Home News Thursday News, February 24th

Thursday News, February 24th


Knapp Now Ruled Competent To Stand Trial On Murder Charge

(Le Mars) — A district court judge has now ruled that 83-year old Thomas Knapp is competent to stand trial.  In May of 2020, Knapp was charged with First Degree Murder with the shooting death of his step-son, 51-year old Kevin LeRoy Juzek.  Knapp is accused of shooting Juzek in the chest using a shotgun.  Knapp has been in the Plymouth County Jail since the shooting on a million dollar bond.  Earlier, Knapp had been found incompetent to stand trial and was ordered to seek mental treatment.  Dr. Arnold Andersen with the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital evaluated Knapp.  Andersen reports that his findings indicate that Knapp appreciates the charges he faces, gives a reasonable estimate of the maximum punishment he might receive, understands the role he expects his attorneys to carry out and how to effectively assist them in building his case, has a rational and factual understanding of the key personnel in court during the trial, understands how to act appropriately in court during the trial, and with modest, suitable accommodations he would be able to follow the proceedings of the trial in a meaningful manner despite his hearing deficit.   Dr. Anderson further concluded that he found no evidence that Mr. Knapp suffers from any psychiatric illness or significant deficit in memory – only a personality disorder with mixed fixtures, which do not meet criteria for any mental illness or any significant cognitive impairment. While Knapp has, at times, been uncooperative with staff and evaluators, after observing Knapp’s behavior over almost 3 months, Dr. Anderson has concluded that Knapp has engaged in “strategic exaggeration” of his limitations – that his capacities and behaviors when not being evaluated have belied his initial demonstration of inability to understand or recall. The trial date is scheduled for September 6th at the Plymouth County Courthouse.




Le Mars Community Board Of Education Presents Its Initial Position For Collective Bargaining To Le Mars Education Association

(Le Mars) — The Le Mars Community Board of Education presented its initial position for collective bargaining to the Le Mars Education Association on Tuesday.  The school board is proposing a $1200 increase in the base pay, which translates to a 3.03 percent raise with the base pay at $40,815.  This proposal will increase the cost of base wage salary to the district by $510,940 for school year 2022-2023.  The Le Mars Education Association was asking for an increase of $1600 in the base pay, or a salary raise of 4.04 percent.




Kluckholn Special Education Instructor Honored By School District

(Le Mars) — The Le Mars Community School District awarded its “Employee of the Month” honors Wednesday morning to a Kluckholn Special Education instructor.  Madison Whited was presented the honor during a small ceremony.  She has been with the Le Mars Community Schools for a little more than a year.  Cari Herbst nominated Madison Whited, and the nomination reads in part:  “Madison is always positive and happy to help everyone.  She has gone above and beyond to help with students who are not on her roster.  She is helping while a person is on maternity leave.  Madison has rearranged her schedule to fit IEP students for this time.  She has been there for a student who just needs to talk with someone.  Madison has been a great resource to go to when there are questions about how to best help students.  She has definitely made this year easier with all her help, regardless of her workload.  Madison is a great addition to Kluckholn Elementary.  Whited says she enjoys the students and looks forward to every day working with the students.

Our congratulations go to Madison Whited for being named the Le Mars Community School District’s “Employee of the Month.”




Woodbury County Attorney Clears Deputies And Officers Of Fatal Shooting

(Sioux City) — The Woodbury County attorney has identified the county deputies involved in a January 12th shooting that claimed the life of a man in Sergeant Bluff.  Patrick Jennings says Deputy Eric Fay was justified when he fired his gun at Michael Meredith at a Sergeant Bluff trailer court.  Fay, along with Deputy Devin Groenhagen and Sergeant Bluff police officer Jereme Muller had responded to a disturbance at a trailer where a man and woman were shouting.  Jennings says Meredith suddenly charged at them with a four pronged tire iron as they approached.

Groenhagen had backed away and fired his taser while Fay, under direct attack, fired his gun.  The audio is from the body camera of Sergeant Bluff police officer Muller

Jennings says an autopsy showed Meredith died from a single shot to the chest.  The taser strike did not contribute to his death.

The officers then immediately provided medical aid to Meredith.  Jennings ruled based on evidence from an investigation by the Iowa D-C-I and body camera footage from the three officers that Fay was in fear of his life and was justified in using deadly force to defend himself.




Woodbury County Sheriff Shares Comments Regarding Shooting

(Sioux City) — Woodbury County Sheriff Chad Sheehan says his two deputies had little time to react when a suspect attacked them in January outside a Sergeant Bluff trailer.  Sheehan says an internal investigation of the shooting that claimed the life of Michael Meredith found no department policies were violated.

