WADENA — A 29-year-old Wadena man was arrested at 5:53 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4, following a vehicle crash north of Wadena.

The Wadena County Sheriff’s Office received a call regarding the vehicle crash north of Wadena by Wadena Asphalt on Leaf River Road. The caller stated the airbags in the vehicle deployed and they were looking for a child involved in the crash.

Law enforcement, the Wadena Fire Department and medical personnel from Tri-County Health Care arrived on scene and began to search for the missing child. The driver of the vehicle, James Howard, stated he put the injured child in a deer stand. The property owners searched deer stands on the property and no one was found, the sheriff’s office reported.

James Howard. Contributed, 2021
James Howard. Contributed, 2021

The area was searched with drones from the Wadena and Todd County sheriff’s office as well as the Wadena and Todd County K-9’s.

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In speaking with Howard again about the child's location, he changed his story and talked about the child and others being at an apartment in Wadena. Officers from the Wadena

Police Department and members of the Wadena Fire Department searched all involved apartments and no one was found.

In speaking with him again, Howard appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance and continued to change his story, the sheriff’s office reported. The vehicle the man was driving had been reported stolen out of Wadena about an hour prior to the crash being reported.

It was eventually determined Howard was the sole occupant of the vehicle and there were no injured passengers.

Howard was transported to the Wadena County Jail and was formally charged by the Wadena County Attorney’s Office. He is facing felony theft of a vehicle, gross misdemeanor third-degree property damage and misdemeanor driving under the influence of a controlled substance.

The Minnesota State Patrol also assisted the sheriff’s office at the scene.