Posts by joy.the.curious

Happy 40th Birthday, Jacob

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Dear Jacob,

Today is your 40th birthday. Forty. It’s hard for me to picture you as forty because I still see you as that smiling 11 year old boy in a gold sweater. So, to see you as 40, I have to picture myself at 40… where I was at that time in my life, what I was doing, and where I hoped to be going.

My kids were 13 and 11 at that time… about the same age you were when you disappeared. We were so busy then. Our world revolved around sports… wrestling, football, baseball. I call these the “lawn chair years” because it seems like we were constantly just folding and unfolding our lawn chairs, packing them in the car, and heading to our next game.

And then, there were the snowboarding years. My friend Diane talked me into helping her chaperone the New London-Spicer ski club that went out to Powder Ridge every Friday night. My boys both wanted to join, so I figured, what the heck. It wasn’t long before I got bored with the skiing, so I decided to give snowboarding a try. Jordan and Cole made it look so fun and easy, I figured “how hard can it be?” As it turns out, plenty hard. I crashed almost every time I got off the chair lift, and I hit my head so many times, I finally resorted to buying a helmet. But, I stuck with it, and to this day, I still consider it one of my proudest accomplishments. I took up snowboarding at age 40, and I loved it! I have a feeling you would have, too.

By far though, the biggest thing I remember about turning 40 was the surprise party my friends threw for me. It was a Friday evening and I was just getting ready to settle in for the night, when, all of a sudden, my friends Betsy, Jane B, and Jane D showed up at my door wearing matching 70s outfits. They yelled, “Happy Birthday” and told me to pack a bag… they were taking me to see Boogie Wonderland at the Medina Ballroom.

I love disco music, and Boogie Wonderland was my favorite band at the time. We dressed up every time they came to Melvin’s in Spicer, and we danced on the beach all night long. The whole town was wild for Boogie Wonderland, and even the guys… even Ross… would dress up in crazy hair and tie-dye shirts.

The girls took me back to Jane B’s house so I could change into my own 70s outfit they had bought for me. My mini-dress was slightly different than theirs… black and white Mondrian squares vs. their primary colored ones. Clearly, I was to be the leading lady of this crazy entourage.

I put on my dress, matching hat, wig, and go-go boots, and off we went to Medina. Or, so I thought. Oops… Betsy forgot the tickets… we needed to stop by her house first. I was still completely oblivious to everything until someone suggested we should all go in for a quick beer before we took off for Medina. I figured it out then, but was still completely blown away when I walked in the door. There was a group of at least 30 people, all dressed in 70s outfits.

I started laughing so hard… I couldn’t recognize a single person. I started going one-by-one, greeting each person and trying to figure out who they were. My parents were there, along with several cousins and college buddies who had all driven in from the Cities. All the Bakers were there, and Ross’s brother Paul (Mr. Conservative) had shaven off the bottom of his goatee so he had this long crazy horseshoe mustache that reached all the way down to his chin. I absolutely didn’t recognize him at all, and when I finally figured out who he was, I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my face.

I was so happy. I just couldn’t believe all the time and effort these people had gone through to make my 40th birthday so special. Most of them hate 70s disco music (or so they say), but we danced all night long… into the very wee hours. It was so incredibly fun.

So, that’s the memory I’m stuck with this morning as I think about you turning 40. I bet your friends would have thrown you a surprise party, too. I bet they would have come from far and wide for your party, just to see you smile and laugh when you got pranked. I wonder what kind of music you would have liked… which songs you would have danced to until the wee hours of the morning.

I was 11 years old when you were born. It was 1978, and I was in 6th grade… the same age you were when you disappeared. I was so happy and carefree then… I loved being 11 years old! We went to our Christmas tree farm almost every weekend, and I spent the days running and playing in the tree fields with my cousins. I think this is why I love 70s music so much. It brings me back to those times… being with my family and listening to the songs on the car radio during our hour-long car rides to and from the tree farm.

