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Iowa early News Headlines: Friday, March 18th 2016

News

March 18th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

HINTON, Iowa (AP) — Two people have been seriously injured in a northwest Iowa grain elevator explosion. The Sioux City Journal reports the explosion occurred just after 1 p.m. Thursday at Central Valley Ag in Hinton. Plymouth County Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo says two people were taken to a Sioux City hospital in serious condition.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Legislative leaders say new state revenue projections have adjusted how much they can legally spend for the upcoming fiscal year, and it will mean less money than what was budgeted by Governor Terry Branstad and Senate Democrats. The Republican-majority House released figures Thursday that calculate lawmakers cannot spend more than roughly $7.35 billion for the fiscal year that begins in July.

JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) — A Johnston woman is leading an effort to rename a school building in honor of a local soldier who died while serving in the Middle East. The Des Moines Register reports that Elizabeth Van Gundy has launched an online petition asking the district to rename a building in honor of U.S. Army Captain Daniel Whitten, who was killed in a bomb attack in southern Afghanistan.

FORT MADISON, Iowa (AP) — A former police chief in southeast Iowa has been acquitted of a domestic abuse assault charge. The Fort Madison Daily Democrat reports that a jury on Wednesday found 32-year-old William Sackett, the former Donnellson police chief, not guilty after he was arrested in May 2015 for allegedly assaulting his wife.

It’s official. There’s a GOP Primary in Iowa’s 4th congressional district

News

March 17th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Republican State Senator Rick Bertrand of Sioux City has made it official. He is challenging fellow Republican Steve King in the June Primary in Iowa’s fourth congressional district. “Two weeks ago I floated the notion I was strongly considering a run for the fourth district and the response has been tremendous, ironically mostly from Republicans,” Bertrand says. “…I am a viable, credible candidate and would pose the greatest threat that Mr. King has ever faced in 14 years.”

King was first elected to congress in 2002. Bertrand, who is 46 years old, is a commercial developer from Sioux City who is in the middle of his second term in the Iowa Senate. Congressman King says Bertrand was recruited by “establishment figures” in the G-O-P who are “frustrated they can’t tell King what to do.”

“The people that are promoting this are angry,” King says. “They want a congressman that will do what they tell them to do rather than reflect the will of the people they represent.” King and Republican Governor Terry Branstad had a very public falling out right before the Iowa Caucuses. Branstad said he hoped Ted Cruz — the candidate King endorsed — would be defeated.

King accuses Eric Branstad, the governor’s son, of being involved in recruiting his primary opponent. “I will not, but I could name four others who turned down that opportunity even though they were offered a good number of funds to run their campaign for them,” King says. Eric Branstad says he had “zero involvement whatsoever” in recruiting Bertrand, but he says primaries are “very healthy” for the party. Bertrand says it is “comical” to suggest his candidacy is backed by the establishment and special interests in Des Moines.

“When I hear ‘special interests’ out of (King’s) mouth, I think of ethanol, corn growers, cattleman,” Bertrand says. “Those aren’t special interests. Those are Iowans.” And Bertrand says King will have to answer for supporting a presidential candidate who wants to get rid of the federal ethanol production mandate. King says he’s waiting to see if GOVERNOR Branstad endorses a candidate in this primary, “then we’ll know” whether the Branstads support him or Bertrand.

(Radio Iowa)

Mental health care advocate tearfully talks about Council Bluffs murders

News

March 17th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

A 30-year-old man described as “severely mentally ill” is in custody for the stabbing deaths of his mother and grandmother in the home they shared in Council Bluffs. Rhonda Shouse says her friend, Jackie Dieckmann, had sought mental health care for her son for years. “This is not a woman who just didn’t know how to access the services,” Shouse says. “Jackie knew every service the state offered, inside and out, and the lack of services failed her.”

Shouse testified today (Thursday) before the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee. “I’m here today to implore you on behalf of Jackie and her son who can’t be here because they paid the ultimate prize for Iowa’s failure to provide services and a safety net,” Shouse said, her voice cracking with emotion. Shouse, who is from Marion, is an advocate for expanding the availability of mental health care services in Iowa and that’s how she met Jackie Dieckmann.

