September 1, 2014

Ex-teacher faces more child sex crime allegations

A former high school English teacher in Montezuma who was charged last year with inappropriate sexual contact with four students now faces more charges.

This past June someone told authorities 28-year-old Derek John Bates had committed sexual acts with two more students. These incidents allegedly occured two years ago, during the spring and early summer of 2012. Authorities interviewed the two students, who said the incidents occured off of school grounds. Bates was arrested Friday and charged with two counts of sexual abuse in the third degree and one count of sexual exploitation by a school employee.

Bates had been a teacher at the school from the fall of 2009 ’til October of 2012 when he resigned after being charged with drinking alcohol in a classroom with a 17-year-old student. Last summer Bates was charged with third degree sexual abuse and other sex-related charges based on the testimony of four other students.

Life jacket use recommended for final summer days on the water

It’s the last summer holiday weekend and the last chance for many to spend time on their boats. Lou An McCraken of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says you should be sure to have a life jacket on hand for everyone. She says it’s not enough just to have it in the boat, you need to put it on.

“It’s not a burden to wear a life jacket if you find a good comfortable Coast Guard-approved life jacket…you’ll want to wear it to keep you safe and for everyone in your family who you care about,” McCraken says. McCracken is a Natural Resource Specialist who works on the Mississippi River.

McCracken says each year a number of boating accidents claim lives because someone fell into the water and underestimated their swimming ability. And sometimes swimming isn’t even an option, especially on rivers like the Mississippi. “You could have bumped your head, you could have had a medical condition that caused you to fall out, you pass out for any number of reasons, you may have hit something submerged that bumps you out of your boat,” McCraken says. “The Mississippi River is always changing, it’s such a dynamic river.”

McCracken says 9 of 10 people who drowned in lakes and river last year were not wearing a life jacket. She also says because the Mississippi is such a vast body of water, conditions vary on different sections of the river. What may be safe in one location could pose a danger elsewhere.

Iowa priest returns from bicycle ride across the U.S.

Kevin Richter

Kevin Richter

A Catholic priest from northwest Iowa man is back at home after spending most of his summer bicycling across the United States.

Father Kevin Richter of the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Le Mars rode 3,836 miles as he crossed 14 states in 68 days. “The most miles I covered in a day was from Bismark, North Dakota down to Selby, South Dakota,” Richter said. “With a good tail wind behind me, I rode 120 miles that day.”

He averaged 68.5 miles a day. Richter said, during the toughest stretch of the trip, he covered only 28 miles on one day through the Appalachian Mountains.

“For half of Kentucky and half of Virginia, you just keep going up hills and down hills,” Richter said. “That gets weary after a while and nearly broke me at one point.”

Richter divided his journey into two halves, traveling east from Le Mars to Yorktown, Virginia. From there, he flew to Portland, Oregon and rode his bike back to Le Mars. Oddly enough, Richter said the worst weather he rode through was in Iowa, on June 9. “The day I left, when I was riding between Lawton and Bronson, it was raining hard. I think that was it,” Richter said.

Richter took a summer sabbatical to make the trip. On many nights, he either camped out under the stars or slept in motels. On a few occasions, he would spend the evening at a church or with host families. Richter made the journey by himself, had 13 flat tires, and lost 25 pounds.

Story and photo by Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars


DNR posts warnings at 7 state beaches

Swimming is not recommended in at least seven of Iowa’s state park lakes for the last holiday weekend of the summer. Mary Skopec is the beach monitoring coordinator with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Right now, we have five beaches that are not recommended for swimming due to E. coli bacteria advisories and we have three beaches that are not recommended for swimming based on algal toxin levels that we see,” Skopec says.

Recent heavy rains have contributed to a rise in E. coli bacteria by washing manure spread on farm fields into the lakes.

The beaches where swimming advisories are posted are at Union Grove State Park, Denison Beach, Black Hawk State Park, Backbone Lake, Lake of Three Fires, Prairie Rose Lake, and McIntosh Woods on Clear Lake.

The DNR tests the water each week and posts the results on their website.



Eastern Iowa veteran given probation on weapons charge

A former member of the military from eastern Iowa who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq was sentenced to five years of probation on a weapons charge. Thirty-one-year-old Matthew James Stover of Cedar Rapids pled guilty in November to one count of possessing a semiautomatic assault rifle and ammunition as an unlawful drug user.

