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The Kollers stayed in the BWCA the rest of the week, “but that was a horrible, horrible night,” he said.
His son Andrew, 11 years old at the time, said Tuesday that he has “security issues every now and then,” but that the events of that night don’t traumatize him as much anymore.
“I don’t know his back story,” he said of Lakner. “I thought maybe he just made a bad judgment call. I think it’s a shame he’s back in jail again.”
Emmerich Koller said his daughter, Marina, then 27, now married with a child, “is the least forgiving of us all.” What happened that night was unforgettably offensive and frightening, she has told her father.
She testified in court that in addition to their terroristic threats, the men told them to “get off our land” and made fun of their “freeze-dried food.”
The case drew widespread attention because of evidence that it was fueled by lingering resentment among some residents of the Ely area, including Lakner, of the environmental activism that led to creation of the BWCA in the late 1970s.
‘I know I won’t go back’
In the Jan. 11 incident, three DNR conservation officers followed Lakner’s and Zupancich’s snowmobile tracks across a half-dozen bays and lakes, according to the criminal charges. They talked to people in an icehouse to get a timeline of the men’s travels.
When the officers caught up with them, they saw that there was no registration sticker on Zupancich’s snowmobile and that duct tape covered the sticker on Lakner’s sled, the court document said.
“This was to improve their chances of getting in and out of the BWCA without getting caught,” Provost said. “It was the first thing that jumped out at me.”
Zupancich had beer in his backpack, and both men admitted that they had been drinking, the document said. Zupancich also admitted that he fled after seeing the officers and “that what he did was wrong,” it said.
As the duo was being taken to jail, a deputy heard Lakner tell Zupancich to say they hadn’t stopped for the officers because of the thin ice, the document said.
After Emmerich Koller’s ordeal, people asked him if he would go back to the BWCA. Back then, he said he believed he would.
“But now I know I won’t go back,” he said Tuesday after hearing about the latest incident involving his 2007 tormentor. “It must be a delayed reaction.”
David Chanen • 612-673-4465