That made me wonder what songs were on the radio when you were 11. Maybe those would have been your favorites, too. So, I decided to look them up. Here’s a quick sample from Billboard’s top 100 songs of 1989:

  • Every Rose Has Its Thorn
  • Miss You Much
  • Wind Beneath My Wings
  • Right Here Waiting
  • Waiting For a Star to Fall
  • Lost In Your Eyes
  • Don’t Wanna Lose You
  • Heaven
  • Two Hearts
  • Listen to Your Heart
  • I’ll Be There for You
  • Like a Prayer
  • I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)
  • Eternal Flame
  • When I See You Smile
  • If I Could Turn Back Time

Umm… is it just me, or is that a deeply profound and ironic list of song titles?

But then, nothing surprises me anymore. Nothing is a coincidence. I am truly a different person because of you. Why? Well, here’s the deal.

Truth is, I was kind of a hot mess before you came into my life. Without even realizing it, I was in full-blown mid-life crisis by my mid-40s. I found myself searching so hard for the “next big thing,” that I seemed to have lost track of everything I had that was right in front of me.

I was feeling this intense pressure to find my true purpose… to use my gifts to make a difference. This constant feeling of unrest was making me (and everyone around me) absolutely crazy. Ultimately, that led to a downhill spiral that caused me to lose all my confidence, and without that, I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I was so far from the person I wanted to be, I didn’t think I’d ever find her again. I had become Sad Joy… a far cry from that happy, carefree 11 year old who loved to belt out 70s songs on the AM radio.

And then, you came along.

I can’t explain things very well from here on out, because I still have trouble making sense of it all. All I know is this… you saved me. You gave my life purpose and meaning. You took the pressure off. On the outside, I was insanely busy. I have no idea how I accomplished everything I did during those few years. But on the inside, I was intensely calm and focused. For the first time, I felt like I was using my gift of writing to truly make a difference. That meant everything to me. Still does.

Today may be your birthday, Jacob… but you are MY gift.

So, Happy Birthday to you on this momentous day. I’m sure your soul is shining brightly, and I imagine a big 80s surprise party for you up in heaven with everyone belting out Bobby Brown and Milli Vanilli songs. I will take your kind spirit and carry it in my heart as I continue to celebrate the rest of our Birth Month. Go Aquarius.

Peace.

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Danny Newville – Getting real

I apologize. I know these posts have been few and far between lately, but I promise, I haven’t been slacking. Since my last post, I’ve been talking to a lot of people and trying to piece things together.

I’ve learned a lot… little tidbits here and there that have started to form a clearer picture of the life Danny was leading before he disappeared. Mostly though, I’ve learned a lot about New London… this town where I live… my peaceful little “City on the Pond.” As it turns out, things were not so peaceful here back in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Just to recap… Danny Newville was allegedly last seen in the early morning hours of August 1, 2002 at a house party near downtown New London. He had just been released from the Kandiyohi County Jail that previous afternoon, after serving a 45 day sentence for a probation violation. He had turned 18 a few months prior (May 7th), so this was the first time Danny had ever served time in the adult prison.

In talking to one of Danny’s close friends, he asked me why Danny had been in jail in the first place… what was he in for? I told him that Danny’s father had told me it was for a probation violation, but I realized I didn’t know exactly what that violation was. I also didn’t know why Danny had been on probation at the time. I said I would check.

Danny’s friend went on to tell me that, in 2001, when he was 18 and Danny was 17, Danny had stolen a van and the two of them had gone joyriding in it. From what he could remember, the van belonged to a friend’s grandmother, and she knew Danny had taken it. However, when Danny hadn’t returned it after several days, it was reported stolen. Because he was only 17 at the time, Danny served time at the juvenile detention facility in Willmar for theft. His 18 year old friend was charged with harboring a stolen vehicle and had to serve time at the adult jail.

It seemed logical that this would have been the reason why Danny was on probation, but I decided to confirm this with Detective Kent Bauman at the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office. He was unable to tell me Danny’s exact violation since it had occurred while he was still a juvenile. For the same reason, Detective Bauman was unable to tell me exactly how Danny had violated his probation. All he could legally tell me was that Danny had “failed to comply with the conditions of his probation,” meaning, he hadn’t followed the rules the judge had set for him. This could mean something as minor as failing to show up at a mandated meeting with his probation officer, all the way to getting picked up on a criminal charge. From what his friends have told me though, it didn’t seem like it was anything all that serious. He had only served 45 days, after all.

