September 5, 2015

Highways expected to be very busy for holiday weekend

Traffic on Interstate 80 in eastern Iowa.

Traffic on Interstate 80 in eastern Iowa.

Low gas prices and the last holiday of the summer will combine to possibly make this weekend one of the busiest of the year on Iowa’s highways and interstates.

Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Nate Ludwig also points out that the University of Iowa’s first football game kicks-off tomorrow morning in Iowa City, while UNI plays at Iowa State tomorrow night.

“So, there’s going to be a lot of people on the interstates traveling,” Ludwig says. “We just ask that everybody takes their time getting to where they’re going, make sure you wear seatbelts, and at all cost avoid texting while driving or distracted driving.”

Last weekend, law officers in Iowa and 15 other states took part in a stepped-up enforcement effort along Interstates 80 and 35. Just over 5,900 motorists were issued speed citations, including more than 1,100 speeding tickets in Iowa.

Ludwig says over 1,100 seatbelt citations were issued, but only 41 were in Iowa. “That’s pretty indicative of our 93 to 94 percent seatbelt compliance rate in Iowa,” Ludwig says. There were 18 arrests for OWI and 9 for drug offenses in Iowa. The goal of last weekend’s enforcement effort was to reduce serious crashes. Authorities says there were zero fatal crashes over the three-day period along Interstates 80 and 35 in the 16 states.


Police call Dubuque murder ‘sickening’

Crime-sceneThe family of a rape and murder victim in Dubuque has released a statement saying they “will never understand the brutality.” On Thursday, police identified the victim as 66-year-old Nancy Krapfl. Nineteen-year-old Helmon Betwell of Dubuque is in custody, accused of raping and beating Krapfl to death on Tuesday.

Dubuque Police Lieutenant Scott Baxter told KCRG-TV that Betwell had been breaking into vehicles in the area where Krapfl was out for an early morning walk. Baxter said there’s no indication the Betwell was impaired by alcohol or drugs. “At this point, it just looks like a horrendous act of aggression and hate,” Baxter said.

Betwell told officers he did not know the victim and stated “she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Baxter calls the case “sickening” and hard to fathom.”It’s scary that a human being could do this to another human being, especially someone who had never really done anything wrong,” Baxter told KCRG. The assault in a city street was captured by traffic cameras and a neighbor who witnesses the incident called 911.

According to the family’s statement, Nancy Krapfl grew up on a farm near Farley. She’d live in Dubuque since 2000 and worked for Holy Trinity Catholic Church and St. Matthias Parish in Cascade. Betwell is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree sexual assault and two counts of third-degree burglary.



Man accused in crash that killed 4 teens sent to prison

Joseph Connolly

Joseph Connolly

The man police accused of driving drunk when he hit and killed four teenage boys on an ATV last year in northeast Iowa was sentenced to 10 years in prison today.

In July, 24-year-old Joseph Connolly accepted a plea deal in the case knowing he would likely be sentenced to a decade behind bars.

Police said Connolly was under the influence of alcohol when his pickup went through a stop sign and hit the ATV near Epworth on August 2, 2014. All four of the boys killed were 14-years-old.

Victim identified in Dubuque rape and murder case

Helmon Betwell

Helmon Betwell

Police have identified the woman who was raped and killed Tuesday morning in Dubuque.

Investigators say the victim did not have identification on her when she was found and she does not have family in the area. Both factors complicated the process of identification.

Dubuque Police say 66-year-old Nancy Krapfl was knocked unconscious and then taken to a vacant property and was raped and beaten to death.

Police have charged 19-year-old Helmon Betwell of Dubuque with first-degree murder, first-degree sexual assault and two counts of third-degree burglary.

Betwell reportedly told officers he did not know the victim, saying “she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” On Thursday, he remained in the Dubuque County Jail on a $1 million cash bond.

Governor Branstad won’t appeal telemed abortion ruling

Governor Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Branstad. (file photo)

Iowa’s governor does not plan to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Iowa Supreme Court ruling on so-called “telemed” abortions.

“I was very disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision, siding with Planned Parenthood,” Branstad says. “But unfortunately it does not look like something that is likely to be overturned on appeal.”

The Iowa Supreme Court in July rejected an Iowa Board of Medicine rule requiring doctors to see abortion patients in person when prescribing medication to terminate a pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has been using remote video technology to prescribe abortion-inducing prescriptions to patients. The unanimous decision by six Iowa Supreme Court justices said forbidding the use of tele-medicine in such cases placed an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions because women in rural areas must drive hundreds of miles to reach one of the three Planned Parenthood clinics where they could see a doctor in person.

The Iowa Board of Medicine has decided not to appeal the ruling. Governor Branstad is the only other person who would have standing to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. “The chance of getting the Supreme Court to take it up is very unlikely,” Branstad says. “And even if they did, they could send it back to the Iowa Supreme Court.”

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland began offering telemedicine abortions in 2008 and the Iowa Board of Medicine’s restriction never went into effect because the rule was being challenged in court.


Grassley asks Missouri prosecutor for information on Ellingson drowning case

Brandon Ellingson

Brandon Ellingson

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is asking for an update on the death of an Iowan from the special prosecutor in Missouri.

Grassley says he’s sent a letter to Salem, Missouri City Attorney William Seay seeking information into the investigation of 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson of Clive. Elingson drowned when he fell out of a Missouri State Patrol boat while handcuffed on the Lake of the Ozarks on May 31st of 2014.

Grassley, a Republican and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review the case for violations of federal civil or criminal laws.

In his letter to the Missouri prosecutor, Grassley mentions the questions of whether the Missouri State Trooper handled the situation properly and he says there have been no new reports of developments in the case since Seay was appointed in March to replace the previous special prosecutor.

Grassley asks Seay to tell him the current status of the investigation, how long he expects it to take, and what he plans to do to ensure there has been proper transparency in the investigation. Grassley wants a response to his questions by October 1st.


Police dogs earn their badges in Sioux City

Police-car-backPolice dogs and their partners from Iowa and Minnesota completed training to become certified in Sioux City Wednesday. Sergeant Jim Bauerly of the Woodbury County Sheriff’s Department helped judge the dogs in five areas at the USPCA Regional Trials.

“Obedience, agility, suspect search, evidence search and criminal apprehension,” Bauerly says. Bauerly says the dogs prove they are ready to take to the streets by passing the testing. “They have to score 70 percent of their obedience phase before they can go on to the rest of the phases. They also have to score 70 percent in their apprehension, which means these dogs have to be controllable before they can work the street,” Bauerly says. “So, this is their certification, this is what they rely on for court.”

Bauerly has trained several dogs and says there’s a bond process that takes place with the handler and the dog. “Getting the dog to respond to you for his love for you, not because you are making him do it,” Bauerly says. He says it take around 30 days for that bonding and almost a year before the dog can take to the streets and you can depend on him.

Twenty-six dogs participated, including those from West Des Moines, Plymouth County and Clay County, and Rochester, Minnesota.

(Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)