Friday Afternoon News, January 16
Neunaber Has Pre-trial Hearing
(Le Mars) -- A pre-trial hearing was held Friday morning for Jonathon Neunaber of Akron. Neunaber is accused of murdering his mother Esther Neunaber. Both of his parents, Esther and Donald, were found dead at their rural Akron home last July. Neunaber was located a day later at LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Judge Steven Andreasen announced the trial date would be set for March 31st.
Judge Andreasen then gave instructions to the attorneys and scheduled additional pre-trial status hearing as a way for each side to be prepared for the trial.
The judge then asked each attorney if they have conducted an evidence "discovery" process, and whether that process is still on-going?
Neunaber was brought to the Plymouth County Courthouse by Plymouth County Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo and Deputy Sheriff Craig Bartolozzi, although he waived his rights and did not appear in the courtroom. Only Judge Andreasen, Plymouth County Attorney Darin Raymond and Public Defender Billy Oyadare (pronounced Ah-ya-dar-ee) were present.
Branstad Officially Named Iowa's Govenor With Inauguration
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been sworn in for a sixth term in office.
The 68-year-old Republican governor took the oath of office Friday morning at a convention center in downtown Des Moines. Inauguration festivities continue throughout the day, culminating with a formal ball in the evening.
Branstad was re-elected to a sixth non-consecutive term in November. He served four terms from 1983 through 1999 and then left public office. In 2009, he announced plans to seek the governor's office again and was elected to a comeback term the following year.
Branstad has already started his official duties for the year. He delivered his annual "Condition of the State" speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday and unveiled a $7.3 billion budget proposal.
New Jersey Governor Attends Branstad's Inauguration Ceremonies
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie is back in Iowa as he weighs jumping into the presidential race.
Christie attended the inauguration of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad Friday morning in Des Moines.
It's part of a tour of swearing-in ceremonies for GOP governors he helped elect as chair of the Republican Governors Association.
Christie told reporters he'll be attending private meetings in the city before heading back to New Jersey later in the day.
He also repeated that he doesn't feel any pressure to make a decision and urged everybody to take a deep breath.
Christie has made numerous visits to the early-voting state as he considers whether to seek the Republican nomination for president.
He'll return next week to attend a conservative summit next Saturday.
Audit Shows Misspent Funds From School's Business Manager
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - State auditors say the former business manager of a southeast Iowa school district used a district credit card to pay her own cell phone bills, eat at restaurants and buy personal items including jewelry, a massage and cosmetics.
Cindy Steege worked at the Mid Prairie school district based in Wellman since 2009. She resigned last June. The auditor report released Friday says she admitted to making personal purchases to investigators.
Online court records show she's been charged with second-degree theft. Her attorney, Joseph Keegan, did not immediately return a call.
State auditors say they identified more than $7,200 in improper purchases including two charges that appear to be credit card scams the district shouldn't have paid.
The audit report also says improper tax withholding on Steege's payroll records were discovered.
Trial Date Set For Courthouse Bomb Threat
NEWTON, Iowa (AP) - A March trial has been scheduled for a man accused of making bomb threats to the Jasper County Courthouse.
39-year-old Martin Meloche pleaded not guilty to two counts of making a false report of the placement of an explosive or incendiary device and to one count of possessing contraband at the county jail. His trial is set to begin March 4.
Authorities say Meloche called in two threats on Dec. 29 about a bomb at the courthouse. The building was briefly evacuated. No bomb was found.
Eastern Iowa Theater Closes Due To Smoke Damage
TRAER, Iowa (AP) - An eastern Iowa nonprofit theater has been forced to close because of smoke damage from a fire in a neighboring building.
The Traer Theatre has shut its doors until further notice following a downtown fire Tuesday at a flower shop next door. Smoke from the fire seeped into the theater through a shared brick wall, leaving the air in the 144-seat facility heavy with smoke and surfaces and electronics tarnished by soot.
Traer Theatre board president Jon Panfil says the building's upper level, where the smoke was thickest, experienced the worst of the damage. He says he's unsure how long cleanup and repairs will take.
The Traer Theatre is a community-based movie theater remodeled and reopened in 2006 to bring movie-going back to the rural Iowa town.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Polk County's medical examiner says he's seen four times more flu-related deaths so far this season than he saw last winter.
Dr. Gregory Schmunk said Friday he's received 12 death certificates since November citing flu as a main or contributing cause of death. Schmunk says he received just three such certificates last winter.
Three are death certificates of children, most others of the elderly, and one of a 47-year-old.
Schmunk says the spike in flu deaths shows the seriousness of this year's outbreak, when the height of flu season hasn't yet hit.
The county medical examiner's office doesn't receive all death certificates, but Schmunk says he estimates that he sees more than half of Polk County's death certificates, which is Iowa's most populous county.