I asked Danny’s friend what he thought might have happened to Danny. He said he always figured it was drug related. He told me he had talked to Danny that day… the same day he got out of jail. Danny called him from the “party house,” sometime between 2:00-3:00 PM. He said he was just hanging out, and didn’t seem stressed about anything. One thing though. His friend did mention that Danny’s energy level was high, making him wonder whether Danny was “doped up” at the time he called him.

I wondered about this. Danny didn’t have a job, so if he was getting high, how was he paying for the drugs? His buddy had the same question. He wondered if Danny was possibly fronting drugs for someone.

OK… so, let’s talk about this “party house” for a moment. One of the people who lived there at the time has been very candid with me. Yes, there were underage kids who partied there. Yes, there were drugs being used there. And yes, there were even drugs being sold there. People came in and out at all hours, and to outsiders, it looked sketchy.

But for insiders, this house was a refuge. It was a place for friends to gather when they needed a place to stay, to get some food, or to feel safe. These were scrappy kids who learned at a young age to depend on themselves. Some came looking for a meal because there was nothing to eat at home. Some came to escape physical or verbal abuse. Some just wanted to hang out with friends who accepted them. But, one thing was always abundantly clear… these kids all had each other’s backs.

So… now let’s go back a few years earlier… to 1996. It was just before midnight on Friday, May 17th, and there was supposed to be a fist fight out at the ballfield by the DNR ponds. It may have started over a busted car window, but who knows. Whatever the case, things escalated quickly.

That same night, a fifteen year old girl was babysitting her two nieces (ages two and four) at her brother’s place in the Peaceful Hills trailer park. Suddenly, shots rang out from a car outside. The trailer was sprayed with bullets from a .22 caliber rifle and the girl was shot once in the abdomen and once in the hip.

The kids who were at the ballfield waiting for the fist fight to begin heard the shots and ran toward them. They followed the “snake trail” through the woods and arrived at Peaceful Hills faster than those who had jumped in their cars and driven there.

Read the article from the May 20, 1996 edition of the West Central Tribune

The girl lived. However, to this day, she still has a bullet lodged in her liver because it was too dangerous to remove surgically.

Things got scary after that. According to the girl who got shot, “everyone wigged out” and the stakes suddenly got much higher for this scrappy group of survivors.

So where was Danny in this mess? Nowhere. He was only 12 years old at the time, going to school and playing with his friends, just like any other 12 year old.

But, let’s be honest. Things weren’t all rosy for Danny and his family either. That same year, one of Danny’s uncles was convicted for drug trafficking and was sentenced to 132 months in federal prison.

A year later — when Danny was 13 — he started getting rebellious and skipping school. His family worried that he might be hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Also in 1997, drug enforcement officers raided the “party house” in New London, looking for drugs, guns, and other illegal activity. They found nothing. It would be five years before they returned again, this time looking for a missing 18 year old boy named Danny Newville.

Next time… a few theories…

If you have a tip about Danny Newville’s disappearance, please contact:

Detective Kent Bauman
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: 320-214-6700, x3315
Email: 3315@co.kandiyohi.mn.us
Facebook Messenger:
https://www.facebook.com/Kandiyohi-County-Sheriffs-Office-471311649587923

You may also mail anonymous tips to:
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
2201 NE 23rd St, Suite 101
Willmar, MN 56201

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Danny Newville – His best friend

I’ve been talking to a few people who were able to add some more details to Danny’s last day. If you read my previous post, you’ll recall one of my questions was how Danny had managed to arrive at his grandfather’s house on Henderson Lake in Spicer (about seven miles away) since he didn’t have a car. Someone must have given him a ride, but I didn’t know who.

I also wondered if Danny’s friend who lived in the Peaceful Hills trailer park had seen Danny that day. That’s where Danny was headed after leaving “the party house” earlier in the afternoon. He started out walking that direction, but did he ever make it? Had he spoken to his friend once he got there? If so, did he seem agitated about anything? And finally, is this the friend who had given Danny a ride to his grandfather’s house?

