February 1, 2015

Education session on preventing human trafficking held at Evansdale truck stops


Efforts are underway to help educate truckers about preventing human trafficking.

The United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa and the leader of the state’s Motor Vehicle Enforcement (MVE) Division were on hand at two Evansdale truck stops in eastern Iowa today to talk about human trafficking.

U.S. Attorney Kevin Techau says the non-profit group “Trucker Against Trafficking” has help support the effort to prosecute human trafficking.

“Traffickers often target truckers as a possible consumer of goods if you will in the trafficking business. So, we applaud the Truckers Against Trafficking to activate truckers in a positive way,” Techau says.

Visiting the truck stops is a way to help educate truckers on the problem. “Let them know red flags, what to look for, what to listen for, so they can report possible suspicious activity and have a positive impact,” Techau says. He says educating truckers is a way to get at the problem in two areas. “Truckers are sometimes asked to bring someone across state lines, but also sometimes they are asked to purchase sexual activities, so it’s a two-fold win-win,” Techau says. “And truckers want to do the right thing, and so the Truckers Against Trafficking makes that possible with good information, a hotline. They want to work with law enforcement and other agencies.”

He says human trafficking is a major problem in the U-S. “Nationally, human trafficking is a $32 billlion-a-year industry, the second most lucrative crime in the United States behind drug trafficking,” Techau explains. Techau says the interstate highways and Iowa’s location puts the state in the center of the issue. “Iowa’s a major traffic hub, east, west, north and south, and all directions inbetween. Truckers can be a big part of the solution to this and we’re proud to work with the Iowa DOT and Truckers Against Trafficking to make truckers and all Iowa citizens aware of this issue,” Techau says.

Officers distribute wallet cards and window clings to drivers after talking with them. Educational materials are available for truckers at rest stops and weigh stations. You can find out more information at the Truckers Against Trafficking website at: www.truckersagainsttrafficking.org.

Below is a public service announcement on human trafficking:


Meetings with Iowa farmers to talk about suing over GMO seeds

Former State Ag Secretary Patty Judge, who also served one term as the state’s lieutenant governor, has been hired to travel the state this week with a lawyer and they are talking to farmers who planted a particular kind of corn.

“I’m not trying to give anybody legal advice. I’m a farmer,” Judge told Radio Iowa. “What I think they should do is listen and read and think. It appears, on the surface, that there was damage and if there is an opportunity to recover some of that damage, then they need to think about doing that.”

Syngenta — a global agribusiness company based in Switzerland — is accused of marketing a type of genetically modified corn in the U.S. before China had approved it for import. Over 360 individual lawsuit have been filed over the past several months by U.S. farmers who are alleging the company’s action contributed to the dramatic drop in corn prices — and cost American corn farmers a billion dollars.

“They have a duty of care in introducing a genetically modified strain that they know could shift the risk of financial burden of the export market falling apart if our export partners won’t take that crop,” said Mikal Watts, the attorney traveling Iowa with Judge.

He is arguing that individual lawsuits are a better approach than a class action lawsuit.

“I had the honor being one of the people negotiating the genetically modified rice settlement for $750 million and I think that fine result was achieved by individual farmers bringing their claims,” Watts said.

Watts and Judge visited with farmers at “town hall meetings” yesterday in Le Mars, Storm Lake and Pocahontas. Meetings are scheduled today in Royal, Ogden and Story City.

Agribusiness giants Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland are also suing Sygenta over the same issue. A Syngenta spokesman has said the lawsuits are “without merit” and the company believes farmers have a right to access “approved new technologies that can increase both their productivity and their profitability.”

China started rejecting U.S. corn shipments in the fall of 2013, citing contamination from the genetically modified seeds Syngenta was selling in the United States. The Agrisure Viptera seeds marketed by Syngenta are genetically modified to protect corn plants from the damage inflicted by pests like corn borers and corn rootworms.

Denison man found guilty in double murder

Michael Schenk

Michael Schenk

A jury in western Iowa’s Crawford County on Wednesday found a Denison man guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths two elderly people near Deloit last year.

 Twenty-six-year-old Michael Schenk was charged in the March 10 shooting deaths of 80-year-old Marvin Huesling and 81-year-old Alice Huisenga. Schenk was also convicted of second-degree arson for setting Huesling’s trailer home on fire in an attempt to cover up the crime.

 Crawford County Attorney Roger Sailer said while he’s pleased with the verdict, there’s no reason to rejoice. “Two good people of Crawford County lost their lives and now another young man is going to prison for the rest of his life, so there’s certainly not any feeling of celebration on our part,” Sailer said.

 The verdict was delivered after four days of testimony and roughly four hours of jury deliberations. Schenk now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. “We do anticipate there will be an appeal,” Sailer said. “There typically is in a case of this magnitude.”

