March 27, 2015

House endorses ‘Safe at Home’ program for some Iowa crime victims

Dean Fisher

Dean Fisher

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.

“This bill will be a step forward in our work to assist the victims of domestic and sexual violence,” said 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 said 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.”

Iowa 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 said.

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 100-0 vote and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate.

UPDATE: Man charged with animal torture for throwing cat in river



Police say a Mason City man has confessed to throwing a duffel bag containing a cat into the Winnebago River. William Hill, 69, was charged by police with animal torture.

Police say he threw a gym bag containing his cat into the Winnebago River on Saturday evening. A couple witnessed the incident, retrieved the bag, and were shocked to find the feline inside. Police say Hill turned himself in on Wednesday morning.

Humane Society of North Iowa executive director Sybil Soukup says the cat will soon be made available for adoption. She says they’ve named the cat “Winnie,” after the Winnebago River, where she was rescued.

(reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)

Council Bluffs woman serving life in prison for abusing stepson dies

Corrections Department office in Des Moines.

Corrections Department office in Des Moines.

A western Iowa woman who was convicted last year in a disturbing kidnapping and torture case has died in prison. Rebecca Beyer of Council Bluffs was sentenced to life in prison last July after being convicted of abusing her developmentally impaired stepson.

The 47-year-old Beyer died on Monday of natural causes from a form of skin cancer, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections. Beyer was arrested in 2013 after the 20-year-old victim told police he’d be kept locked inside a garage, attached to a wall with a dog leash and burned with forks, spoons and an iron that had been heated on a stove.

The victim’s father and stepbrother, James Beyer and Ryan Smith, were also arrested in the case. Smith accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to two years probation. The Pottawattamie County Attorney’s office reports the case against James Beyer is still pending.


Sioux City agrees to settlement in employee harassment case

A settlement has been reached in a sexual harassment and civil rights lawsuit filed by a Sioux City employee against the former city manager Paul Eckert. A statement from City Attorney Nicole Jensen says Sioux City will pay $300,000 to Brittany Scott and her attorney to resolve all of her claims in the federal lawsuit.

Scott had sued Eckert in July of 2013, claiming Eckert sexually harassed her in the fall of 2000 after her divorce, and created a hostile work environment and retaliated against her by reducing her pay and benefits when she rejected his alleged advances.

Scott also claimed she was denied promotions and given undesirable assignments. Eckert resigned two weeks after the lawsuit was filed to become the city manage of Shasta, California. Last December, Judge Mark Bennett dismissed several of Scott’s claims of retaliation against Eckert. The case was scheduled to go to trial next week. The city attorney’s statement says she is pleased the settlement will bring an end to the lawsuit. Scott remains employed by the city and has not commented on the settlement.

(Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)


Mason City police search for man who threw cat in river



Mason City police are looking for a man who tossed a duffel bag with a cat inside it into the Winnebago River. Witnesses told investigators they saw the man throw the bag into the river near the bridge on North Kentucky Avenue at about 6 P.M. Saturday.

Sybil Soukup, executive director of the Humane Society of North Iowa, says the cat was rescued. “Fortunately, a nice couple were witnessing this act happening and were curious enough to go over and pull that duffel bag out of the water,” Soukup says. “The person that dumped the bag was already gone, they were on foot. They fished the bag out of the water and heard noises in there, yowling. They opened it up and kitty-cat was in there, soaking wet and very scared.”

The couple called animal control and the cat was taken to the Mason City Stray Animal Shelter. Soukup says they hope law enforcement captures the person responsible for the act. She notes, the Humane Society has no authority to arrest anyone but they cooperate with law enforcement on this type of case.

There are pictures of the cat on the society’s website and Facebook pages and anybody with information about the cat is asked to contact Mason City police at (641) 421-3636. Soukup hopes to find a new home to welcome the feline as a new family member. She says they’ve named the cat “Winnie,” after the Winnebago River, where she was rescued. She says once their veterinarian gives Winnie a clean bill of health, the cat will be put up for adoption.

Soukup says Winnie is in pretty good shape despite the traumatic incident. She says the cat is warm and dry, getting a lot of attention, love and food, but it’s still timid and scared after the horrible ordeal.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)



Deported Iowa City pastor makes statement on Univision


Max Villatoro talks about his deportation from Iowa City on Univision.

The Iowa City pastor who was deported by immigration officials last week spoke to the media after arriving in his native Honduras. Max Villatoro’ story was featured on the Spanish-language network Univision.

The case has drawn national attention as U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement arrested Villatoro on March 3 because of 1999 convictions for drunk driving and tampering with records.

Since 1999, Villatoro married his wife, Gloria, fathered four children, and became pastor of a Spanish-speaking Mennonite church in Iowa City. The 41-year-old Villatoro told Univision he doesn’t believe he should be treated like a criminal.

Villatoro said he’s hoping President Obama might help him return to Iowa and be reunited with his family.


Mason City man sentenced to prison on meth charges

gavel-thumbnailA north Iowa man will spend more than 20 years in prison for selling meth. Thirty-two-year-old Christopher Lee Evenson of Mason City pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute meth and possession with intent to distribute meth in November of last year.

Evenson admitted to distributing pure meth after a vehicle he was riding in was stopped by police and they found more than 100 grams of meth under his seat. He admitted to selling approximately one pound of ice methamphetamine. Evenson was sentenced to 262 months in prison.