I decided to get a hold of Danny’s friend and ask him. He asked that I not use his name, but he was happy to hear I was researching Danny’s case. He told me Danny was like a brother to him and he still misses him every single day. “Danny was one of the only people I have ever known as a true friend and person,” he said. “I would do anything to help find him.”

It turns out, Danny DID make it to his friend’s house that afternoon. He remembers they chatted in the front yard for a while… nothing out of the ordinary. I asked whether Danny had seemed odd or upset in any way, but he said no, not that he remembers. He did mention that, later, he found out Danny owed money to some out-of-state drug dealers, but he didn’t know that at the time, and he didn’t have any further details.

Next, I asked him how Danny had made it over to his grandfather’s house. Did he drive him? His friend told me no. Not long after Danny arrived at his house, two girls drove up and he left with them. His friend was able to recall the name of one of the girls, but not the other. I wondered if this detail had been passed along to law enforcement, but he wasn’t sure. (As it turns out, it had not.)

Next, I asked Danny’s friend whether he had been at “the party” the night Danny disappeared. He said no, but Danny had called him from “the party house” at 5:30am the next morning, looking for a ride. Unfortunately, he didn’t have access to a car at that time, so he wasn’t able to pick him up.

Here’s the particularly disturbing part about our conversation. About a year after Danny’s disappearance, his friend started working with law enforcement to help with the investigation. Not long after, he was jumped by a group of 5-7 people — three separate times. The attacks happened about a half year apart.

“You were jumped by people who were trying to cover it up??” I asked him.

“Yes,” he replied.

When I asked him if he knew who had attacked him, he said he never saw them.

Wow.

Incidentally, I talked to a few more people who were able to tell me the name of the other girl in the car who had picked Danny up from his friend’s house on the day he disappeared. Both names have now been passed along to law enforcement.

I also learned that Danny did eventually make it back to his grandfather’s house that afternoon. He showered, changed clothes, and, I assume, called his dad to ask him to set out his fishing pole. At some point, he headed back out again, but I’m not exactly sure what time that was. I’m also not sure what time he returned to “the party house” that evening… or where he had been before he got there.

Can you help fill in any of the gaps? Do you have additional details about the day Danny disappeared? Please share!

If you have a tip about Danny Newville’s disappearance, please contact:

Detective Kent Bauman
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: 320-214-6700, x3315
Email: 3315@co.kandiyohi.mn.us
You may also mail anonymous tips to:
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
2201 NE 23rd St, Suite 101
Willmar, MN 56201

Facebook Messenger:
https://www.facebook.com/Kandiyohi-County-Sheriffs-Office-471311649587923

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Danny Newville – His last day

I’ve been thinking a lot about the last day Danny was seen before he disappeared. After speaking to so many different people, I’ve wondered what was going on his life, what his immediate plans were after getting released from jail, and what thoughts were going through his head on that day. After trying to piece together all those conversations in order to recreate his last day, I think I still have more questions than answers.

Here’s what I’ve been able to piece together so far.

On Wednesday, July 31st, Danny was released from the Kandiyohi County Jail in Willmar after serving 45 days for a probation violation. He had just turned 18 a few months earlier (May 7), so for the first time, he was serving out his sentence as an adult at the county jail versus Prairie Lakes Juvenile Detention Center.

I’ve wondered what was going through Danny’s head on the day he entered that jail. Danny’s physical stature was small and slight, and he was by no means a hardened career criminal. I’m sure he was terrified at the thought of having to spend 45 days at the adult jail. I’ve been told he was a good-looking young man, but the drug addiction was beginning to take its toll. He had lost a lot of weight in recent months, and the dark circles under his eyes spoke volumes about his lack of sleep.

On the day Danny was released, Wednesday, July 31, he called a friend to come and pick him up at the jail. She lived at the house where the alleged “party” would take place later that night, and she recalls that it was sometime between 1pm and 2pm that she picked Danny up and brought him back to her house.

