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‘Ball slasher’ faces another charge in Duluth

Christopher Neil Bjerkness

Tom Olsen

Duluth News Tribune

The Duluth man known who gained notoriety as the "ball slasher" is facing an additional burglary charge in connection with an alleged incident just a day before his most recent arrest in Superior.

Christopher Neil Bjerkness, 39, is accused of illegally entering the Essentia Health-Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center, 530 E. Second St., and slashing an unspecified number of exercise balls just after midnight on May 23.

The Duluth Police Department reported that Bjerkness was identified on video entering a closed area of the facility and causing approximately $200 in damage to the equipment inside. He allegedly admitted to the incident during an interview afterward.

Bjerkness was charged by warrant Friday in State District Court with fourth-degree burglary, a gross misdemeanor carrying a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.

He remained in custody Tuesday at the Douglas County Jail, where he has been held since his May 24 arrest at Superior High School.

In that case, Superior police responded to a burglary-in-progress call at about 3 a.m. and found more than 20 damaged exercise balls in the deep end of a swimming pool, with two more missing, according to a criminal complaint. The balls were valued at nearly $40 apiece.

Bjerkness reportedly told officers that he saw an open door on the high school’s south side while he was biking from Duluth to Superior, and entered the high school to warm up. He initially said he didn’t touch or rummage through any items, the complaint states, before admitting that he popped the exercise balls with a car key.

He was subsequently charged with a felony count of burglary of a building or dwelling and misdemeanor counts of criminal damage to property and obstructing an officer.

Bjerkness, who has previously admitted to having a fetish for slashing exercise balls, has had a series of run-ins with the law extending back more than a decade.

He was convicted in 2005 of slashing exercise balls at the University of Minnesota Duluth Sports and Health Center; in 2009 for slashing exercise balls at the St. Mary’s Duluth Clinic West building and in 2011 for breaking into the Chester Creek Academy fitness center where several exercise balls were stored.

Bjerkness served a 23-month prison sentence after violating the terms of his probation in 2013. He had successfully completed his prison term and supervised release by the time of his most recent arrest.

Bjerkness is due back in Douglas County Circuit Court on Friday. As he remains in Wisconsin custody, he was charged by warrant and a court date was not immediately scheduled in the Duluth incident.