A crippling drought, pigs as pets and foul play — here are the Newton Daily News' choices for the top local stories of the year, in no particular order:
Capitol II Theater closes, reopens after purchase by Newton couple
On Aug. 31, the owner of Missouri-based Big Time Cinema — the parent company of Newton’s Capitol II Theater — filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in federal court, shuttering the local movie theater as well as two other Iowa locations in an effort to keep Big Time solvent. After its closure on Sept. 12, Capitol II managers Dawn and Paul Bleeker considered purchasing the theater; however, no decisions could be made while the case was in bankruptcy proceedings.
But on Oct. 26, Dawn Bleeker announced she and her husband bought the Newton facility and set a grand reopening date just in time for the big movies of the holiday season. In conjunction with the change in ownership, the Capitol II Theater also underwent interior changes, including freshly painted walls and professionally cleaned carpets and seats.
Former Newton doctor indicted for prescribing controlled substances
Dr. Lafayette James Twyner, 63, of Newton was arraigned on Nov. 5 in U.S. District Courts on a 114-count indictment with charges relating to his alleged unlawful dissemination of controlled substances to patients.
The indictment was filed Oct. 23 and accused Twyner of prescribing controlled substances in a manner likely to cause, and that did cause, dependence, addiction and, in one case, death. He was charged with 37 counts of illegally dispensing Schedule II controlled substances, 69 counts of illegal distributing Schedule III controlled substances, and seven counts of engaging in health care fraud against various insurers related to his prescribing practices. In addition, the indictment charged Twyner with illegally dispensed a Schedule II controlled substance to a patient that resulted in his death.
These counts combined yielded a minimum of 10-20 years of prison and fines ranging from $250,000 to $1 million per individual count.
The case began in April of 2011 when a search warrant was executed at Urgent Care Clinic in Newton, where Twyner worked. He voluntarily surrendered his registration to prescribe controlled substances a week later on April 12 and surrendered his medical license to the Iowa Board of Medicine on July 12.
Twyner’s two-week trial period is set to begin Friday.
Attempted murder: Shine shoots daughter’s fiancé, alleges violence against her daughter
Eric James, the 35-year-old caretaker and fiancé of Danielle Marie Shine, woke up to gun shots at 9:14 a.m. July 14 — gun shots that were fired at him by his fianceé’s mother, 52-year-old Jane Marie Shine, while he slept.
James suffered multiple wounds from the shooting and was airlifted to Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. He was treated and released.
According to court documents filed in Jasper County District Court, Shine accused James of gun threats before shooting him in his Newton home. Additionally, she alleged he was using methamphetamine and recently had become increasingly violent against her daughter, who is a quadriplegic and depends on James as her caretaker. A Jasper County District Court judge granted a no-contact order against Shine, prohibiting her from seeing or attempting to contact her daughter, James and her three grandchildren, and set her bond at $100,000. Later in July, Shine’s bond was reduced to $50,000 and amended the no-contact order to allow visitation with her daughter.
Shine faces charges of attempted murder (a class B felony) and willful injury (a class C felony) as a result of the shooting. If convicted of both, she could serve up to 35 years in prison. Her trial date currently is set for May 8.
Pigs as pets? Newton City Council revisits issue
The Newton City Council in March revisited the issue of whether or not to allow miniature pigs as pets in Newton. In December 2011, an ordinance to allow the animals — weighing less than 100 pounds and subject to licensing — failed to pass, but the council had three new members since that decision. So Dawn and Paul Bleeker took a petition to the March 5 meeting armed with 154 signatures from residents supporting the miniature pig ordinance and a letter from local veterinarian John R. Wallace.
After some debate by council members, it was recommended that city staff work with the Jasper County Animal Rescue League to rework the ordinance before bringing it back for further consideration.
