce photo of Nazi salute, sign

An image depicting two Minnetonka High School students spread on social media, prompting a note from the district.
Steve Denzine, who works at the federal prison in Sandstone, played with his children Stella, 6, and Robbie, 3. Anticipating the federal shutdown, he

Morale low, anxiety high among federal prison workers in Minn.

Hundreds of Federal Bureau of Prisons employees missed their first paycheck Friday, and union leaders say the families are being forced to hastily cut costs.
Tamar Brayson Long, 20

2 Fridley men charged in fatal shooting of 17-year-old

Travon Shug Wallace ditched the murder weapon with his cousin, who later bragged about the shooting, authorities say.
Jayme Closs, shown Saturday morning at her aunt's home in Barron, Wis.

For Jayme Closs, the healing process is just beginning

It's likely to be a long, difficult process, but one where healing is possible, mental health professionals and survivors of childhood trauma say.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald was high-fived early Friday in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express in Rice Lake, Wis., by an investigator who

'This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!' Missing Wisconsin 13-year-old found alive

Three people east of Gordon, Wis., described the dramatic moments when the 13-year-old was found almost three months after she disappeared: dirty with matted hair and wearing shoes too big for her.
The A West cell house at Stillwater prison.

Stillwater prison wing on lockdown after inmate assaults officer

After several attacks, union representing corrections officers has demanded more safety funding.
Larry Klimek was a Metro Transit bus operator.

White Bear Township man killed by brother as he arrived at New Year's party, court records show

Authorities say a potential motive in the murder-suicide remains unclear.
More from Star Tribune