April 2008

While they were on a walk along the Thomas Park trail in Marion on April 22, a random person found a random Nokia cell phone laying on the ground, Marion police reported in a search warrant returned Tuesday. The “concerned citzen,” as he or she was called, looked at the text messages on the phone to see if they could find out whose it was (in my case, it would have been just plain curiosity). The concern came in when they noticed the messages contained detailed information about thefts and other criminal mischief.

The phone was turned in to Marion police. Now they’ve got all the person’s contacts and text messages. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people get arrested. I’ll let you know!

UPDATE: Marion police Lt. Steve Etzel said the phone turned out to belong to a teenage Marion girl who was exchanging the text messages with her friends as a joke. Police talked to her parents, they gave back the phone, and now everything’s grand.

So…I suppose you shouldn’t lose your phone when you’re joking about committing crimes, either.


My story about the sudden death of 18-month-old Linus Chalupa due to an allergic reaction he had to food at his babysitter’s house was buried on page 5B of Saturday’s Iowa Today section. But the importance of the story to parents and caregivers alike should have warranted it front-page attention. Food allergies — especially those to wheat and nuts — need to be taken seriously.

As I wrote in my story, about 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies. Between 100 and 200 die from them each year, according to Food and Drug Administration statistics. I talked to Miriam Landsman, executive director of the University of Iowa’s National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice, who said parents and child-care providers must communicate about children’s food allergies and have documents on hand outlining foods they cannot eat. Caregivers for children with food allergies also should be able to identify signs of allergic reactions and have the appropriate medication, epinephrine, on hand to counter them, she said.

We may never know if his babysitter knew Linus was having a reaction or if the parents provided her with medication to treat it since they all refused to talk to me directly about the case. Whatever the cause or treatment, however, knowing why this little boy died will hopefully save lives in the future.

Most food reactions begin soon after ingestion and last less than a day, affecting any four of the following body systems. Here’s how to tell if you or your child is having an allergic reaction:

  1. Skin. Skin reactions are the most common type of food allergy reactions. They can take the form of itchy, red, bumpy rashes (hives), eczema, or redness and swelling around the mouth or face.
  2. Gastrointestinal system. Symptoms can take the form of belly cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  3. Respiratory system. Symptoms can range from a runny or stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes, and sneezing to the triggering of asthma with coughing and wheezing.
  4. Cardiovascular system. A person may feel lightheaded or faint.

A doctor will be able to correctly diagnose a food allergy and prescribe shots of epinephrine to keep on hand in case of severe allergic reaction.

James Patterson already had a patchy criminal history of petty theft and burglary when he started checking DVDs out of the Marion Public Library earlier this year — and stopped returning them. After two months, the 20-year-old now owes more than $400 in overdue fines there, and the staff banned him from checking out any more. Now Marion police say he’s resorted to stealing them, and they served a search warrant at his residence to prove it.

In the application for the search warrant, police said library staff reported seeing Patterson carry nearly 20 movies from the DVD section over two days in mid-April and taking them to the children’s section, where he broke the cases with a knife and took the DVD inside. A police officer caught him in the act the second time.

He’s being charged with fourth-degree theft. Take that! Maybe now I’ll finally get to rent that copy of “Red Dawn” I’ve been waiting for…

Our story about the Vinton police officer who saved three people from a raging house fire was very descriptive, but you will REALLY get a feel for what it looked like if you watch this short clip from the officer’s patrol car dash cam.


WOW! Roger Roseberry is a brave man…

Almost 20 area gas stations, convenience stores and bars sold cigarettes to minors during rounds of compliance checks this month.

Cedar Rapids checked 240 stores. Among repeat offenders, the Casey’s at 130 41st Ave. Dr. SW was non-compliant this time, as well as the Casey’s at 641 Edgewood Rd. NW and Guppy’s on the Go, 1532 Ellis Blvd. NW. The 41st Ave. Dr. Casey’s was cited at least twice before, and Guppy’s once. The Edgewood Rd. one was tested twice this round and failed BOTH times. Of Linn County’s outlying tobacco retailers, two retailers in Prairiesburg and Troy Mills failed the “test” this time.

It’s not that hard to ask for an ID. If people want to smoke or buy alcohol, they should have their ID on them. When I was a checker at Hy-Vee, it was our rule that we were required to ask for an ID if someone looked younger than 30. They put us through a short, mandatory training on recognizing fake IDs and being assertive when requiring ID. As a result, I’m sure I put the kibosh on a few college students’ weekend plans…but what do you do?

Bottom line — if your buyer looks young enough to make the sale illegal, it’s better to not take chances unless you’d like to pay a fine of up to $1,500 to someone who needs it less than you do.


Here are some quick updates on what’s happening with juveniles involved in Wellington Heights fights and assaults:

Remember the group of boys who allegedly attacked 24-year-old Alexander Morwood near Third Avenue and 15th Street SE on Jan. 10? They broke his jaw, and he was hospitalized for surgery. The oldest of the group members, Xavier Hicks, will be 18 on April 29. His case was transferred to adult court, where he is facing a felony charge of willful injury and a misdemeanor charge of assault causing bodily injury. He is set to go to trial June 9. Two other boys involved — Maxwell Woods, 17, and Tracy Traylor, 15, both admitted to juvenile charges of assault causing bodily injury and were placed in residential treatment. Another boy’s file was closed.

Another boy accused of involvement in the March 30 brouhaha in the 1600 block of Second Avenue SE has been arrested and charged with disorderly conduct — Gabriel D. Taylor, 15, of 420 15th St. SE. Police said Taylor was screaming obscenities, trying to incite a fight and threatening police officers attempting to break things up. I haven’t seen any formal charges filed yet against the boy originally arrested, Jahmal Ginger. It sounded like the bunch of people with sticks and shovels showed up at his house to start the fight, so it probably wasn’t his fault…

And, last but not least, 15-year-old Damia Cungtion is accused in juvenile court of assault while displaying a dangerous weapon for using a baseball bat to bash another girl’s head March 22 outside of Cungtion’s home at 1417 Fifth Ave. SE. BTW, that is the home of Delinda Morgan, where Chicago-area murder suspect Javon Dockery was arrested two days before this assault.

Other than that, the neighborhood’s beautiful as always!

This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Every year, communities across the nation hold rallies and other activities in honor of the more than 23 million people nationwide whose lives are touched by violent crime against themselves or their property each year — including about 50,000 Iowans, according to statistical data from the U.S. Department of Justice.

This year’s theme is ‘Justice for Victims. Justice for All’. “Treating victims of crime with the care and respect is a fundamental responsibility we all share. And, victim’s rights is a critical component in the foundation of our American justice system. So, as we pursue justice against perpetrators of crime, we must also, at the same time pursue justice for all individuals who are impacted by those crimes,” said Matthew G. Whitaker, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, at a celebration on the Capitol steps Monday.

I hold this time of remembrance close to my heart. I am still struggling with the emotional and mental wounds of sexual assault, caused in September 2006 by a man who was my friend in high school. But even though it has been a long, painful journey, I have been lucky to remain relatively unscarred despite the crimes that have happened to me and people I love. Some crime victims don’t get the chance to heal.

Take this week as an opportunity to lift up and support victims of crime. Remember those eastern Iowans who have been killed in the last year — Sheryl, Ethan, Seth, Mira, and Eleanor Sueppel; Dennis First; Nathan Williams; Calvin Stringer; Jerome McEwen; and 8-month-old Antuwan Williams Jr. of Waterloo, just to name a few. And remember all the others whose lives have been seriously affected by crime.

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

Next Page »