A compromise between council members and pig lovers was reached during the April 2 regular meeting, when the Newton City Council passed an ordinance 5-1 allowing ownership of miniature pigs weighing no more than 80 pounds within city limits. The pigs also must be spayed or neutered and stand no more than 24 inches tall. The Bleeker family — who originally brought the issue before the council — purchased a pig shortly after the ordinance passed. Joy can be seen happily wandering around the Capitol II Theater, snatching stray popcorn.
Drought negatively impacts county farms, businesses
The drought of 2012 had many farmers and old-timers thinking of the Dust Bowl of the ’30s. Even State Climatologist Harry Hillaker pointed out that July’s start was the hottest the state has seen since 1936.
During the summer months that held little rain and respite for crops and cattle:
• Residents were asked to conserve water where they could and use water wisely.
• The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s request to allow corn containing more than 20 parts per billion of aflatoxin to be blended with corn with lower levels or no aflatoxin for animal feed.
• Iowa State University Extension beef program specialist said feed quality and lack of grass growth due to low rain levels forced some cattle operations to start feeding from stockpiles of hay traditionally meant to sustain cows in the winter months. This could lower the weight of some cattle and, tied with the heat, make cows more lethargic and less likely to breed. Water sources for livestock also were at the lowest levels seen since the last severe drought of 1988.
On the plus side, corn was roughly three weeks ahead of schedule and the crop showed a year-over-year improvement in average text weight, protein levels and density, as well as lower moisture and BCFM than the 2011 crop, according to the U.S. Grains Council’s Corn Harvest Quality Report.
Newton teen dies from farming accident injuries
Humberto Efrain Worthington, a 13-year-old Guatemalan teen adopted by Brad and Michele Worthington, sustained injuries from farm equipment that was in his proximity at the family farm on April 14. According to a report from Jasper County Sheriff Mike Balmer, deputies were called to the farm around 3:11 p.m. Paramedics also were called to the scene, and Worthington was airlifted to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. Worthington died from his injuries the next day.
2012 sees Iowa Caucus, re-election of Democratic president
January’s Iowa Caucus saw former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum win the Jasper County Republican caucus Jan. 3 with 35 percent of the votes. However, statewide caucus results showed Mitt Romney with an eight-vote victory over Santorum. But when it came down to the presidential election in November, Obama won it all, padding his lead against Romney by more than 1,400 votes in Jasper County and a 303-206 Electoral College victory as of Nov. 7.
Nearly three-quarters of Jasper County’s registered voters — 72.87 percent — cast ballots in support of candidates for county offices during the election. A total of 19,579 ballots were cast, with 9,015 of those counted as absentee, up from 6,600 during the 2008 election cycle, according to auditor Dennis Parrott. Democrats largely were victorious in county-wide elections, with John Halfery elected as sheriff, Dennis Parrot elected to the county auditor position and Denny Stevenson re-elected as county supervisor.
Democrat Dan Kelley won a seat in the House District 29 for a second term, Republican Greg Heartsill was victorious as State Representative for District 28 and Republican Amy Sinclair won Iowa’s State Senate seat in District 14.
Newton couple charged with murder of infant
An investigaton into the suspicious death of six-month-old Kaiden Michael Olea on Jan. 10 led to the arrests and subsequent charging of the child’s parents, Chelsea Jo Miller and Joseph Edward Albert Olea, both of Newton.
The investigation began in January after a call came in to the Newton Police Department regarding suspected child abuse. Kaiden was transported to Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines where he later died of injuries to his head and neck. According to police, Olea was the sole caregiver to the child from the time to the call to the hospital transport.
Olea and Miller were both charged on July 31 in connection to the death, Olea with one count of child endangerment resulting in death and one count of first degree murder while Miller was charged with one count of child endangerment.
The police report states that the State Medical Examiner’s Office had determined the cause of death to be blunt force injuries of the head and neck and manner of death is homicide.
Miller posted bond of $10,000 in August, while Olea’s was set at $250,000. Olea’s next court date is set for March 6.
