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US Supreme Court denies appeal in Iowan’s robbery conviction


March 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a southwest Iowa man’s appeal of his conviction for robbery, carjacking, obstructing justice and witness tampering. The court notified 49-year-old Tiran Casteel Thursday it would not hear his case.  Casteel, of Coin, (Iowa), is serving 27 years in prison for the 2008 robbery of Darlene Eitzen at her rural Page County farm.

Prosecutors say Eitzen was held at gunpoint while Casteel and his son, Devan, robbed her of a rare coin collection her late husband left her. While awaiting trial Casteel attempted to have Eitzen killed prompting obstructing justice and witness tampering charges.

Casteel’s conviction was upheld by a federal appeals court in 2013. He’s at a federal prison in Kansas. His son, Devan, is imprisoned in Texas, scheduled to be released in 2021.

Omaha metro area getting closer to population of 1 million


March 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area is edging closer to having a population of 1 million after eclipsing 900,000 people for the first time last year. The World-Herald reports that U.S. Census Bureau data places the metro area’s population at an estimated 904,421 people. The Omaha metro area includes Douglas, Sarpy, Cass, Washington and Saunders counties in Nebraska; and Pottawattamie, Mills and Harrison counties in Iowa.

David Drozd of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Center for Public Affairs Research and chamber of commerce officials say there are benefits to hitting the one million mark. According to them, some larger businesses and high-end retailers will only consider locating to cities with more than a million residents.

According to Drozd, Omaha, which is the 60th-largest metro in the United States, should reach 1 million by 2023.

Iowa early News Headlines: Fri., March 27th 2015


March 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — A western Iowa youth softball coach accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old friend of his daughter has been convicted of four counts of sexual abuse. The Omaha World-Herald reports that 47-year-old John Osborn of Council Bluffs was found guilty yesterday of third-degree sexual abuse in a non-jury trial. He faces up to 40 years in prison at his May 1st sentencing hearing.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — The trial of a 20-year-old Denison man accused of slaying two elderly people and trying to burn their bodies has been moved to Sioux City. A judge on Wednesday announced that the trial of Jayden Chapman will take place April 28th in Woodbury County District Court. The Sioux City Journal reports he’s charged with first-degree murder and second-degree arson in the murders of 80-year-old Marvin Huesling and 81-year-old Alice Huisenga.

FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — A public session held in Fort Dodge on Wednesday affirmed that the future of Oleson Park Zoo remains unclear. The Messenger reports that it was revealed at a meeting with residents, city officials and Friends of the Oleson Park Zoo representatives that there is no plan to upgrade the zoo or an estimate how much such a plan may cost.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Led by Hall of Fame coach Kim Mulkey, Baylor enters its matchup in the women’s NCAA Tournament against Iowa as confident as ever. Baylor will next face the third-seeded Hawkeyes in Oklahoma City Friday night.


Green Hills AEA to move from Harlan to Avoca


March 26th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The Green Hills AEA will move its Harlan Regional Center to a building donated last year to the AHST Community School District. The Daily NonPareil reports moving the center about 11.5 miles south to Avoca will allow Green Hills to expand its footprint in the area and secure a new partnership with one of the school districts making up its service territory.

A subsidiary of Nishnabotna Valley REC of Harlan donated a 10,000 square-foot building to the Avoca-based school district last August. AHST – which also serves Walnut secondary students through whole-grade sharing and is proposing a district reorganization this fall to become AHSTW – uses part of the building for an alternative high school. The district said it wanted to use the remaining space for economic development or to create a regional hub for education efforts.

The agency’s Board of Directors approved the lease for the new center during a meeting Monday evening in Red Oak. The current lease expires at the end of June. Moving to Avoca from Harlan will add a little expense – $24,000 annually versus $19,800 annually in rent – but will nearly double the AEA’s footprint to 7,000 square feet.

The AEA will also need to make about $40,000 in renovations to the facility, with AHST covering about $10,000. The Avoca lease will be for seven years. Sharing the space with the alternative high school will also offer enough space to host events, which was not possible with the 4,000-square-foot space in Harlan.

The AEA also operates regional centers in Atlantic, Creston, Glenwood, Osceola and Red Oak, as well as its Peterson Regional Center in Council Bluffs and its main facility, the Halverson Center, between Council Bluffs and Treynor.

Iowa softball coach convicted of 4 counts of sexual abuse


March 26th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — A western Iowa youth softball coach accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old friend of his daughter has been convicted of four counts of sexual abuse. The Omaha World-Herald reports that 47-year-old John Osborn, of Council Bluffs, was found guilty Thursday of third-degree sexual abuse in a nonjury trial. He faces up to 40 years in prison at his May 1 sentencing hearing.

Council Bluffs police say the girl and Osborn began exchanging text messages in June and had phone conversations about sex. Court documents show the girl reported that she and Osborn engaged in sexual acts in July when the girl stayed at Osborn’s house for a sleepover with his daughter.

Osborn has denied willingly touching the teen and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Atlantic School Board ratifies Non-Certified Employees agreement


March 26th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

In a very brief, Special Session Thursday evening, the Atlantic Community School District’s Board of Education ratified the 2015-16 tentative agreement with the district’s Non-Certified Employees Association.

Board President Kristy Pellett opened the meeting by acknowledging that during their last, regular meeting on March 15th, they opted not to ratify the agreement at that time because they needed additional information. The information necessary to make the decision was available to the Board for the Special Session.

