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Minn. man charged with attempted murder after priest attack at rural ND church

Rev. Robert Wapenski1 / 2
Chad Vincent Legare2 / 2

BISMARCK, N.D. — A Minnesota man has been arrested and charged with attempted murder in connection to an attack last week on a priest in Anamoose, N.D.

Chad Vincent Legare, 42, of Alexandria, Minn., is charged with felony counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault and burglary for the alleged physical assault on the Rev. Robert Wapenski, 62, at the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church on Jan. 30 in Anamoose, which is about 100 miles northeast of Bismarck.

Records describing the nature of Legare' alleged crimes have been sealed.

McHenry County Sheriff Trey Skager confirmed Legare's charging in a press release on Tuesday, Feb. 6. The attack's motive is still under investigation.

Last week, Catholic Diocese of Fargo spokesman Paul Braun said Wapenski was assaulted somewhere on the church property before 8 a.m. Braun said he did not know if the attack took place inside or outside of the church or other buildings on the property.

Wapenski was treated at St. Aloisius Medical Center in Harvey, N.D.

Legare's criminal record in Minnesota includes a felony domestic assault by strangulation charge in Douglas County in July 2015 that was dismissed after he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. He was also convicted of four petty misdemeanors related to speeding and seat belt violations.

McHenry County State's Attorney Joshua Frey and Assistant Attorney General Paul Emerson are prosecuting.

Frey did not return a phone message for comment. Emerson was unavailable Tuesday afternoon.

Alexandria police arrested Legare without incident on Monday. He is being held in Minnesota, pending extradition.

The McHenry County sheriff's and state's attorney's offices investigated, along with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Wapenski, who lives in Anamoose, was ordained as a priest in the Fargo diocese in June 2005, Braun said.

Wapenski attended seminary at Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo and at a seminary in Ohio.

He was a parochial vicar at St. Michael's Church in Grand Forks from June 2005 to June 2007, and held the same position at Holy Cross Church in West Fargo from June 2007 to January 2009.

He then worked as church administrator for St. Margaret Mary's Church in Drake, N.D., and St. Francis Xavier's Church until July 2009, when he was named pastor for both churches.

Court records show Legare’s criminal record in Minnesota includes a felony domestic assault by strangulation charge in Douglas County in July 2015 that was dismissed after he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. He was also convicted of four petty misdemeanors related to speeding and seat belt violations.

Forum News Service reporter Al Edenloff contributed to this report

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