The Hot Beat


The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him:

Dog kills cat, dog must go. But must it die?

Mitch Bingham will get a letter later this week ordering him to get rid of his dog.

The Blairstown city council will decide whether that means death or the pound, or a farm in the country for Sam, Bingham’s two-year-old Alaskan husky.

The dog attacked and killed a cat in Blairstown on Monday while Jess Mangiaracina, Bingham’s girlfriend, was taking the dog for a walk.

The dog spotted a cat belonging to Deb Johann, and got excited. It was on a leash, but Mangiaracina was caught by surprise and the dog broke loose and chased the cat, named Jill, toward a tree in front of Johann’s house.

“The dog kind of jumped up and snatched him out of the tree,” Mangiaracina said.
Before long, the cat was dead. Mangiaracina put the cat’s body into a garbage bag, knocked on the door and talked to Johann’s daughter. She then called Johann.

“I apologize, but your cat wasn’t in your yard. It was just running around,” Mangiaracina said.

Johann, who runs a hair salon out of her home, was upset. The cat was nine years old, and had been with the family ever since they’d lost everything in a fire nearly a decade ago. Johann said her cats never leave her yard.

“They might think this was a minor thing,” she said. “It was a cat. But it was our cat, and she didn’t need to die that brutal death.”

She asks that, at a minimum, the dog be taken into the country.

“An animal like that doesn’t belong in town,” she said.

The two families don’t agree on whether the cat was in Johann’s property when the dog spotted it, but when it comes to the dog’s future, it really doesn’t matter.

Blairstown city ordinance requires that if a dog attacks another domestic animal and was “uncontrollable” at the time of the attack, the dog is “vicious” and must either be destroyed or sent to a humane society. Rodney Kubichek, the mayor of Blairstown, said two years ago the city council was lenient and allowed a “vicious” dog simply to be removed from city limits.

“In practice, what’s probably going to happen is he’ll just have to get it out of town,” Kubichek said.


Filed under: Other, , , , , , , , , ,

Round 2 coming for tax sale

The Linn County Treasurer’s Office will hold a second tax sale Aug. 10, because a third of the properties up for sale in June didn’t sell.

Usually everything goes in the first tax sale, Treasurer Mike Stevenson said. This year, about 500 properties went unsold, out of a total of roughly 1,800.

Adair Asset Management, a company that often buys hundreds of properties in tax sales across Iowa, pulled out this year — in Linn County and in other counties. “Their funding fell through,” Stevenson said.

Also, some buyers weren’t interested in flooded properties.

“There’s a lot of flood properties that didn’t get bought,” he said.

Tax sales in Iowa go back at least to 1851. Though the rules vary from county to county and have changed over the years, the annual events attract considerable attention from local and out-of-state investors.

In Linn County, buyers pay $100 for a bidding number. The number goes into a computer lottery, and whoever holds the number can buy a property every time the number is called.
After the winning bidders pay the back taxes on a property, they get a lien on it and collect interest on their investment until the actual owner pays back the tax and interest.

If the property owner doesn’t pay back the bidder in 21 months, the bidder gets the property.

More often, though, the bidder turns a profit by collecting interest on the lien, which is the legal claim the buyer holds on the property until his or her investment is repaid. Iowa law requires the owner to pay the lienholder 2 percent interest per month, or 24 percent annually.

Filed under: County Government, , , , , ,

Details of Becker’s release from hospital remain clouded

The mental health coordinator who was supposedly told that the sheriff’s office should be notified when Mark Becker was released from a Waterloo hospital is Bob Lincoln.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office says it was not notified, and the hospital, Covenant Medical Center, says it was not asked to notify the sheriff’s office.

Becker shot Aplington-Parkersburg Head Football Coach Ed Thomas to death the next morning, prompting questions about why the 24-year-old wasn’t given more oversight when he was let out of the hospital.

Lincoln does not work for the hospital. He’s an employee of Butler County Community Services and serves as central point coordinator for mental health services. He said Friday he could not comment, and wasn’t aware that the sheriff’s office and hospital have been issuing dueling statements on whether the sheriff should have been notified upon Becker’s release.

A judicial magistrate issued an emergency detention order for Becker on Sunday, asking that he be evaluated. Iowa law required that the hospital release Becker within 48 hours of the order, unless someone had filed an application with the clerk of court stating that Becker was “seriously mentally impaired.” That application would have required a doctor’s written statement to that effect, and supporting affidavits.

The hospital said it released Becker to a “third party” on Tuesdsay, but it’s not clear who that was. It’s also not clear whether he was evaluated after while in the hospital, and what that evaluation revealed.

Lincoln and the hospital are citing HIPAA, the medical privacy laws, as an obstacle to their speaking openly about the case.

Filed under: Public Safety, , , , , , ,

Palo woman honors “angels” who helped her rebuild

Sandy Wood’s home in Palo was flooded in 2008. The water was three feet deep on the first floor. Above is a picture of her, in her remodeled living room, with two objects of special significance for her.

