December 2008


Of all the things I’ve covered in the past, I’ve never heard more rumors spread about anything than I have about the second fire at Breitbach’s County Dining in Balltown.

Did you hear Mike Breitbach died from a heart attack just weeks after the fire? That a dryer at the restaurant caught on fire and burnt the place down? Or that an employee started the fire? Wait, it was the family themselves!?

Yeah…none of it is true. Especially the heart attack bit. Mike is very alive and kicking. He said the family’s going to make its decision “very soon” on whether to reopen the wildly popular restaurant.

I talked to him and Mike Reiger, an investigator from the restaurant’s insurance company, today about how the investigation into the fire’s cause is going. Everything they need to look at is now in Wisconsin waiting to be examined in a lab. Reiger addressed the nasty rumors that just won’t die about how the family might be linked to the disastrous second fire at the restaurant in a year.

“Through all of my interviews and everything else, I’ve found no evidence and I have absolutely no suspicions that the Breitbach family or any of their employees were involved in any way with the fire,” Reiger said. “You have no idea how much that rumor has hurt the Breitbachs.”

They haven’t been able to rule out arson as a cause, however. It could take months before they can eliminate most possibilities and find what really happened, he said.

I got an e-mail from a coworker, who got an e-mail from a friend, who got a bunch of e-mails from women who wanted everyone to know to be careful because people have tried to get in the passenger side of their cars.

I’ll leave you with a few of the tales (these weren’t reported to police, fyi), and just a reminder to stay alert to your surrounds. Also, lock your doors as soon as you get in your car. I’ve been saved a few times that way, myself:

Yes,  a couple weeks ago I stopped at the ATM machine by the Spring House off Center  Point Rd. (my new car automatically locks the doors when I get in and put it  into drive) Thanks goodness! A young African American male came up from the  apartment side of the driveway and tried to get into my passenger side of the  car. He pulled on the door and then banged on my window to let him  in. I was close enough to the ATM machine that I didn’t feel that he would come around to the other side  but I still panic a bit. SCARY!!!!

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I had just been in Kmart across from Lindale Mall,  and I just got into my car & started it. when this guy (a black  male, about 35 yrs old, about 5’8) ran up to my car & got right up against the passenger’s side door  & tried to get in! He was telling  me to open the door, and I couldn’t see if he was pulling on the door  handles, but I’m assuming he was. Luckily, my doors lock automatically  when I put it into gear, because when this happened, everything went into slow motion & I got really flustered & couldn’t find the lock… So anyway, I couldn’t drive forward, because I was blocked by cars, so he just stayed there trying to get in & trying to get me to open the door. Finally I got a break in cars, and moved forward & he followed me for a bit, but  then ran away. I was parked far out in the parking lot, that last car in the line, so that probably wasn’t a great idea, and something I’ll never do again when I’m shopping alone.

So- I have no idea if this guy wanted to rob me, ask me for money, ask for a ride, or if this was his weird way of trying to hit on me? No clue what this was, or what could have happened, if anything, but I’m just glad nothing happened and I’m glad it didn’t end up as a news story.

But, it was scary! I was really shaken up about it. It just left me feeling less safe. I’ve never really had something that bizarre happen to me in CR. So, I want all my girlfriends to be extra careful when they’re out shopping alone this Christmas season, or anytime! Because you just NEVER know!

The Dubuque Times-Herald ran a story today about the process behind issuing concealed carry permits in Iowa. You can read it here if you want, but basically it says that Iowa’s 99 counties have 99 ways of handing out gun permits to residents who want one, and the decision rests solely on the sheriff of that county. That creates disparities, and I know some people here in Linn County who believe that discriminatory. And, really, they’re right. Even Sheriff Don Zeller has said many times that he would support uniform guidelines statewide — the problem is, the legislature has to deal with it, and they didn’t last year given the opportunity.

I used our archives to find out how many people in the surrounding five-county area have gun permits. Linn County has issued the most in the area – roughly 470 – but that’s only about .23 percent of the population. That’s actually higher than a lot of other counties in Iowa. Johnson, for instance, has issued about 200 to .16 percent of the population. Benton County has about .75 percent of people with permits, and Buchanan County with .88 percent. The highest rate is in Jones County, with 1.67 percent. That’s hardly enough people to cause alarm.

After much research, I do have a beef with people who tie lower crime rates to the number of private citizens who are allowed to carry guns. I looked up violent crime rates for all states and compared right to carry states with the remaining 10 states that aren’t. And an in-state example for you: Black Hawk County is among the least restrictive in granting the permits (there were 17 permits per 1,000 adults there, with only about 2.5 here), but Waterloo has more violent crime than we do. But Dubuque also has more crime than we do, and issues very few permits. So, really, the free issuance of gun permits as a crime predictor is questionable.

Has anyone been in a situation where they feel the outcome would have been different if they were allowed to carry a gun? I really do want to know. Even though some people feel I am anti-gun, I merely don’t want one. I don’t feel they are necessary for protection. My basic stance: We need to make sure guns stay out of the hands of criminals, that background checks are done before guns are sold, and that if we’re going to have a “right to carry” state, we need to make sure the people who can carry guns actually know how to use them responsibly through self-defense classes. And that’s all, folks.