Marion police found the weapon and ammunition after Stover purchased marijuana in a park in Marion and they obtained a search warrant. Information from the U.S. Attorney’s office says Stover will be required to undergo continued mental health treatment, to abstain from alcohol or drugs, undergo remote alcohol testing, and not being permitted in the unsupervised presence of a child under the age of 12, including his minor daughter. He could have faced 30 to 37 months in prison.

The judge noted Stover has been diagnosed as suffering from several mental health conditions, including PTSD. Judge Linda Reade said Stover has performed well under pre-trial treatment and supervision, and noted this was not a “run of the mill case.”

The judge indicated a reluctance to interfere with Stover’s mental health treatment he’s been getting from the VA for about the past year. She noted Stover got a job with the VA and has been fully compliant with the conditions of treatment for the past year. She did say any violation of the parole terms could lead to prison time.


Festival of Iowa Beers this Sunday in Amana

MillstreamThe 10th Annual Festival of Iowa Beers is scheduled for this weekend at the Millstream Brewery in Amana. Millstream owner Teresa Albert says Iowa’s beer business is booming.

“We have over 52 licensed breweries now,” Albert says, “and we’ve got 27 of them coming to the Festival of Iowa Beers Sunday.”

There will be 100 different craft beers available for sampling in Amana on Sunday afternoon. Albert isn’t worried about hosting her Iowa craft beer competitors in her backyard.

“It’s about the education. We’re educating people about the craft beer,” Albert says. “The more people we can get converted to craft beer, the bigger my business is going to be.”

The Millstream Brewery opened 29 years ago this weekend.

“We’re top 10-15 oldest operational microbrewery in the United States,” Albert says. “Prohibition shut down a lot of them in different states and they never reopened and then the craze for the nation really didn’t happen until the early ’90s and we opened in ’85, so we were about five or six or seven years before the microbrew craze hit.”

There are now more than 4500 licensed breweries in the United States and experts say craft beer sales have recently been growing by up to 15 percent a year. The entry fee for Sunday’s Festival of Iowa Beers is $20.

“You’re going to be able to try some really unique beer. Some of them make a special beer for this festival and you might not get it on the shelves,” Albert says. “…I would say three-fourths of the tables are being poured by the actual brewers of the beer and you can’t get that anywhere else. The home brewers go nuts. They get to talk to the brewers, you know, pick their brains, taste their beers.”

The following Iowa breweries will be setting up booths for tasting: Millstream Brewing of Amana, Old Main Brewery of Ames, Court Avenue Brewery of Des Moines, Raccoon River Brewery of Des Moines, Third Base Brewery of Cedar Rapids, Lost Duck Brewery of Fort Madison, Granite City Brewery of Clive/Davenport/Cedar Rapids, Raccoon River of Des Moines, New American Brewery of Ankeny, Firetrucker Brewery of Ankeny, Broad Street Brewery of Reinbeck, Exile Brewery of Des Moines, Twisted Vine Brewery of St. Charles, Madhouse Brewery of Des Moines, CIB Brewery of Macedonia, Keg Creek Brewery of Glenwood, Kalona Brewery of Kalona, Worth Brewery of Northwood, Peace Tree Brewery of Knoxville, Backpocket Brewery of Coralville, Confluence Brewery of Des Moines, 515 Brewery of Clive, Lion Bridge Brewery of Cedar Rapids, Okoboji Brewery of Okoboji, Great River Brewery of Davenport, Mason City Brewery of Mason City, Single Speed Brewery of Cedar Falls, Olde Main Brewery of Ames and West O Brewery of West Okoboji.

Ten years ago, the first Festival of Iowa Beers featured just eight breweries.

State Patrol warns Labor Day drivers to use caution

Patrol-carState law enforcement officials are warning that the Labor Day weekend is historically one of the most dangerous holiday weekends on Iowa roadways.

Sergeant Scott Bright, with the Iowa State Patrol, says in 2013, the Labor Day weekend had the second most traffic fatalities among the six holidays tracked by the Iowa DOT.

“Last year, we had four fatalities. One was alcohol-related, so we’re recommending if people get out there this weekend and have too much to drink, they should make sure they don’t get behind the wheel and they call somebody to take them home,” Bright says.

With nearly two-thirds of 2014 complete, Bright says the state is on pace to potentially record the fewest traffic fatalities in decades.

“Last year, we had 317 fatalities in the state, which has been the lowest in over 40 years. Right now, we’re at 193. We’re five ahead of this time last year, so we’d like to see that number go down,” Bright said.

The 317 traffic fatalities last year was the lowest total since 1944. According to Bright, 75 of last year’s fatal traffic crashes were alcohol or drug-related.