Tyler Toll

Tyler Toll was only 18 when he died in a car wreck on Tuesday. His passing has left those who knew him grief-stricken, with many memories of their times together.

The Facebook group Tyler Toll Memorial, started by a junior high student at Toll’s school, Cedar Valley Christian, is a monument to the young man’s influence and faith. More than 500 people have joined the group in support of his family and friends. I’d encourage you to check it out if you have a Facebook account. Many of the entries made me cry.

If you don’t have Facebook, here’s an excerpt:

From Ashley M. — i miss you sooo much even tho we havent talked much lately i feel like something is missing…ik ill see you again its just hard to wait. Im actually jealous of you, ur in such a better place now…no more worries, tears, pain…nothing but complete joyyy…you lucky duck! youve taught me so much…to just live life the way we are suppose to and do the things we want cuz its sooo short. I wanna be more like you…and just try and enjoy every lilttle thing. ill never forget you ever! && i cant wait to see you again…ull always be in my heart!
love youuuuu tylerrrr♥ ♥ ♥


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…

This morning I sat through the beginning of jury selection for the murder trial of Jacovan D. Bush, 19, of Fairfax. This young man is black, and from a family known around the area to get in trouble frequently with the law. But when I looked around the room at the 34+ potential jurors sitting in the courtroom, I saw a sea of white faces. Maybe there was an Asian guy in there, too. Heck, even Gazette editorial board staffer Beth DeBoom was sitting up there!

Granted, this is Iowa, and that’s probably what you’ll come up with when you select jurors at random. I’m sure people like the elderly retired lady and the Mercy Medical Center nurse are intelligent enough to consider the evidence and decide whether he shot Thomas Horvath twice on April 15 at the Raintree Apartments and later buried the gun. But it just looks awfully strange when the defendant stands out because of the color of his skin.

The selection process was supposed to last all day, not surprising because of the seriousness of the case. It’s always interesting to hear what kinds of questions the prosecution and defense lawyers ask potential jurors. Have you ever been a victim of crime? Have you ever served on a jury before? If so, when and what was the outcome? Do you have any other prejudices that you believe would disqualify you from serving on this jury? Well, it’s just good to know they’re trying to make it as fair as possible.

Ever since the day Gale was found dead behind Marion High School, speculation has run wild about how it happened. Now that we know how, that speculation seems worse. It was bad enough that the 58-year-old was dumped there by two people who he considered his “friends,” but they robbed him, stole his possessions and left his pants around his ankles. That left all sorts of unanswered questions, and cruelly affected Gale’s family and friends, not to mention Gale himself.

At the end of August, Gale’s remaining siblings and relatives had him cremated and his ashes sent to Rohnert Park, Calif., where his brother, Louie, lives. They held a funeral for him there and had him buried. Louie told me today his youngest sister, Marie Gray, 60, who lives in Glendale, Ariz., just couldn’t bring herself to come.

“She got on the plane and sat there for a minute, but she had to get off the plane,” he said. “This is has all really upset her.”

If Gwen and Eric Townsel had just taken a minute to think, it may not have kept Marie from Gale’s funeral. His death may not have taken such a toll on his only daughter, Valerie Gilkison from Washington. It may have helped soothe his ex-wife, Cathy Huggins, who still lives in the area.

I hope that, if the Townsels did what the police said they did, they pay the price so Gale and his family can finally rest in peace.

An old photo of Jerry Hurt, pictured here with ex-wife, Doris Moody, and their two children — Erica Moody, now 15, and Jerry Jr. (right), now 10. Dempsey Moody (center) is Doris’ son from a previous relationship.

Hurt, 46, died at St. Luke’s Hospital last night after he was whacked in the head with some kind of pipe laying in the 200 block of 14th Street SE. His family thinks they know the man who did it. That man robbed Jerry last week, they said, and the two had a longstanding “beef” with each other. Police are being cautious with their statements, but it’s clear they also think they know who did it. They are just trying to determine the man’s intent. Did he just want to rob him again, or did he mean to kill him?

Hurt clearly has a large family with a long history in Cedar Rapids, especially living in the Wellington Heights neighborhood. When talking to them, I began to think about how fleeting life is. A niece told me that the last time she saw Hurt was Monday, when he went to see her while she was working at Kentucky Fried Chicken on First Avenue E. He got something to eat and left. The next time she sees him, he’ll be in a casket.

To have your life taken from you before it’s over…I can’t think of a worse crime.

When your city is experiencing a huge flood, and everyone is just worried about keeping their water supply intact or starting their lives over. That’s when. As a matter of fact, it’s the ONLY Cedar Rapids murder that hasn’t made The Gazette’s front page, ever.

Aubrey Young, 35, was found shot to death between two cars in the 200 block of 16th Street SE. Hardly anyone has come forward with information, and no one has been able to give us a photo of him. Fifty ducks were killed in Bever Park about the same time, and no one has any info on that, either. But people have rallied to raise $3,685 in reward money to catch the creeps who attacked the ducks, and two other organizations are offering an additional $5,500. Who is rallying to find Young’s killer? Where is his reward?

“It’s sad that people put a higher price on an animal’s life than they do on a human life,” said Cedar Rapids police Sgt. Cristy Hamblin said to me yesterday. “Abused animals always get stories written about them, they get TV coverage, but what about all the abused children we see every day? No one seems to care.”

It’s true. And it’s everyone’s fault. Including mine.

If anyone saw anything suspicious between 2 and 2:15 a.m. June 15 near the 200 block of 16th Street SE, please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-CR-CRIME. You may get a reward if your info leads to an arrest.

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.

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