Dog running at large shot by police officer
On the morning of Sept. 15, Newton police responded to reports of a dog running loose in the Emerson Hough neighborhood. Retired Iowa State Patrol Officer Gordon Dodds first called in the complaint of the dog at large at 10:10 a.m. upon seeing a man being harassed by the dog, which was snarling and growling at the man. Lt. Ron Cook then responded to the incident and, after a brief standoff, fatally shot Griz the pit bull, owned by Newton resident Jeri Fahrenkrug.
Reports of the dog’s demeanor differ greatly. According to interviews with Cindy Crady, a witness to the shooting, and Fahrenkrug, Griz was not acting aggressively toward the officer and felt the shooting was unwarranted. However, Newton Police Chief Jeff Hoebelheinrich said that the officer feared for his safety when the dog advanced on him. Additionally, a report had been taken on the dog on Aug. 23 indicating that it had bitten a person, at which time Fahrenkrug was cited for having no dog license.
The shooting caused residents to question the Jasper County Animal Rescue League’s role in the incident, wondering why they didn’t respond faster. JCARL Facilities Manager Teena Wolodkewitsch said a call was made at 10:12 a.m. for the rescue league to respond — a mere two minutes after the first complaint was made, but due to the rescue league being located past the law enforcement center, Wolodkewitsch maintained that’s why police likely made it to the scene faster.
Changes for Newton schools see Basics move to Emerson Hough, EH fort torn down
As the latest in a slew of changes for the Newton Community School District, the NSCD Board of Education voted 4-1 in early March to move both Basics and Beyond Alternative High School and the district’s central office to the Emerson Hough facility.
Moving the high school into the EH facility sought an initial saving of $42,026 — the cost of renting the space at DMACC where the program was formerly housed — as well at $11,000 in operating costs, less whatever updates the space required.
The move was finalized and completed over the summer of 2012, just in time for another important issue to come to light: the fate of the historic Emerson Hough Fort playground.
Among the issues cited by the Board of education were the declining quality of the structure, exposed nails that posed hazards to students and the many hidden coves within the playground, rumored to harbor drug activity on school property. A vote on Aug. 13 gave the official go-ahead for crews to begin demolishing the wooden fortress.
Preschool students attending Emerson Hough, however, still needed a safe place to play. Thus, thanks to a roughly $70,000 gift from the federally funded Drake University Head Start child development program — a program for income restricted families that shares the building and even serves some of the same students enrolled in the Newton Community School District preschool program — a new playground was erected at the end of August.
Prostitution, drug exchange at local motel
Twenty-nine-year-old Kristina L. Snook nearly died at America’s Best Value Inn in Newton April 3 when she chewed and spit out a Fentanyl patch given to her by 53-year-old Ronald Bedenbaugh. Bedenbaugh provided Snook with the narcotic opioid in exchange for sex.
EMS personnel reported Snook was unresponsive and not breathing when they arrived at the scene, but were able to revive her. According to court records, Snook put the patch in her mouth to gain a more immediate high from the drug, and shortly afterward the two went to the motel’s bar area where Snook passed out.
Bedenbaugh was charged with soliciting prostitution and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance, and was arrested again in August for failing to appear for his May 5 hearing. Snook also was charged with soliciting prostitution, as well as enhanced intoxication (third or subsequent offense). She entered a written plea of guilty to prostitution charges on June 4 and currently is serving a two-year probationary sentence.
Speedway’s motorcycle rally a success
The Iowa Speedway’s inaugural Iowa Grand Motorcycle Rally, which took place July 25-28, drew hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts from across the country. The rally was hosted by legendary emcee Jay Allen, founder of The Broken Spoke Saloon.
The multi-day rally included such events as Jay Allen’s Builder’s Invitational Lot, Rolling Thunder XXV custom tribute bikes, The Wall That Heals Vietnam memorial tribute, master body painter Mark Reid, live concerts each evening and celebrity meet-and-greets.
A second rally is set for May 30 through June 2. Visit www.iowagrandrally.com for more information.