July 31, 2014

Appeals Court upholds conviction of former Waterloo teacher

The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction and 2-year prison sentence of a former Waterloo West teacher accused of having a student strip down and play various games. Larry Twigg was found guilty of 5 counts of lascivious acts with a child after offering a 17-year-old student money and better grades to play various games at his house.

The activities included strip video games and pouring chocolate syrup on the student in the shower. Twigg appealed saying there wasn’t sufficient evidence against him and that requiring the sentences to run consecutively was too harsh a punishment.

The Appeals Court found Twigg used an “overly constrained interpretation of the language” used in the jury instruction to justify his claim there was not sufficient evidence that the student had to take off his clothes. The ruling says the lower court was concerned that the activity had escalated and wanted to protect the community and send a message about the nature of the offenses, and the court properly did this by requiring consecutive sentences.

See the full ruling here: Twigg ruling PDF


Investigators seeking more information in 3-year-old unsolved Warren County murder case

Person of interest in murder of Bill Wood and disappearance of Kay Wood.

Person of interest in murder of Bill Wood and disappearance of Kay Wood.

It was three years ago today that the murder and disappearance of a husband and wife was discovered in Warren County and investigators are making another call for information from the public.

The Warren County Fire Department was called to a house fire in a rural area of the county and the body of 79–year-old Bill Wood was later found inside the burned out home. Wood’s 72-year-old wife Kay was missing.

DCI special agent, Michael Motsinger, says they have not stopped looking for clues and they want to let the public know the case is still active and they are still looking for information in the homicide.

The investigation thus far has determined that Bill Wood died from multiple gunshot wounds. Wood’s 2009 red Chevrolet Silverado pickup was found at an apartment complex in Kansas City, Missouri the day after his body was found.

Motsinger says they are hoping to find information they have not heard before. “We’ve probably covered several hundred leads up to this point. We are still getting leads, they are just not coming in as quickly as they did right after the homicide occurred,” Motsinger says. “We are still getting leads that we are following up on.” He says they want to hear about anything anyone has seen or knows that might help. “A small little piece of information or a big piece, to try to put the investigation together and try to bring it to successful resolution,” Motsinger says.

One thing that has developed out of the investigation is a sketch of a “person of interest.” “The person of interest came about from the vehicle being found down in Kansas City at an apartment complex. A witness down there described this individual and that’s where we got the sketch artist to come in and do an artist’s rendering of what she thought the person looked like,” Motsinger explains. “To this date, we still have not been able to identify that person.” The “person of interest” is described as a white male in his late 40s to early 60s, 6’2″-6’6″ tall, with a slender build and short, gray and white hair.

Anyone with information about this person of interest and or the disappearance and whereabouts of Kay Wood is asked to contact your local law enforcement agency. There is an $8,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.

Newton man given 14 years in prison on child porn charges

A Newton man has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on child pornography charges. Thirty-five-year-old Arleigh Joe Esqueda pled guilty to possessing the pornographic material that federal officials say included images of children under the age of 12.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, Nicholas Klinefeldt, said the sentence imposed on Esqueda was based, in part, on his criminal history and the nature of the offense. Esqueda had several previous crime convictions, including a prior sex offense when he was 17.

Court documents show his collection of child pornography was accumulated over 5 years, and he had 351 images and 77 videos of child porn on his computer. Following the 14-year federal prison term, Esqueda must serve eight years of supervised release and to pay $100 to the Crime Victims Fund.


Former eastern Iowa man sentenced for posession of child porn

A former Davenport resident has been sentenced to 7 years in prison after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. The U.S. Attorney for Iowa’s Southern District, Nicholas Klinefeldt, says 46-year-old Michael Anthony McDaniel had over 50 videos and 46 images of child pornography on various hard drives and computers.

The Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Dewitt Police searched McDaniel’s home back in April 2011 after accessing a shared folder that contained several videos and images identified as belonging to McDaniel. In addition to the 7 year prison term, McDaniel must serve five years of supervised release and to pay $100 towards the Crime Victims Fund.