The board with all the names on it is a piece that she asked every volunteer who worked at her house to sign. So there they are — all the names. The framed pictures are of Iowa State University students working on her home. One of the students made the frame for her.

She gave me a handwritten letter describing her experience since the flood, and though I couldn’t promise her I’d be able to get it in the newspaper, I can certainly reproduce it here:

June 2008 was to be a happy month, as our daughter Amanda got married June 7, 2008. Within a few days, the happy times were gone, as our home had been flooded. We lost everything, including her wedding cake and gifts. We ended up with three feet on the main floor and five feet in the garage. Our house was tagged on June 17. We found it was tagged yellow (meaning it could be moved back into). I was so happy that after having long hair for two years I went to get it cut off.

When we finally got to go see our home June 20 my happiness went into tears as everything was destroyed, even our beautiful pond. As we went into the house, the carpet was full of mud and things that belonged in one room were now in another.

Now, came the time to start throwing everything out. As me and my husband stood in the living room, we did not know where to start. We had wonderful friends from the Marion Gospel Church and all over show up to help throw out 29 years of our life. Most of it didn’t bother me, but when it came to seeing our children’s finger paintings and all the Mother’s and Father’s Day cards being thrown away, that’s when I really broke down. Our children are 35, 29, and 26.

We had no idea how we were going to be able to afford to rebuild with the money we received from FEMA and Jumpstart. Then came Eight Days of Hope as we were told as long as we had supplies they would come and help. They hung all our sheetrock, put in all the subfloors, rebuilt walls.

Then came students that were studying to be attorneys. They hung four interior doors and two pocket doors.

Then came Iowa State students (which I called our kids). We had five guys and one girl for three days. They put in front and back doors, two basement windows, the kitchen floor, one bedroom floor, two vanities and medicine chests. They hung all the kitchen cupboards.

Then came the sweetest 80 year old man and Teddy Bear and Grant who came out and built steps and put up hand rails.

We had so many people from everywhere in the world, and each one that worked on our home signed my 2×10 board four feet long, and I can tell you it is full.

Then came retired plumbers. One day we had eight. Next day we had three. We still need some more done. Marion Gospel Church made a beautiful Pepsi lamp for my husband as he is one big Pepsi fan. My Iowa State students made me a beautiful cross with pictures of them working on our house. There has been Peace Church, who brought us things and did yard work.

Each one are true angels that God has sent to us. We will never forget any of you, and we hope you come for a visit to see how nice our home looks thanks to you all.

God Bless,
Jerry and Sandy Wood
(If we have missed anyone, we sure didn’t mean to.)

Filed under: Flood, , , , , , ,

2008: Close shave for SanDee Skelton

6 a.m. Thurs., June 12 —- SanDee Skelton woke up at her daughter’s home, and drove to her house to gather a few more things before the water closed in.

“When I got to a block from my house, there was like an inch of water on the street,” Skelton said. But the water was rising rapidly, she said, and when she tried to turn her car around, it stalled. She called 911.

“The current was so hard, and I could feel the car rocking back and forth,” she said.

She managed to get to the passenger window while water flowed onto her feet. The dispatcher told her firefighters were on their way.

“I just went into a total relax mode,” said Skelton. “I said, ‘OK, I’m in God’s hands.’”

She called her niece and told her to tell everyone she loved them. Her niece told her to try to get out of the car.

“Put the cellphone in your bra, and give me a play-by-play as you try to get out,” Skelton remembers her saying.

Sklelton slid over to the passenger seat, and tried to climb out the window.

“My leg kept floating back, because the current was so hard,” Skelton said.

That’s when the she heard the sirens. Firefighters brought a raft down to her, and took her up to dry land. When she looked back, she said, her car was nearly submerged.

“I could just see the beige colored top, like it was a sidewalk or something,” she said.

Filed under: Flood, , , , , , ,

Hot Property #6, 300 31st St. NE

And we’re back! Back on the tail of Cedar Rapids landlords who own properties that can’t stop attracting the police. Sorry for the delay. We’ve still got a map, and we’re up to property number six.

It’s the Flagstone Apartments at 300 31st St. NE.

Police were called there 99 times in 2008. There are 16 apartments at that address.

Most of what I see in the archives looks like minor stuff.

Gordon Duncombe, the owner, has an office in St. Michael, Minn. The name of his company is Can-West Management.

“We have a lot of people that the county put in there,” Duncombe said. “They get stupid and they call the cops on each other.”

Filed under: Public Safety, , , , , , , , , ,

Woman terrified after man’s second criminal trespass charge on her property

I met a woman on Friday who is scared of her neighbor. Since he moved in next door in December, she says he has tried to get into her house at least three times.

The problem is she can’t get a restraining order because she has no relationship with him. And police have charged him with criminal trespass, a simple misdemeanor, twice, in addition to several public intoxication charges.

