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Published January 04 2011

Man accused of assaulting 82-year-old with dumbbell

A Fargo man who was sent to prison 20 years ago for assaulting a Moorhead teacher is accused of hitting an 82-year-old woman in the head with a dumbbell Sunday.

Joel D. Johansen, 41, was arrested and charged in Cass County District Court Monday with aggravated assault, a Class C felony.

Officers responded at about 3:30 p.m. Sunday to an apartment house at 510 11th Ave. S. for a report that the landlord’s wife, Carol Wambheim, was found beaten in the hallway with her head gashed open, according to court documents.

Wambheim was taken by ambulance to Sanford Medical Center, where doctors determined she suffered a skull fracture, according to the police report filed with the court.

Court documents state:

The first officer to arrive was waved down by paramedics to the basement level, where Wambheim was on the basement steps with her face covered in blood.

An apartment tenant, Ben Roach, told police he had gone upstairs and found blood on a radiator next to an apartment door. Two officers knocked on the door and made contact with Johansen, who told police he had been watching football and hadn’t heard anything related to an assault.

When questioned by officers, Johansen said he didn’t know why there was blood next to his door. He also couldn’t explain why he had a small scratch that appeared fresh near his left temple, the report states.

Roach later told police he thought he’d heard a female scream and opened his door and found Wambheim stumbling out of her laundry room, bleeding from the head. Wambheim told him the suspect had hit her with a dumbbell and ran upstairs, he told police.

Sgt. Mark Lykken said he didn’t have information on the motive for the attack, and court documents don’t refer to one.

The police report states Johansen admitted to the assault and detectives were applying for a warrant to search his apartment.

A phone message left for him at the jail Monday afternoon wasn’t returned.

Johansen’s criminal history includes convictions on first-degree burglary and second-degree assault for attacking a Moorhead High School gymnastics teacher in her home in January 1990.

Johansen, who was a former student of the teacher, hit the woman with a tire iron, severely cut her hand and rammed her head into a wall before she hit him on the arm and grabbed him in the groin area while being held in a headlock, according to Forum archives.

Johansen was sentenced to 62 months in prison for the attack. At the time, Judge Michael Kirk said the victim “was treated with particular cruelty” and Johansen threatened to kill her and “arguably did everything in his power to carry out that threat.”

In March 1995, Johansen was sentenced to 30 days in jail and ordered to pay $4,608 in restitution after being convicted of stealing from a Stop-N-Go store in Moorhead while he worked there.