Finance company agrees to settlement involving members of the military

Staff Sergeant James Wilson (podium) with Attorney General Tom Miller.

Staff Sergeant James Wilson (podium) with Attorney General Tom Miller.

Thousands of military service members, including nearly 100 Iowans, will be receiving millions of dollars in debt relief after becoming victims of a predatory lender.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says an agreement has been reached with Rome Finance Company. “It will provide 92 million dollars in relief for over 17,000 service members around the country, in regard to some outrageous price gouging and interest rates that have been charged to service members over the last few years,” Miller said at a news conference this morning at his office.

The agreement, which involves 12 other states, also requires Rome Finance to forgive debts and repair the victims’ damaged credit scores.

Iowa Air National Guard Staff Sergeant James Wilson, who grew up in Winterset, said he bought a computer that ended up costing $5,000 because of deceptively high interest rates. “I’m mostly angry and slightly embarrassed with myself,” Wilson said. The agreement forces Rome Finance to forgive his outstanding balance of $2,500.

Wilson said he signed up to purchase the laptop in 2010 and felt the online company appeared trustworthy. A statement on the website claimed the company was “military friendly.” The purchasing deal allowed the company to take a monthly payment directly from Wilson’s military pay. “The gentleman I spoke with on the phone and through instant messaging, as he helped set up my allotment…he was very friendly, thanking me for my service the whole time. He just walked me through it and made it really easy,” Wilson said. “From my perspective, it was just a simple way to get a laptop.”

Active duty military members are an easy target for predatory lenders, according to Wilson, since many enlist right out of high school. “I joined the military when I was 17 and I didn’t even have a checkbook at the time,” Wilson said. “I feel better knowing that this company isn’t able to do this to service members in the future.”

The agreement requires Rome Finance to liquidate. Miller said Rome Finance, which is based in California and Georgia, charged interest rates of up to 200 percent.

Senator Grassley part of effort to curb sexual assault on college campuses

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is part of a bipartisan group of U.S. senators who will hold a press conference tomorrow  to announce the introduction of legislation which aims to curb sexual assaults on college and university campuses. Grassley, a Republican, says, “There’s too many people connected with higher education that feel that sexual assaults on campus is something other than a crime.”

University of Iowa officials unveiled a six-point plan earlier this year to combat sexual assaults on the Iowa City campus, including training for students to safely intervene and late-night transportation for female students. Grassley says the bill is designed to protect students and remove sexual assault from the shadows by creating accountability and transparency on college campuses. “There hasn’t been enough attention given to sexual assault on campuses, in fact, there’s even efforts that we know about actually to cover it up,” he says.

Grassley says he and his colleagues have worked together for months to examine federal, state and local policies, collect feedback, and to craft a bipartisan bill to better protect and empower students and hold both perpetrators — and institutions — accountable. “Universities are afraid their reputation will be ruined if this information gets out, particularly if it’s brought up in the criminal courts,” Grassley says. “Quite frankly, if you’re going to stop sexual assaults on the campus, you’ve got to treat it for what it is, a crime.”

As one of its primary goals, he says the legislation aims to flip the current incentives that result in sweeping sexual assaults under the rug. The news conference in Washington D.C. is scheduled for 9:45 AM/Central on Wednesday.


Teen arrested after high speed chase started in Cedar Rapids

A 17-year-old from eastern Iowa faces a series of charges after a high-speed chase that ended early this morning in Black Hawk County, near Gilbertville.

Officials say the crime spree started at about 1 a.m. when a woman called 9-1-1 to report she’d been assaulted and her car had been stolen.That happened near St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids.

Authorities then spotted the stolen vehicle driving north on Interstate 380, near Center Point, and a chase began that reached speeds of 110 miles an hour. Stop sticks were used and once the vehicle came to a stop, deputies say the driver did not resist arrest.

Seventeen-year-old Nicholas Scott of Palo has been charged with second degree robbery, a felony charge of eluding authorities and other traffic violations.