Below is the the 2007 violent crime comparison:

Right to carry states Population Violent crime rate per 100,000 residents
Maine 1317207 118
Vermont 621254 124.3
New Hampshire 1315828 137.3
North Dakota 639715 142.4
South Dakota 796214 169.2
Utah 2645330 234.8
Wyoming 522830 239.3
Idaho 1499402 239.4
Connecticut 3502309 256
Virginia 7712091 269.7
West Virginia 1812035 275.2
Montana 957861 287.5
Oregon 3747455 287.6
Minnesota 5197621 288.7
Mississippi 2918785 291.3
Iowa* 2988046 294.7
Kentucky 4241474 295
Nebraska 1774571 302.4
Washington 6468424 333.1
Indiana 6345289 333.6
Ohio 11466917 343.2
Colorado 4861515 347.8
Pennsylvania 12432792 416.5
Alabama* 4627851 448
Kansas 2775997 452.7
North Carolina 9061032 466.4
Arizona 6338755 482.7
Georgia 9544750 493.2
Oklahoma 3617316 499.6
Missouri 5878415 504.9
Texas 6156719 510.6
Arkansas 2834797 529.4
Michigan 10071822 536
Alaska** 683478 661.2
New Mexico 1969915 664.2
Florida 18251243 722.6
Louisiana 4293204 729.5
Nevada 2565382 750.6
Tennessee 6156719 753.3
South Carolina 4407709 788.3
Low/No permit states
Rhode Island 1057832 227.3
Hawaii 1283388 272.8
Wisconsin 5601640 290.9
New Jersey 8685920 329.3
New York 19297729 414.1
Massachusetts 6449755 431.5
California 36553215 522.6
Illinois 12852548 533.2
Maryland 5618344 641.9
Delaware 864764 689.2
District of Columbia 588292 1414.3

That they’ve started releasing weekly podcasts on their work (haha, and you thought you were in trouble). Visit the page here and get access to the current shows. The archives work in some instances, not in others.

It’s somewhat interesting, as they talk about the “big news” of the week and revisit old cases. The best stuff, I think, is found in “FBI 1oo: A Closer Look.” FBI historian John Fox is being interviewed for a special radio series and sharing his perspectives on the agency’s past.

I’m pretty sure it’s a bad idea, especially for people like Eugene Anderson. I watched KGAN’s story on Eugene tonight with interest, mainly because they probably got the idea from my coverage on sex offenders who are allowed to live in parking lots and under bridges, as well as the change of address listings I’ve started putting in our Police Log. But I’m also interested because I know the law that helped force him there needs to be changed.

Anderson was convicted of raping his stepdaughter while displaying a dangerous weapon in 1994 outside of Iowa. He was later released from jail, and he showed up in Cedar Rapids 10 years later. He registered his address as 531 12th St. SE and within 3 years was twice charged with failure to register his correct whereabouts with the Sheriff’s Office. After he served his jail time for the last charge, he registered his address as living underneath the Third Street bridge in mid-November. And, apparently, he’s keeping true to his word.

KGAN reporter Chris Jose went down there tonight to talk to Anderson, and he found him. He told Jose that he doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him, but that people should try living a week in his shoes. Basically, he wanders the streets of Cedar Rapids all day because he has nowhere else to go, then sleeps under a bridge. Sounds like a good plan for a guy convicted of violently raping his stepdaughter, no?

Here’s an idea — how about trying to make this guy’s life better instead of worse? He’s got no money, no house, no job, no family. He says he doesn’t break the law, but what’s he got to lose? Clearly, he hasn’t always been a good guy, but laws like Iowa’s 2,000-foot law haven’t made it any easier on him post-conviction. Don’t we  need to plan for the reintegration of ALL criminals into our communities once they’ve completed their sentences and try to help them become awesome, healthy tax-paying citizens such as ourselves? After all, the only difference between them and us is that they got caught doing something wrong.

So kudos to you, Chris Jose. I’ve been able to catch up with very few registered sex offenders in my time. Especially in the bitter cold.

I went to Dyersville on Saturday evening when we first heard about the shooting at 511 Ninth St. SE. I spoke to the next door neighbors, where David Herman and Jen Fauver left their children before getting that last fateful load of belongings from their apartment. They didn’t want to talk to me because the children — one they had together and two of Jen’s — didn’t know Herman was dead yet.

Gutwrenching situations like this always present a problem for people on both sides of the fence on self-defense.

Here’s what we DO know about what happened: That afternoon, Herman confronted Christopher Leppert, a Dubuque man hired to change the locks after Herman and Fauver were evicted. They punched and shoved each other. The Dubuque Times-Herald reports that Leppert was able to retreat to his car, where his .32-caliber pistol was hidden. Herman, who was not carrying a weapon, jumped into the locksmith’s car. Another fight broke out, and sometime during the second altercation the locksmith shot Herman in the chest, according to the sheriff’s department.

There is at least one more crucial question that still need to be answered in my mind — Did Leppert warn Herman that he would shoot him if he didn’t back off? Situations like this one can be Monday morning quarterbacked to death, but that warning is the real key. Whether you’re pro- or anti-gun, I’m sure this case will turn out to be an interesting one, legally.

In the meantime, read a story about whether self-defense laws have gone too far here. Personally, I would have done the same thing as Mitch Morelli. Who threatens my kid and gets away with it? Not that I have one…