Michael Dieckmann is being held on two counts of murder in the deaths of his 63-year-old mother and his 91-year-old grandmother. Their bodies were found on Wednesday. Jackie Dieckmann had served on the Iowa Mental Health Planning and Advisory Council and was active in the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Advocates like Shouse are telling legislators they’re worried the three private companies that will start managing care for Medicaid patients will restrict or deny critical mental health care services, as a way to make money.

(Radio Iowa)

2 people injured in northwest Iowa grain elevator explosion

News

March 17th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

HINTON, Iowa (AP) — Two people were seriously injured in a northwest Iowa grain elevator explosion. The Sioux City Journal reports the explosion occurred just after 1 p.m. Thursday at Central Valley Ag in Hinton. Plymouth County Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo says two people were taken to a Sioux City hospital in serious condition. Authorities have not identified the victims, and the cause of the explosion hasn’t been determined.

U.S. Highway 75 and a county road were closed through Hinton to allow emergency crews to quickly reach the grain elevator, but the roads were later reopened. Authorities had asked that trains not travel through the area but rails also were reopened.

Prescription drug drop box at the Pott. Co. S/O nets 50-lbs of unwanted drugs

News

March 17th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office, Thursday, said that in a little more than three-weeks since it was set-up to collect unwanted prescription medications, the Prescription Drug Drop Box in the lobby at the Sheriff’s Office, has collected 50-pounds of medications. The meds are currently awaiting proper disposal.

Sheriff Jeff Danker said that the Sheriff’s Office partnership with the Governor’s Drug Control Office is valuable, in that it provides the public a proper place for unneeded prescription drugs to be disposed of reducing the possibility that the medications fall into the wrong hands.

Sheriff Danker continues to encourage anyone who has prescription drugs that are no longer needed or are out of date to consider utilizing the services of the Drop Box, which can be found at the Sheriff’s Office located at 1400 Big Lake Road, in Council Bluffs.

Remember, the drop box is not intended for the disposal of “sharps” such as syringes.

Mexican Citizen in Pott. County, Sentenced for Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine

News

March 17th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The U-S Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa reports a Mexican citizen was sentenced to prison Wednesday on a drug charge, in U-S District Court in Pottawattamie County. 29-year old Jonathon Oros-Moreno, received a sentenced of a little more than eight-years in prison, from Senior United States District Court Judge James E. Gritzner.  The 100 months prison term for Possession with the Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, will followed by five years of supervised release.

Oros-Moreno entered a guilty plea on July 24, 2015, to the possession charge following his arrest one-year earlier. He was taken into custody by the Southwest Iowa Narcotics Task Force working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Safe Streets Task Force. On July 24, 2014, law enforcement purchased two one-pound packages of methamphetamine from Oros-Moreno before serving a search warrant on the Council Bluffs apartment where he was staying. At the apartment, law enforcement located an additional twelve one-pound packages of methamphetamine.

The investigation was conducted by the Southwest Iowa Narcotics Task Force, Council Bluffs Police Department, the Bellevue (Nebraska) Police Department, the Omaha (Nebraska) Police Department and the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force. The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

Survey: Plains, Midwest economic picture slightly brighter

News

March 17th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – A survey of rural bankers in 10 Western and Plains states suggests a slightly brighter economic picture that remains shadowed by lower agriculture and energy commodity prices. A March report released Thursday (Today) says the Rural Mainstreet Index rose to 40.2 from 37.0 in February and 34.8 in January. Survey officials say any score below 50 on any of the survey’s indexes suggests that factor will decline.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the monthly survey, and he says prices for farm products have fallen about 11 percent and fuel roughly 25 percent since June. Goss says the confidence index dropped to 30.1 this month from 30.4 in February, reflecting the bankers’ pessimism.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

Pizza Ranch chain linked to E. Coli outbreak

News

March 17th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

A restaurant chain based in northwest Iowa has been linked to a food poisoning outbreak in at least nine states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 13 people who were sickened by E. Coli reported they ate at a Pizza Ranch restaurant prior to becoming ill. Health officials have declared the E. Coli outbreak has come to an end.

Officials with Pizza Ranch, based in Orange City, say their independent testing on different products found no problems but the restaurant has temporarily discontinued the use of a dough mix from an ingredient supplier that may’ve been a factor in the outbreak. Pizza Ranch has more than 180 locations in 13 states, including restaurants in more than 75 Iowa towns and cities.