The home where Danny was last seen, as pictured in a March 2017 news story on KSTP

I wondered about this, too. You’d think after being in jail for 45 days, Danny would have wanted to go home, take a shower, and sleep in his own bed. But, maybe Danny made this decision because “home” was a fuzzy term for him during this time of his life. He had spent the previous two years living with his aunt and uncle in Spicer, but after turning 18 in May, he had moved in with his grandfather at his home on Henderson Lake. More often than not, though, Danny would stay at his friend’s house in the Peaceful Hills development in New London. Maybe he was stir crazy and just wanted to see what was shaking. Maybe he was lonely and wanted to catch up with his friends. Who knows, but it surprised me that he wouldn’t want to get dropped off at home first… wherever “home” happened to be.

Some time around 2pm or 2:30pm, Danny called his dad, Russ, and asked him to leave his fishing rod out by the garage so he could swing by and pick it up later that day. (It was that fishing rod that gave Russ his first clue that something might be wrong when Danny hadn’t been by to pick it up after a few days.) I asked Russ where Danny was when he made this call, and he said it was from his grandpa’s house on Henderson Lake. I’m not sure how he got there or when he left. Still working on those details.

According to Danny’s friend who picked him up from jail:

“It was my older brother and I home that day… that’s it. Danny sat and chatted for about 30 minutes, then said he was going out to his friend’s house. He wanted to walk, so he did. He cut through our backyard, which was next to his friend’s Grandma’s place. That was the LAST time we saw him”

I wondered why he wanted to walk. Was it a beautiful summer day?

I decided to check Weather Underground. It turns out Wednesday, July 31, 2002 was extremely hot and humid in Minnesota. By 3pm, the temperature was almost 90° and the dew point was in the 70s. That’s oppressive. Who wants to walk in that kind of heat when they can get a ride instead?

If you look at the chart below, you’ll see that the heat and humidity continued throughout Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. For Minnesota, it is incredibly unusual for the temperature to remain at 80° throughout the night. By our standards, that’s HOT.

Weather Conditions

DateTime (CDT)Temp.Dew PointPrecipConditions
Wed 7/31/200211:53 AM80.1 °F73.0 °FN/AMostly Cloudy
Wed 7/31/20022:53 PM89.1 °F72.0 °FN/AScattered Clouds
Wed 7/31/20025:53 PM90.0 °F72.0 °FN/AScattered Clouds
Wed 7/31/20028:53 PM84.0 °F73.0 °FN/APartly Cloudy
Wed 7/31/200211:53 PM80.1 °F72.0 °FN/AScattered Clouds
Thu 8/1/20022:53 AM81.0 °F69.1 °FN/AClear
Thu 8/1/20025:53 AM79.0 °F70.0 °FN/AMostly Cloudy

Source: https://www.wunderground.com

Some of this might explain why Danny didn’t show up to get his fishing rod that day. Understandably, it was too hot to even go fishing. Instead, it seems Danny decided to return to “the party house” at some point.

I’m not sure of the timing here. According to Danny’s friend who picked him up from jail, there was no party at her house that night. But, according to several other sources, there definitely was a gathering of some sort. People who were there told investigators that Danny left on foot sometime between 5:30am and 6am on Thursday, August 1.

I checked the sunrise on that date. The sun came up at 5:57am CST, so it would make some sense that Danny would wait for daylight before leaving to go back to his friend’s house. Again, partygoers said that Danny cut through the backyard, heading west toward Peaceful Hills. From what I’ve read, many of these people have been polygraphed, so the story seems pretty verifiable.

And, so… that would mean Danny did not die at the party. That is contrary to almost every story I’ve heard over the past two months. It seems most people believe Danny was killed at this so-called “party,” most likely over a drug debt.

From there, the urban myths get pretty horrible. I’ve heard Danny was beaten to death. Danny was dismembered. Danny was burned alive. Suffice it to say, Danny’s disappearance has been used to spread a culture of fear throughout our small community for the past 15 years. Young adults who were part of the drug scene when they were kids were regularly told, “Be careful or you’ll end up like Danny Newville.” I’ve heard this more than once.

So, what REALLY happened to Danny Newville on August 1, 2002? If he left the party on his own, where did he go? Did he O.D. and pass out somewhere? Did someone pick him up? Did someone follow him, kill him, and dump his body?

