July 5, 2015

Iowa Army of Pink at statehouse to lobby legislators

Kellie Leasure speaks at the state capitol.

Kellie Leasure speaks at the state capitol.

A group of breast cancer survivors in urging legislators to pass a state law that would require health care providers to let women know if they have dense breast tissue, so they can consider having an ultrasound in addition to a yearly mammogram.

Kellie Leasure of Cedar Falls was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer 18 months ago.

“I will not keep quiet about this,” Leasure said during a noon-time news conference at the state capitol. “…This bill is about saving lives.”

Leasure used to get ultrasounds along with her yearly mammograms when she lived in Massachusetts and Colorado because she has dense tissue in her breasts, but was told when she came to Iowa in 2002 that just a mammogram would suffice.

“I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me,” Leasure said. “We’re all warriors here. We’re crusaders here. We’re paving the way.”

Leasure and over two dozen women calling themelves “The Iowa Army of Pink” are at the statehouse today, lobbying legislators on the issue. They say 22 states have laws which require health care providers to notify women if they have dense breast tissue.

This is the third year the legislation has been introduced in Iowa’s legislature. Groups that represent health care professionals have opposed it in the past. They argue there is”no consensus in the scientific community on the relationship between breast density and cancer risk” and say women will be “frightened” into having unnecessary tests.

Atlantic woman given 5 years probation for falsely claiming daughter had cancer

Leatha Slauson

Leatha Slauson

A southwest Iowa woman who admitted to falsely claiming her 5-year-old daughter had cancer to solicit donations has been sentenced to 5 years probation. District Court Judge Kathleen Kilnoski today also ordered 30-year-old Leatha Slauson of Atlantic to continue mental health treatment and not have contact with her five children.

Kilnoski could’ve given Slauson just two years probation. “I’ve chosen five years, rather than two, because I think we need to have a longterm opportunity to watch how you adjust and proceed with your mental health treatment,” Kilnoski said.

Slauson faced a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison after pleading guilty in November to charges of child endangerment, administering harmful substances, theft and unlawful possession of a prescription drug.

Slauson admitted to giving her daughter, Riley, cannabis oil and a cancer drug without a prescription. She also admitted she raised money for her daughter’s supposed cancer treatment, under false pretenses. At her sentencing, Slauson said she “still needs work” to deal with the “voices in her head” and apologized to her family, friends and those who donated money.

“I just want everyone to know I have my flaws and my problems, but I’m working to make amends and the first I shall make amends to is God, my children…and all the people who provide care to my Riley,” Slauson said.

Slauson’s attorney, Jay Mez, had asked for a deferred judgment of conviction, meaning Slauson would have no criminal record. Judge Kilnoski rejected that request. “I think you need to have a criminal record that will alert the public to your behavior, so that others can be on guard, so that no other child potentially can be hurt, and no other vulnerable adult could potentially be hurt by your actions,” Kilnoski said.

(Reporting by Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)


Clear Lake says goodbye to police chief


Rex McChesney

Clear Lake’s Police Chief was laid to rest today. Hundreds turned out for the funeral of interim police chief Rex McChesney who died Friday of pancreatic cancer. The city council and mayor honored the 52-year-old McChesney during a special meeting Monday.

Mayor Nelson Crabb read from the proclamation approved by the council, saying that McChesney tried to be fair to everyone he encountered. “Whereas Rex McChesney’s service to the City of Clear Lake, Iowa, and its people regardless of stature in life, economic status, religion, or race has inspired other law enforcement officers to follow his example; and whereas, Rex McChesney will be deeply missed, but leaves and enduring legacy of public service and perseverance that inspire all,” Crabb says.

McChesney was a Clear Lake native who started his law enforcement career in 1983 serving as a correctional officer at the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Department. He was hired by the Clear Lake Police Department in 1986, and was sworn in as the interim police chief in March. He was diagnosed with cancer this spring.

Councilman Mike Callanan had McChesney as a student in school and says he was the right fit as a police officer in Clear Lake. “Chief McChesney was the consummate small town police officer as he was able to combine a great level of professionalism with an outgoing and friendly approach, exhibiting care and concern for the well-being of his community while holding himself to a very high standard for the respect of his position,” according to Callahan Callanan praised McChesney’s professionalism to his job.

“In an era where law enforcement is sometimes under attack, Rex always carried himself above reproach in both his professional and personal life,” Callahan says. ” God bless you Rex for a life well-lived and law enforcement done right. You will be missed.”

McChesney’s funeral was this morning at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Clear Lake. McChesney is survived by his wife and two sons.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City/photo courtesy of the Clear Lake Police Department)


State Representative from Hull dies after battle with cancer

Representative Dwayne Alons.

Representative Dwayne Alons.

State Representative Dwayne Alons, a Republican from Hull, died Saturday. Alons was 68 years old and had announced in early October that he had been diagnosed with cancer of the left kidney.

