A Buena Vista County jury has found Jesse Wendelsdorf not guilty on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree sexual abuse. Wendelsdorf, of Spirit Lake, was charged with sexually abusing and beating to death two-year-old Shelby Duis. Duis was the daughter of Wendelsdorf’s girlfriend Heidi Watkins. The case went to the jury Wednesday and jurors returned their verdict at 1:30 this afternoon. Watkins will go on trial on murder and sexual abuse charges August 8th. The high profile case raised questions about Iowa’s system for reporting abuse and forced a change in state law to open up some Department of Human Services records.
Archives for July 2000
Federal officials are recalling more than two-million pounds of frozen ground beef nationwide, including 158-thousand pounds sold to schools in Iowa. There’s a question over sanitary conditions at the Texas meat-packing plant that produced the beef. State officials say the meat went to 300 Iowa school districts.Christine Anders is a nutrition consultant with the Iowa Department of Education. She says the federal government made the decision to recall the meat although there is little concern any students’ health may have been threatened.Anders says there are no reports of any Iowa children getting sick after eating the meat — if any were even served the meat in question.The packer in question is the Dallas, Texas-based Supreme Beef Processors.
An eastern Iowa man is under arrest for improper contact with a teen. An Independence man is being held in the Buchanan County jail for allegedly abusing a female juvenile who was living in his home. Forty-nine-year-old Frank Close has been charged with second-degree sexual abuse following an investigation by police and state welfare workers. If convicted, Close faces up to 25 years in prison.
Forty-five-thousand people are expected to descend on the City of Brotherly Love for the G-O-P love-fest for party nominee George W. Bush — but just over two thousand are actual voting delegates to the convention. Fifty-six are Iowans. Iowa Republican Party chairman Kayne Robinson has been in Philadelphia since Tuesday night. He and other top Iowa Republicans are attending crucial meetings, trying to convince the Republican National Committee to retain first-in-the-nation status for Iowa’s Caucuses. There’s a possibility the issue will be debated by convention delegates next week, although Robinson thinks it’s unlikely as New Yorkers and Californians hate the new schedule because big states go last.Robinson says the current presidential nominating system is working just fine.Party nominee George W. Bush named his running mate this past week. Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford says that removes the suspense from the convention. On Thursday, Bush gives the big speech he’s been practicing.The Iowa delegation will be stationed at a Hampton Inn in a Philadelphia suburb that’s actually in New Jersey. The business-rather-than-pleasure hotel is a measure of Iowa’s dwindling influence. The state carries just seven Electoral College votes for the presidential candidate who wins Iowa.
Davenport’s Mayor is still angered over a secret meeting to discuss the sale of the President Riverboat Casino.Some council members met behind closed doors with the director of the riverboat authority last week. They apparently talked about the pending sale of the President to the Isle of Capri Corporation, which already owns the Bettendorf riverboat. Mayor Phil Yerrington says the meeting was “a stupid thing to do.” Reporters have questioned the legality of the meeting based on Iowa’s open meetings law. Yerrington says they’re deliberately leaving him “out of the loop.” Yerrington says he’s still going to work to do what’s best for the city — and won’t let aldermen who don’t understand the rules get in the way of progress.
Dozens of colorful hot air balloons will be floating over south central Iowa during the next eight days. The National Balloon Classic opens today in Indianola bringing in nearly one hundred big balloons and many thousands of spectators.Gerald Knoll is executive director of the festival. He says there will be at least 90 balloon pilots competing in this year’s classic, which will make it one of the biggest ballooning events held in Indianola. He says there are traditional-shaped balloons and many unusual creations in fabric.While thousands of people will attend the Classic to see the balloons fly overhead, Knoll says some folks will be climbing into the sturdy baskets for rides which are both peaceful and thrilling.Rides run about 150-dollars per person. Events begin tonight at five o’clock and then flights are scheduled to run daily at 6:30 a-m and 7 p-m through August 5th. For more information, call 800 FLY-IOWA.
Iowans who own homes or buildings damaged by recent tornadoes may be eligible for grants to build tornado shelters or “safe rooms.” The Iowa Emergency Management Division is taking applications from individuals, governments and businesses to divide 87-thousand dollars.David Miller, the division’s Chief of Staff, says non-profit agencies and Indian tribal groups may also apply for the grants.Iowa usually gets between 25 and 50 tornadoes a year. Miller says the safe rooms would do just what the name says — keep people safe in a small but comfortable room during severe weather.Individual Iowans and local governments interested in the shelters should contact their county emergency management coordinator or the state division at (515) 281-3232 or visit: “www.state.ia.us/emergencymanagement”.
Drake University is offering a new, two thousand dollar scholarship to all students who want to become a teacher. Jamie Ferrare is dean of Drake’s School of Education.He says the scholarship is for all students entering the school of education, regardless of their finances. Ferrare says the scholarships are being handed out for the first time this fall.Ferrare hopes the scholarship encourages more students to enter the profession.The Drake School of Education has about 220 undergraduate students, accounting for five percent of Drake’s student body.
Teens from all over the state are meeting at Simpson College in Indianola today for the “Iowa Tobacco Youth Summit.”Cathy Calloway is the director of the Tobacco Youth Prevention and Control Division of the Iowa Department of Public Health. Calloway says the 150 kids will put their ideas in the report that’ll be completed tomorrow.Calloway says the report will be the basis for the state’s plan to keep kids from using tobacco.She says it’s important to get the opinion of kids to make a difference. The state has nine-point-three million dollars from the tobacco settlement to spend on programs to keep kids away from tobacco.
More rough weather rumbled across western Iowa overnight — bringing high winds, hail and even twisters. Several funnel clouds were spotted and one tornado may have touched down near Walnut, moving toward Griswold. Some areas had wind gusts up to 80 miles an hour. Other areas got heavy rain and hail up to two and three-quarter inches in diameter. Parts of Interstate-80 were flooded.