Danny’s friend told me about a shortcut between her house and Peaceful Hills.

“There was a shortcut to the trailer park. If you go down 2nd Avenue, over by the ball fields… there are houses back there now, but back then there was a gravel road. You’d go along the edge of the DNR property, and that would take you to a “snake trail” that went all the way to the trailer park. All the kids knew about the snake trail. You could get to the trailer park in five minutes instead of 15 minutes by road.”

She wondered if the land around the “snake trail” had ever been searched. I thought it was a good question, so I reached out to Detective Bauman and asked him. He said yes. They searched that area by foot, by air, and with cadaver dogs. I was also told by a DNR officer that the lake behind the “party house” had also been dragged.

Unfortunately though, all these searches didn’t start until 54 days after Danny went missing. Admittedly, that really put investigators behind the eight ball.

So… that’s what I’ve been able to piece together so far. In order to take this any farther, I think I need help. If you can provide more details, fill in gaps, or correct any misinformation, please leave a comment below or contact me using the online form.

———-

If you have a tip about Danny Newville’s disappearance, please contact:

Detective Kent Bauman:
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: 320-214-6700, x3315
Email: 3315@co.kandiyohi.mn.us

You may also mail anonymous tips to:
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
2201 NE 23rd St, Suite 101
Willmar, MN 56201

Facebook Messenger:
https://www.facebook.com/Kandiyohi-County-Sheriffs-Office-471311649587923

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Danny Newville – Radio interview

A few weeks ago JP Cola, News Director at Lakeland Broadcasting, contacted me and said he was putting together a news story about Danny Newville. He wondered if I’d be willing to do an interview in order to raise the profile of Danny’s case, and hopefully generate some new leads.

I was happy to oblige, so last Wednesday, I stopped by the radio station in Willmar to visit with JP and discuss Danny’s case. He mentioned that he had also spoken with Detective Kent Bauman at the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office, so I’m hopeful the added attention will help shed some new light on the case. Things have definitely slowed down in the past few weeks, so I’ve been at a bit of a standstill. Thanks to JP for helping to keep the conversation going!

The interview will begin airing on Tuesday, October 24.

———-

JP Cola, KWLM

Radio interview with JP Cola — Lakeland Broadcasting, Willmar, MN

August 1st marked the 15th anniversary of the disappearance of 18-year-old Danny Newville of New London. The case is getting new life thanks to blogger Joy Baker of New London. After her involvement in the Jacob Wetterling case last year, Baker says she decided to focus on the Newville case in her blog called “Joy the Curious”…

 

(To play, click far left side of black bar.)

…Witnesses told the Sheriff’s Department that Newville was last seen at a party in New London on August 1st 2002. He left the party on foot, reportedly to go to another person’s house, but never arrived. Baker says Newville’s friends and people who might know something are older now, and she hopes they feel like getting it off their chest…

 

 

…Baker first wrote about Newville in 2014, and then again August 1st of this year and has done half-a-dozen updates since. Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Department Detective Kent Bauman says since Baker got involved, tips have started picking up…

 

 

…Bauman has been working the Newville case since the very beginning and after what happened with the Jacob Wetterling case, he hopes this one too will come to a resolution…

 

 

…Any information on the Newville case can be called in to the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Department at 235-1260, 24-hours-a-day. If the info pertains to Newville, it will be forwarded to Bauman. Baker says she would be willing to be an intermediary, if necessary. Go to joybaker.com or joythecurious.com. Baker blogged about previously forgotten child molestation cases in the Paynesville area in the 1980s that eventually created a link to Danny Heinrich, who confessed to killing Jacob Wetterling in October 1989. Last year Heinrich was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

———-

Contact Detective Kent Bauman:
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: 320-214-6700, x3315
Email: 3315@co.kandiyohi.mn.us

You may also mail anonymous tips to:
Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office
2201 NE 23rd St, Suite 101
Willmar, MN 56201

Facebook Messenger:
https://www.facebook.com/Kandiyohi-County-Sheriffs-Office-471311649587923

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