(Radio Iowa)

Effort underway to rename Cedar Rapids post office for Iowa soldier

News

March 17th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The members of Iowa’s Congressional delegation are supporting a measure to re-name the main Cedar Rapids post office in honor of an Iowa National Guard soldier who died in Afghanistan. U-S Senator Joni Ernst, from Red Oak, talked about Sgt. 1st Class Terry L. Pasker during her weekly conference call with reporters. “Sergeant First Class Pasker was born in Anamosa, Iowa. He enlisted in the U-S Army in 1990, and later joined the Iowa National Guard in 1995. While serving in the guard, he served two tours in Afghanistan — in 2005 and 2011,” Ernst says.

The 39-year-old Pasker was killed in July of 2011 during his second tour in Afghanistan when an Afghan security officer shot and killed him at a roadway checkpoint.  “While we will never be able to say thank you enough to Sergeant First Class Pasker and his family. This post office would honor his legacy and serve as symbol throughout the community of his unwavering heroism” according to Ernst.

Ernst says the re-naming now just needs the approval of the rest of Congress. “It should not be a long process. It should be as simple as passing the legislation and that would rename the post office. We feel it’s the right thing to do for Sergeant Pasker,” Ernst says. The measure in the Senate sponsored by Ernst and Senator Chuck Grassley, is companion to a House bill introduced by Representative Rod Blum and co-sponsored by Iowa’s three other Representatives Dave Loebsack, David Young and Steve King. Pasker is survived by his wife, Erica; parents, Mary and David; brother, Andrew, and two sisters, Christine and Rebecca.

(Radio Iowa)

Director of ICE testifies about death of SW Iowa woman in Omaha crash

News

March 17th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement was questioned before Congress this week about the death of an Iowa woman in a “horrific” car crash in Omaha. The January accident was allegedly caused by an undocumented immigrant who was released from jail and has vanished. Nebraska U-S Senator Ben Sasse questioned ICE director Sarah Saldana, saying Omaha police asked ICE to hold the suspect, but ICE refused. Saldana denied that.

“I don’t understand where you got the information with respect to our ‘refusing’ to deal with this individual,” Saldana said, “that’s not my understanding of the facts.” Sasse replied: “This is ICE’s public comment. ICE said that in response to Omaha law enforcement who said they requested that ICE detain him.” Saldana responded: “I am ICE and I don’t recall making that statement. I would not have said that.” The suspect, 19-year-old Eswin Mejia of Honduras, posted bond and hasn’t been seen since. It’s feared he fled the country to avoid prosecution, as he was in the U-S illegally. Police say Mejia was street racing while driving drunk and rear-ended the S-U-V driven by 21-year-old Sarah Root, of Council Bluffs, killing her. Senator Sasse told Saldana that Root’s family and many others want to know why the feds wouldn’t hold the suspect after he met bail, as he was clearly a flight risk.

“This is my letter to you February 29th,” Sasse says. “I’m quoting your agency’s public statement. Your agency said in response: ‘At the time of his January 2016 arrest in Omaha on local criminal charges, Eswin Majia, 19, of Honduras did not meet ICE’s enforcement priorities.'” Due to the suspect’s immigration status, Omaha police requested ICE detain him but that was denied as ICE said it would not be consistent with the president’s executive actions. Saldana says it’s unclear exactly what happened and she’s still investigating the case.

“Quite frankly, sir, it’s very easy to look back and say, ‘That person’s judgment was incorrect,’ and I have some concerns about that,” Saldana says. “Every situation we have that results in something as horrific as this, we always try to learn from it. I’ll be following up to look at the specific individuals involved, how the judgment was formed and why that was done.” When asked if if she thought someone who street races while drunk and kills another person is a threat to public safety, Saldana said, “Yes.” The suspect is accused of motor vehicle homicide but the judge set bond at $50,000. He was able to secure 10-percent of that and was freed. Sasse says Omaha police moved as quickly as possible to have ICE take Majia into custody.

“We tried to act, sir, but I believe there was a matter of hours between the time that we were contacted and the actual release,” Saldana says. “It is very hard for us to get to every inquiry that is made by law enforcement and unfortunately, it had a horrible consequence here.” Police say Mejia’s blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit and he was driving on a suspended license when he was racing and rear-ended Root’s vehicle. Saldana testified on Tuesday before the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

(Radio Iowa)