Eric Fay fired the fatal shot that killed suspect Michael Meredith on January 12th.  Meredith had charged the deputies and struck Fay with a tire iron before getting shot.  Sheehan says Fay has 12 years of law enforcement experience and remains on paid leave.

Deputy Devin Groenhagan, who fired his taser at Meredith, is back on duty.  Sheehan released body camera video of the incident from the three officers that responded.




Man Admits to Stealing from Derecho Victim

(Cedar Rapids, IA) — A Montana man has pleaded guilty to mail fraud after cheating a Cedar Rapids derecho victim out of more than 10-thousand dollars of insurance proceeds.  Fifty-seven-year-old William Hurlbut Junior admitted that he came to Iowa after the derecho, professing to be a handyman and promised to fix the home of a Cedar Rapids resident. Hurlbut spent insurance money given to him for the repairs on gambling and personal items and expenses. He also made purchases at a home improvement store — saying he was buying materials to complete the project. Hurlbut would then return the items for a cash refund, which Hurlbut then used for his own purposes. A sentencing date hasn’t been set.




Family Of Slain Corrections Officer Calls for Legislation

(Anamosa, IA) — The family of the correctional officer murdered nearly one year ago by two Anamosa prison inmates is urging legislators to give prison employees more workplace rights and more on-the-job protection. Robert McFarland’s widow, Sara McFarland, says no other family should have to get the call she did. Bills introduced in the legislature require the state to provide health care benefits to the spouse and children of prison staff killed on the job and to provide up to 30 days of paid leave if a staffer witnesses a traumatic event at work. The bills would have to be tacked onto other legislation in order to be voted upon this year.




Pompeo Visits Iowa, Discusses Russia/Ukraine Crisis

(Des Moines, IA) — Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pom-PAY-oh) says Russian President Vladimir Putin has been testing the west and whether the U-S would defend important American interests in Ukraine. He’s in Iowa for events in three cities. In an interview with Radio Iowa last (Wednesday) night, Pompeo criticized the Biden Administration for letting a bad man roll around Europe. He also suggested former President Trump’s recent description of Putin as “savvy” and “genius” was being misinterpreted, saying Putin is “evil and has malign intent for the west.”




Iowa Supreme Court Asked To Overturn Its Own 2018 Ruling On Abortion

(Des Moines, IA)  —  The Iowa Supreme Court has heard oral arguments Wednesday asking it to overturn its own 2018 ruling on abortion.  Lawyer Chris Schandovel told the justices the state’s high court overstepped its authority four years ago when it ruled the Iowa Constitution guarantees women a right to an abortion.  Schandovel says the previous ruling ignored precedent on abortion issues.  Rita Bettis-Austen represents Planned Parenthood and says it’s an issue of how the 24-hour law was passed — and the state is wrongly trying to make it a constitutional issue.
The former chief justice has died and Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has appointed four of the seven justices now on the court since the 2018 ruling.




Disaster Aid Approved In 25 Iowa Counties For December 15th Storm Damage

(Washington, DC)  —  Federal disaster aid has been approved in 25 Iowa counties for damage done by severe storms that hit on December 15th.  An intense line of rapidly-moving severe thunderstorms passed through the region bringing hurricane-force wind gusts and resulting in 43 confirmed tornadoes.  That’s a single-day record for tornadoes in Iowa.  The Iowa Congressional delegation had written to President Biden in support of Governor Kim Reynolds’ request for the declaration.

[Counties:  Appanoose, Audubon, Buena Vista, Calhoun, Cass, Cherokee, Davis, Emmet, Floyd, Franklin, Greene, Guthrie, Hamilton, Hancock, Howard, Humboldt, Mills, Mitchell, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Sac, Van Buren, Webster, Worth, and Wright.]




Lawmakers To Spend Millions Upgrading Glenwood, Woodward State Resource Centers

(Des Moines, IA)  —  The Iowa House of Representatives is planning to spend an additional 25-million dollars upgrading facilities at the Glenwood and Woodward State Resource Center.  About 300 residents with intellectual disabilities and behavioral disorders live there.  A December report from the U-S Department of Justice found nearly all of those residents could live in a community setting instead if they received the right services.  That would mean the long-term cost would be less.




Two Iowa State Students Arrested For Social Media Posts

(Ames, IA)  —  Two students at Iowa State University have been arrested for social media posts warning people to avoid certain buildings on the Ames campus.  Eighteen-year-old Abdullateef Malallah and 19-year-old Ty Jerman face charges of making threats of terrorism.  Both suspects are freshmen and investigators say they weren’t working together.  One post on YikYak contained the warning to “not come to Carver tomorrow at 4:30 p-m.”  A second post warned people to avoid Parks Library.  There was apparently no intent to follow through on the threats.