 Another man, 19-year-old Jayden Chapman of Denison, is charged with murder and arson in the case. His trial is scheduled to begin in late April. A third Denison resident arrested in the case, 37-year-old Erika Dains, pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary and accessory after the fact. She was originally charged with murder and arson, but accepted a plea deal in exchange for her testimony in the other two suspects’ trials.

During Schenk’s trial, Dains said the trio had smoked meth and were at Huelsing’s to steal scrap metal. The shootings happened after their truck got stuck in the mud, according to Dains.

(Reporting by Michael Earl, KDSN, Denison)


Meskwaki man pleads guilty in murder case

A Meskwaki man has pleaded guilty to killing another man at his home on the Meskwaki settlement near Tama. Twenty-one-year-old Jonathan Youngbear faced a federal charge of first-degree murder, but agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Severn Jefferson.

Youngbear admitted he was under the influence of alcohol and meth at his house on February 24th of 2014 when he stabbed Jefferson twice in the neck and chest with a knife. He also admitted that Jefferson bled to death from the wounds.

Youngbear faces a maximum sentence of life and a $250,000 fine, but prosecutors have recommended a sentence of 25 to 35 years. He will be sentenced at a later date.


Evansdale police seek more national help in murder of cousins

Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook-Morrissey went missing and were later found dead.

Oe of the posters used when Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook-Morrissey went missing. They were later found dead.

Officials investigating the 2012 kidnapping and murders of cousins Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook-Morrissey in Evansdale are hoping a group of national experts can help them solve the crime.

A representative from the Evansdale Police Department and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation are heading to Alexandria, Virginia, today to meet with a large panel of experienced investigators and psychologists.

Local officials are hoping a group put together by the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children will offer suggestions on additional testing or areas to be looked at in the unsolved case. Representatives with the U.S. Marshal’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are on the panel that will review the high-profile Iowa case on Thursday and Friday.

It’s not the first time investigators from the National Center have visited the case. Four representatives met with local investigators last summer to review information, look for further evidence and offer their forensic assistance.

This week’s travel is a follow-up to that initial meeting and will now go to a full panel for review. According to Evansdale police, the National Center has provided forensic testing and intelligence gathering since the beginning of the case and will continue to offer its many resources as needed. The National Center is paying all expenses associated with this week’s trip to suburban Washington, D.C.

(Reporting by Elwin Huffman, KOEL, Oelwein)


Osceola murder victims identified

Osceola-policeThe victims of a double homicide in south central Iowa have been identified.

Investigators say 22-year-old Erick Reyna and 27-year-old Noe Flores Rascon, both of Osceola, were found shot to death in a car located in a rural area of northern Clarke County over the weekend. The pair had gone missing Friday night.

The State Medical Examiner has ruled both deaths as homicides. Police have charged 38-year-old Richard Carson of Osceola with two counts of first-degree murder. Three other people are facing charges of accessory after the fact in connection with the case. Investigators have not revealed what may’ve led to the shootings.

Iowa DCI Special Agent in Charge Michael Motsinger says double homicides are rare in Iowa, but it is certainly not something they can’t handle.

Richard Carson, Christopher Elbon (top l-R). Lynn Sutton, Tracy Johnson (bottom L-R).

Richard Carson, Christopher Elbon (top l-R). Lynn Sutton, Tracy Johnson (bottom L-R).


Nebraska man charged with stealing cattle in Iowa

Ervin Jacob

Ervin Jacob

A cattle rustling case in southwest Iowa has brought the arrest of a Nebraska man, with warrants issued for two more suspects. Cass County Sheriff Darby McLaren says 57-year-old Ervin Jacob, of Omaha, is in custody on multiple felony charges for allegedly stealing eight cattle from a farm in Lewis over two weeks last May and June.

Sheriff McLaren says two of Jacob’s alleged accomplices have been identified and all three are suspected in cattle thefts in northeast Nebraska. “Cuming County, Nebraska, was having similar thefts as we were,” McLaren says. “Once we got in connection with each other, it seemed to flow very well. They had some information we found valuable and we had some information they found valuable. These people are under investigation up there also and I would not be surprised if charges were coming from up there also.”

McLaren said the case was solved thanks to the cooperation of law enforcement agencies in Nebraska and Iowa, but it was ultimately made possible by tips from observant citizens and businesses. “The Massena Sale Barn was huge in giving me some leads,” McLaren says. “The public called with a description of the suspect vehicle, what they were driving, what time they were driving, what direction they were driving. Rolling Hills Bank had video of someone cashing the check. Everybody helped in helping us get the culprits.”

The Cass County District Court has issued warrants for 49-year-old James Michael Brunzo, of Omaha, and for 42-year-old Amy Louise Springer, both of Omaha.

(Reporting by Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)