Home News KLEM News, Friday, September 9

KLEM News, Friday, September 9


Testimony continue today (Friday) in the first degree murder trial of 84 year-old Thomas Knapp of rural Merrill, Iowa.  Knapp is charged in the May, 2020 shooting death of his step son, 51 year-old Kevin Juzek, and domestic assault against his wife, Darlene Knapp.

Former Plymouth County Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo was the first witness to take the stand Friday morning, who was in office when the alleged crimes took place.

Jailer Kyle Williams also took the stand and the final witness for the prosecution was Darlene Knapp, the wife of the accused.

Following her testimony, the state rested its case and recess was called until just before noon.  After that recess, the defense also rested its case.  The trial was adjourned until next Tuesday when closing arguments will take place starting at 9 a.m.



Sixty patriotic splashes of red, white, and blue fill the Plymouth County Museum’s “Quilts of Valor” quilt show in the museum’s study hall. The show, which continues through October 9th, honors Plymouth County veterans. This Sunday (September 11) a “Quilts of Valor” program will be held starting at 2 p.m. at the museum. Accordion player Burt Heithold and drummer/vocalist Terry Durr will be filling the study hall with music to honor the veterans. Refreshments will be available. The handmade quilts are designed to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comfort and healing according to the Quilts of Valor Foundation’s website.



A Sioux City Native has been named as the new Art Director at the Le Mars Arts Center. Don Trimble is now serving in that capacity after a three year hiatus living in Southern California. While in California, Trimble worked as an art history instructor for Oaks Christian, a college prep school. He will continue to teach in the mornings with the school as a virtual instructor. Don’s wife, Katie is the K-12 principal at Siouxland Christian School. They have two children, Elsie who is 5 and Tucker who is 7 years old. Annie Laursen, stepped down from her role as Program Director at the end of August after three years of dedicated service to the Le Mars Arts Center.



The Le Mars Police Department and Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office have announced an upcoming Citizens Academy. This is an opportunity for residents in Le Mars and Plymouth County to see how local law enforcement operates. Classes will start Tuesday, October 18 and will be held every Tuesday and Thursday evening for four weeks from 6 till 8:30 p.m. at the Le Mars Police Department. Contact the Le Mars Police Department or Sherriff’s Office for an application or for more details.



Street repairs will get underway Monday (September 12) at the intersection of 12th Street Southwest and Business Highway 75 South in Le Mars. Street Supervisor Scott Kneip advises that I & A Construction of Sioux City will start on the two northbound lanes going through that intersection, moving the northbound traffic to the middle turn lane. 12th Street SW going over the railroad tracks from Highway 75 to Lincoln Street will be completely closed. Eastbound drivers leaving the Walmart area approaching Business Highway 75 will only be able to turn right at that intersection. Traffic lights will be flashing red and detour signs will be posted.



The murder and willful injury trial of Thomas Knapp of Merrill, Iowa, continued yesterday, with prosecution witnesses coming to the stand before a Plymouth County jury.

Thursday afternoon, there was testimony from a forensic pathologist and associate medical examiner at the state medical examiner’s office.

Plymouth County Attorney Darin Raymond focused his questions to Dr Michele Catellier on the gunshot wounds received by the victim, Kevin Juzek.

Dr. Catellier described two major wounds, one long range to the abdomen and one short range to the chest of the victim.

Dr. Catellier said the cause of death were shotgun wounds to the abdomen and chest.

Earlier in the day, the jury listened to a pair of 9-1-1 calls made by Knapp’s wife Darlene:

She said her son, 51-year-old Kevin Juzek, was trying to defend himself against Knapp, who was armed with a shotgun.
The dispatcher sent several officers and deputies to the scene but things escalated before they could arrive at the rural home:

Darlene Knapp made a second 9-1-1 call saying Thomas Knapp had shot her son twice.
Plymouth County Chief Ddeputy Rick Singer also testified saying when officers arrived at the scene, Knapp had trouble understanding them:

Knapp is hard of hearing and during testimony, sat in a wheelchair wearing a pair of headphones.
The trial resumes today at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars.



A Plymouth County couple have been identified as victims of a fatal accident Tuesday in Woodbury County.

The Woodbury County Sheriff identified the two as Gerald and Sally Forch of Kingsley, formerly of Oto.

Investigators say their vehicle turned from Lee Ave. onto US Highway 20, and was struck by an oncoming vehicle travelling on the highway.  Sally Forch, the driver of the vehicle, was pronounced deceased at Mercy One while Gerald Forch was airlifted there with serious injuries and later passed away from those injuries.

The two occupants of the west bound vehicle, whose names were not released, sustained minor injuries. They transported themselves to the hospital.



A Paullina man was seriously injured Wednesday afternoon when his motorcycle collided with a car in Cleghorn.

The Cherokee County Sheriffs Department reports that Dirk Hansen, 53, was riding his motorcycle on Iowa Highway 3, when a car driven by 78 year old Larry Plagman of Cleghorn pulled into his path. Plagman says his view was obstructed by a truck that was in a turn lane at that intersection.

Hansen suffered serious injury and was flown by air ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Sioux City. Plagman was cited for failure to yield and failure to obey a stop sign.



The suspect in a burglary at a hardware store in Storm Lake has been linked to similar burglaries elsewhere in Iowa and surrounding states.

On January 28th, Storm Lake Police discovered around 28-hundred dollars worth of merchandise was missing from Ace Hardware. Similar burglaries and thefts had reportedly occurred around the area.

Storm Lake Police eventually obtained a search warrant for a Rock Rapids residence, which was executed on June 15th. Approximately 14-thousand dollars worth of various tools were located that were allegedly stolen from theft incidents in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota.

45-year-old Adam Nelson of Sioux City was taken into custody by Lyon County Deputies on drug-related charges, as well as two Sioux County warrants. Storm Lake Police have filed multiple felony charges against Nelson. He was originally held at the Lyon County Jail pending extradition to Buena Vista County.



Two of Iowa’s three public universities saw declining enrollment this fall.

The University of Iowa is the only university to see an increase in its fall enrollment.

Iowa State University saw its total enrollment decline to just under 30-thousand students. Associate Vice President Laura Doering, notes that the decrease is smaller than recent years and the first-year class grew. She says that’s an indication that their recruitment,  and financial aid strategies are working.

Enrollment dropped three percent at the University of Northern Iowa. Total fall enrollment on the Cedar Falls campus is eight-thousand-949 — and it is the fifth straight drop in enrollment at U-N-I.



The latest financial report shows state sales tax payments slowed significantly this summer.

Legislative Services Agency analyst, Jeff Robinson, the General Fund revenue was 435 million dollars above projections.   Individual income tax produced almost 70 percent of the excess.



Several Iowa elected officials are commenting on Queen Elizabeth the Second’s death.

U-S Senator Joni Ernst issued a statement saying : “Today I join the United Kingdom, the Royal Family, and the Commonwealth Realms, in mourning the loss of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Second. For seven decades, she was a global stalwart and a resolute leader for the U.K.”

Governor Kim Reynolds and Senator Chuck Grassley issued similar statements.