Board member Phil Hascall, who was vocal during the last meeting about not wanting to ratify the agreement, made the motion to reconsider at Thursday’s meeting. The motion was seconded by Rod Hartwig, and passed unanimously. Superintendent Mike Amstein said the agreement that was tentatively agreed to by the district’s negotiating team will cost the district $87,584. That’s the same amount mentioned during the March 15th meeting, and the same increase in pay for the affected staff.

Amstein says “We feel that [the amount] comes within the range that we had looked at. That it is a 3.26 [percent increase], based on new money and the reductions that we’ve made, and also with no increase to our insurance, we believe that [the] amount is acceptable, and I recommend the tentative agreement with our non-certified folks.”

With no further comments having been made, the Board heard a motion and second to approve the agreement, and it passed without objection.

Council Bluffs Police locate missing juvenile


March 26th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Police in Council Bluffs located a missing juvenile this (Thursday) morning. Officials say at around 9:45-a.m., an 11-year-old male decided to leave Edison School without permission. Upon arriving in the area, several officers began searching for the child who was on foot. The 911 Center was successful in utilizing cell phone technology to locate the child, which indicated the child was in the area of Big Lake Park off N. 16th Street and was moving in a northeast direction.

Officers on foot and in vehicles concentrated their efforts in this area. Additional cell phone information had the child about a half mile north of city limits east of Monument Road. Officers converged on the area and observed the child running into a heavily wooded area on a ridge where he was located and apprehended without incident.

The child was uninjured and then transported to his residence where he lives with his grandmother. Pottawattamie County Deputies assisted Council Bluffs Police Officers in the two-hour search.

Trial of man accused of 2 Iowa murders moves to Sioux City


March 26th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — The trial of a 20-year-old Denison man accused of slaying two elderly people and trying to burn their bodies has been moved to Sioux City. A judge on Wednesday announced that the trial of Jayden Chapman will take place April 28 in Woodbury County District Court. He is charged with first-degree murder and second-degree arson in the murders of 80-year-old Marvin Huesling and 81-year-old Alice Huisenga.

Another man, 26-year-old Michael Schenk, was sentenced earlier this month to two consecutive life terms in prison in connection with the murders. The Sioux City Journal reports that a change of venue was ordered prior to Schenk’s trial. Authorities say Schenk and Chapman shot the pair at a trailer home in Deloit in March 2014 and then set it on fire.

Expanding “buffer zone” around soldiers’ funerals


March 26th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa House has unanimously passed a bill that would double the size of the “buffer zone” that can be enforced between protesters and mourners at an Iowa soldier’s funeral. Representative Zach Nunn, a Republican from Bondurant, says there should be a “reasonable expectation of privacy” at the funeral of a soldier. “This bill addresses specifically the respect and the sanctity of a passing of a human life,” Nunn says.

The thousand-foot buffer zone around the site of a funeral, a memorial service, a burial or a funeral procession would be in force an hour before the ceremony, during the ceremony and an hour after it’s over. The bill is designed to respond to funeral protests organized by the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton who is the bill’s sponsor, calls the church members “verbal domestic terrorists.”

“You do not have a constitutional right to infringe on the constitutional rights of the families who are laying their fallen loved ones to rest,” Kaufmann says. “…I was contacted by a widow in Ohio who was moved to tears on the phone because she herself was subjected to the actions of this despicable group of people at her husband’s funeral and she’s just happy that Iowa is extending that buffer zone to 1000 feet.”

Current Iowa law, passed in 2006, forbids protestors from being within 500 feet of a military funeral. The Phelps family from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, has staged dozens of anti-gay protests at military funerals and a handful of church members protested in Des Moines in January to show their opposition to this bill. A few months ago a member of the Phelps family told The Cedar Rapids Gazette “whiny, crybaby legislators” in Iowa were pushing this bill. Similar legislation has passed in other states and been upheld in the courts.

(Radio Iowa)

House votes 100-0 for “Safe at Home” program


March 26th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Domestic abuse victims trying to keep their “ex” from finding out where they’ve moved would get some help from the “Safe at Home Act” that cleared the Iowa House today (Thursday). “This bill will be a step forward in our work to assist the victims of domestic and sexual violence.” That’s Representative Dean Fisher, a Republican from Garwin who is the bill’s chief sponsor.

The bill sets up a process so victims of domestic abuse as well as victims of sexual assault, human trafficking and stalking can get a new legal address, so they don’t have to list their home address when applying for a job, signing their kids up for school, registering to vote or taking some other action that requires disclosure of a home address — which might be discovered online.

Representative Fisher says the bill was inspired by the story of a young mother who was the victim of domestic abuse. “She was suffering the threats from her ex-husband over a bitter custody battle,” Fisher said. “She ultimately left Iowa for a state that already had a ‘Safe at Home’ problem. It bothered me greatly that (she) did not feel safe at home here in Iowa and felt the need to move to another state to achieve that safety.”

Secretary of State Paul Pate and his staff would administer the program and provide the victims with a Post Office Box in Des Moines as their new legal address. Mail sent to that P.O. Box would be forwarded back to the victim wherever they may live in Iowa. “The Secretary of State’s office is the only entity that will have the physical address of the participant unless there are extenuating circumstances that require it,” Fisher says.

The bill is fashioned after similar laws in 33 other states. If the bill becomes law in Iowa, the names and addresses of Iowans who participate in the “Safe at Home” program would not be listed on voter registration records. Secretary of State Paul Pate, a backer of the bill, says victims of these types of crimes too often become reclusive and this program to shield their home addresses “is a tool that can help rebuild lives.” The bill passed the House on a 100-to-zero vote and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate.

(Radio Iowa)