I’m leaving out names for now, but I wonder if any other woman has had this problem, where she feels threatened by a man she doesn’t know personally, but has no recourse for separating herself from him in any significant, lasting way.

According to police:

In January, a little after 11 p.m., the woman heard someone knocking on the door and jiggling the door handle. (She has two small children.) Police came, charged the neighbor with public intoxication, and issued him a warning to stay off her property.

Then in March, she heard someone knocking on the door after 12:30 a.m. She thought it was her neighbor, and called police. When they arrived, he was asleep on her front porch. He was arrested for public intox and charged with criminal trespass as well because he had been warned in January to stay off her property.

In early May, a little after 4 p.m., she called police and told them her neighbor had tried to walk into her home. When police arrived, the neighbor was in a verbal argument with the woman’s landlord. He was charged again with criminal trespass. Police went back out there four hours later and looked to see if the lock on the screen door was actually broken, because she said he had broken it to get in. It was broken.

The man has already pled guilty to criminal trespass, criminal mischief for the lock and interference with official acts for the May incident. He wasn’t charged with anything more than criminal mischief because in order to charge someone with burglary, police have to prove intent to steal something or hurt somebody.

The March incident is going to trial, and yesterday, after I talked to the county attorney’s office (could be coincidence) the prosecutor filed a notice stating intent to seek jail time on the first criminal trespass charge.

One of the only ways for prosecutors to raise the stakes on this stuff is to charge the man with stalking, which requires that he has established a “course of conduct … that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury.”

It requires two or more instances. So there are already two instances, but no stalking charge.

As a commenter pointed out on, here’s what one lady did to solve a more serious problem.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this. A comment would be good, so would an e-mail:

Filed under: Courts, Public Safety, , , , , , ,

Hot Property #5: Cedarwood Hills Apartments, 2060 Glass Rd. NE

They’re the five brick apartment buildings way up on a hill looking down on Interstate 380 and Glass Road NE.

They’re marked separately on the map, but I’m treating them as one apartment complex.

If you take them together, which the city assessor’s office does, police were called there in 2008 more than any address in Cedar Rapids. 446 times.

They’re the Cedarwood Hills Apartments at 2060 Glass Rd. NE. The place has 180 units, and a search of Gazette archives shows a lot of police activity there.

Patice Bolden, the man jailed in the shooting death of Calvin Stringer in December 2007, listed Cedarwood Hills as his address. A man was accused of attempting to murder his girlfriend at Cedarwood Hills in the summer of 2007, and eventually was convicted of willful injury and assault with intent to inflict serious injury.

The apartments are owned by a Des Moines company called C.T. Corporation System, which is incorporated under Robert C. Thomson. The company’s home office is in New York City.

Track these properties on a map here.

Filed under: Public Safety, , , , ,

Hot Property #4: 3000 J St. SW

Moving right along (sorry about all the map problems), we’ll look at the top residential property on the Hot 100.

It’s the Cedar Valley Townhouses at 3000 J St. SW. The complex has 186 units in 28 buildings, so it’s really a little town of its own. Police were called there 331 times in 2008.

A lot of it was minor police blotter stuff — some assaults, some drunk driving arrests. A 15-year-old waved a revolver at somebody.

Assuming for the sake of argument that an average of three people lives in each unit, the number of police visits to Cedar Valley Townhouses pales in comparison to the number at several smaller properties, where only a couple dozen people might live.

The apartments are arranged on a circle drive on the west side of J Street, just north of the 33rd Avenue SW exit.

The property is owned by the Affordable Housing Network, a non-profit organization affiliated with Four Oaks that accepts Section 8 housing vouchers. It took over for the MidAmerica Housing Partnership after that organization failed.

The network operates rental properties in all four quadrants of Cedar Rapids.

I’ve learned not to make too many promises about what I’ll do with the map, but I am trying to put plenty of information in the bubble window that pops up when you cursor over a marker. See the map here.

Filed under: Public Safety, , , , ,

Landlords give their side

The newspaper story today about a licensing program for landlords in Cedar Rapids brought some reaction from landlords.

The proposed program is one of several responses to the recent spate of crime in Wellington Heights and Mound View.

Doug Jones, a landlord who called me this morning, said evicting someone usually takes three weeks, a trip to court and $200, whether or not landlords are licensed.

Leave the policing to the police, he said, and leave the landlording to the landlords.

“They want us to be able to supervise people and we can’t do that,” he said.

He gave me an eviction scenario that he said was not uncommon. A tenant is causing problems, and he needs him to get out.

“You say ‘Get out.'”

“The guy says ‘F— you.'”

“What are you going to do, shoot him?” Jones asks.

Of course not, he said. You have to take him to court, and pay a bunch of fees. That’s state law.

The father of the owner of a rental property I mentioned in the story, 1502 Fourth Ave. SE, said it’s a hard to find good tenants.

“You try to rent to people that desperately need a house, and you have a problem,” he said.

If you try to evict them, they mess up the house.

“To find decent tenants is a hard job,” he said.

Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, , , , , ,

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