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Man charged in deadly Christmas bar beating goes to trial next week

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CROOKSTON—A man charged with manslaughter stemming from a Christmas Day assault outside a Crookston bar will face trial next week.

Brock Dale Strommen, 29, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter charges stemming from an assault outside Captain Crooks bar on Christmas Day 2015 that led to the death of 36-year-old John Henry Torres. Torres suffered a fractured skull and internal bleeding from his injuries, and died Jan. 1, 2016, at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks.

Strommen was not charged in the incident until March, when a grand jury indicted him on charges of first-degree manslaughter, a felony, and fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct.

If convicted, Strommen could serve up to 15 years in prison.

A deadly Christmas

Rita Saenz, who was engaged to Torres and has four children with him, told the Herald in March she wants to see justice for her fiance.

"The night replays in my head all the time," Saenz said.

Saenz, Torres and two of their friends went to Captain Crooks bar to celebrate the holiday and meet some of Torres' cousins, she said.

Later, Torres went outside with a man the couple did not previously know.

"A few minutes later, (Torres) walked in, bleeding from his ear" and saying he had been jumped, Saenz told the Herald in January.

She took Torres to Altru Hospital, where he underwent surgery Dec. 26 for a fractured skull and internal bleeding. He died six days later.

Near the end of January, Saenz was joined by friends and family as they held signs outside the Polk County Justice Center, asking for justice.

New charges

When Strommen was charged in March for manslaughter, Judge Kurt Marben ordered Strommen could be released with several conditions, including Strommen remain law-abiding, not visit bars and refrain from consuming alcohol.

Strommen was arrested twice since that time.

On July 8, he was arrested in Red Lake Falls, Minn., after reports of a man "trying to start fights with people" at TNJ's Bar and Grill, according to a report. Strommen had a blood-alcohol level of 0.278, more than triple the legal limit, a Red Lake County Sheriff's deputy reported.

Strommen did not face charges in the July arrest, and following it, Judge Anne Rasmusson ordered he could be released without condition if he posted a $40,000 bond or paid $4,000 bail and agreed to follow certain conditions similar to the previous ones set for him.

Later that month, on July 31, Strommen was arrested in Crookston on second-degree drunk driving charges. He has remained in custody on a $100,000 bond.

Strommen has two previous convictions for disorderly conduct. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail for an August 2008 incident at IC Muggs, a bar in Crookston. He later was sentenced to 10 days in jail, a term that was stayed for one year, for a June 2012 incident at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in Crookston.

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