Iowa Republican Party co-chairman Cody Hoefert of Rock Rapids talked about the death of Alons. “Representative Alons was a tireless advocate for family policy, family values and conservative values, throughout his time as a public servant in Iowa. Beginning with his time serving in the military, as well as his time –17 years — serving in the Iowa House,” Hoefert says.

Alons was first elected in 1998. He was a farmer and retired Iowa Air National Guard Brigadier General. “He will be greatly missed, him and his wife Clarice’s time and service to the state of Iowa is a tribute to their sacrifice for our state and our country,” Hoefert says.

According to the Iowa House Republicans web page, Alons attended the elementary school system in Boyden. He graduated from Boyden-Hull High School in 1964. Following high school, he graduated from Northwestern College in Orange City and received his Master’s degree from the University of Arkansas.

In 1967, Alons married Clarice and together they have four children, Kevin, Kyle, Kristin, and Karena. They have 13 grandchildren. Alons won re-election to his ninth term in the Iowa House in the November General Election. He ran unopposed.

Funeral arrangements are pending with the Oolman Funeral Home in Hull.

(Reporting by Scott Van Aartsen, KIWA, Sheldon)

Atlantic woman pleads guilty in fake cancer fund-raising scheme

Leatha Slauson

Leatha Slauson

A western Iowa woman who lied about her daughter having cancer and solicited donations for her treatment has pleaded guilty to 5 charges in the case. Thirty-year-old Leatha Slauson of Atlantic had originally faced a total of 20 counts, but a plea deal was reached last week and details of that agreement were revealed today at a court hearing.

Fourth District Court Judge Mark Eveloff asked Slauson about her actions, including how she raised money for her five-year-old daughter, Riley. Slauson admitted she falsely claimed Riley had terminal cancer in order to collect donations. She also admitted to giving her daughter cannabis oil and other drugs without a prescription.

Cass County Attorney Dan Feistner revealed Slauson spent roughly $13,000 of the money she collected from various fund raisers, but another $13,000 remains in a bank account. “We’re hopeful that through sentencing, regardless of the outcome as far as probation or prison, at least on the theft side, we’re able to work out some means in which she’s ordered to pay victim restitution,” Feistner said. “Who that may go to is a little unique, I think, at this point. But, we do have some of the money, which is in a bank account and frozen.”

Slauson faces up to 21 years in prison when she is sentenced on December 22nd in Cass County District Court. Her attorney, Jay Mez, said his top priority was eliminating the charge of first-degree theft.

“One of the counts was a 25 year sentence, with a mandatory 17 years,” Mez said. “That we did not plea to.” Under the plea agreement, Slauson plead guilty to second-degree theft, two counts of child endangerment causing bodily injury, one count of administering harmful substances, and unlawful possession of a prescription drug.

Slauson is being released from custody to live with her mother in Hampton, Iowa. She is ordered not to have contact with her children or her husband, whom police said wasn’t involved in the scheme. Leatha Slauson must also complete a mental health evaluation prior to her sentencing.

(Reporting by Ric Hansen, KJAN, Atlantic)


Atlantic woman who lied about daughter’s cancer agrees to plea deal

Leatha Slauson

Leatha Slauson

The  western Iowa woman accused of lying about her 5-year-old daughter having cancer in order to solicit thousands of dollars in donations has reached a plea agreement to avoid a trial.

Thirty-year-old Leatha Slauson of Atlantic was scheduled to go to trial next Tuesday in Mills County on 20 charges, ranging from felony child endangerment to first-degree theft.

But, Cass County Attorney Daniel Feistner confirmed Thursday that a plea deal has been reached to settle the case. Details of the agreement will be released Monday at a court hearing.

Authorities said, in addition to lying about the cancer, Slauson inserted a feeding tube into the 5-year-old girl and gave her drugs and cannabis oil.


Iowa cancer patient meets up with Garth Brooks again

Last Friday night, it was Garth Brooks surprising Iowa native Teresa Shaw at his concert in Minneapolis, but on Tuesday, the roles reversed as the breast cancer patient from Osage surprised the country music legend on the national TV program “Entertainment Tonight.”

Shaw held up a sign at the concert that read: “Chemo This Morning, Garth Tonight, Enjoying ‘The Dance. She was helped by security to the front of the stage and once Brooks saw Shaw and her sign, as he was singing his song “The Dance” and came to the edge of the stage, giving her a hug, a kiss and his guitar.

The video of the exchange went viral and “Entertainment Tonight” decided to bring Shaw and Brooks together. Brooks says they were in the second of two shows that night and he was thinking about how tiring doing four shows in 24 hours was, but then he saw Shaw’s sign and thought about why he was complaining as it put everything into perspective. Brooks and Shaw sat down and talked about the concert experience.

Brooks said, “I pray for your health…my fear would be that you ever think I did it for any other reason other than…it was a nice moment.” Shaw said, “You’re just an amazing guy…the music helps me, the music has always helped me through situations and I love your music.”

Shaw was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in June. She will have a double mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery after the first of the year.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)