Author Archives: Jody Ewing

About Jody Ewing

Jody is a writer/author based in west-central Iowa. In 2005 she founded the Iowa Cold Cases website. Jody earned her Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree from Iowa State University, graduating magna cum laude with honors, majoring in concentration fields of Communications, Social Science and Professional Studies, and minoring in Criminal Justice Studies.

Missing Dad Earl: Five Years Gone

This article has been cross-posted on the Iowa Cold Cases blog.

Mom and Earl

Five years ago today, my family received news no family ever expects to hear. We were fortunate, however, in that we received a gift few families get to experience when crime comes knocking on one’s door; we each got the opportunity to see and speak to our loved one — and him to us — one last time in conversation not focused on any final goodbye, but words of hope, love, and the promise of many more tomorrows.

Those tomorrows lasted just four more days before my stepfather, Earl Thelander, succumbed to burns sustained in a home explosion brought about by copper thieves. He died September 1, 2007, four months shy of his and my mother’s 25th wedding anniversary.

Mom and Earl had been out the night before working on the rural home they were preparing for a renter — the same country home where my maternal grandparents used to live — and the late-night or early-morning burglars who cut and stole propane gas lines and let the home fill with gas have yet to be apprehended or charged in the crime. My stepdad’s case remains unsolved.

Earl and Mom early on, fixing up a rental property.

Two months after his death, my mom, Hope Thelander, wrote about what she missed most about her husband and best friend; with permission, I’d posted her story to my blog. Read the blog post here.

Today I’d like to post the things I miss most about a good man I felt privileged to call “Dad Earl.”

I miss the way he always looked at my mom.

I miss how he’d always throw back his head in hearty laughter.

I miss the way he so carefully pushed up his glasses, his fingers wrapped around the outer edges, when deep in thought. 

I miss watching him carefully tend to his tomato plants and point out those he had marked for BLTs.

I miss watching his face when speaking on the phone to one of his kids.

Earl getting ready to plant tomatoes.

I miss witnessing his meticulous attention to detail whenever he went about fixing something … anything … he made sure things got done right the first time.

I miss hearing the way he’d begin a sentence with “If a guy were to . . .” because he never stopped considering new ways to approach a task at hand.

I miss seeing him sitting in his favorite chair at the kitchen table, sipping coffee from his favorite blue mug.

I miss his silent disapproval and how he’d slowly look down into his lap whenever he heard someone make a judgmental comment about another. 

I miss him at family birthday parties, at family barbecues.

I miss seeing him in his favorite pink oxford shirt that always made him look so handsome.

I miss seeing him behind the wheel in his maroon and silver Dodge pick-up truck.

I miss him. 

Earl enjoys a day at my grandparents’ farm outside Onawa, Iowa.

Foal electrocuted by heartless cable thieves who tested live wires on it

I’ve been keeping an ongoing report on the Iowa Cold Cases website documenting the needless destruction and deaths — all across the nation and abroad — brought about by copper thieves. I had cases from all 50 states. From Asia and Australia, Canada and China, Scotland and South Africa. And more.

I thought I’d seen it all. I was wrong.

My list of deaths is likely far from complete, but one thing has always remained constant: of the 50+ deaths already listed, only one name — Earl Thelander — falls under the category “Innocent Victims.”  Earl was my stepfather, married to my mother just shy of 25 years before dying of burns suffered in an explosion caused by copper thieves.

Courtesy photo Daily Mail
Burnt to death: Callous copper cable thieves cut down a pylon leaving live wires exposed before using a six month old foal as a ‘tester’ to check if electricity was still moving through the line.

There’s a new victim to add to the list, though I’m not quite sure how to list it. The atrocity of this particular crime falls outside the boundaries of heinous acts and anything even I could have imagined.

It happened in the UK, in Sittingbourne, Kent, where heartless copper thieves used a six-month-old foal as a “tester” to see if electricity still moved through the line they planned to cut and steal. It did, and the “horrifically burnt remains” of the foal were left in the field for its heartbroken owner — a man in his eighties — to discover the following day.

The crime not only claimed the trusting foal’s life, it also plunged 3,000 homes into complete darkness once the thieves cut down the pylon.

Day after day I read the harrowing stories: copper thieves leaving an animal welfare league, with 86 animals, without air conditioning in the July heat; copper thieves silencing 10 sirens during a tornado warning; copper thieves leaving hundreds of Verizon customers without landline, cell phone and Internet service; copper thieves causing between $250,000 and $300,000 in damage while freezing a state bridge in place; and copper thieves threatening US critical infrastructure by targeting electrical sub-stations, cellular towers, telephone land lines, railroads, water wells, construction sites, and vacant homes.

The stories are too numerous for me to include all of them on the website. And despite every new story about a copper theft death and the thief having caused his or her own death, I feel great sadness as I add yet another name to the list and think about the families left behind — families not only grieving their loved one’s death but also forced to face unsympathetic communities rife with contempt for the deceased’s offense.

Where does it stop? When will it end? When will state legislators begin to take seriously the need for strict (and enforced) scrap metal sales?

We’re waiting.


Tearjerker: Dying Man’s Final Wish to be Reunited With Dog

Kevin McCain with his dog, Yurtie

Kevin McCain with his dog, Yurtie. Courtesy photo KCRG

What a story. What a community and hospice house.

This is one of those stories that just “gets you” right there.

This is the story of a dying homeless man and his final wish — to be reunited with his dog Yurtie — and the people who made that wish come true.

Thanks to KCRG for such a heartwarming account of what happened and for all the terrific photos.

Readers remember stories like these.

Dying Man’s Final Wish to be Reunited With Dog



Missouri River Flood Photos between Onawa and Blencoe, Iowa

Missouri River flood photos taken between Onawa and Blencoe, Iowa, on June 22, 2011, as well as photos taken west of Onawa and at Decatur Bend in rural Monona County.

Click on first photo for slideshow of larger photos with descriptions.

All photos by Jody Ewing.


S l o w e r   T h a n   M o l a s s e s

[Another] commercial for Long Lines Internet services came on TV just as I finished titling this post … which was just after I took Long Lines’ We Dare You speed test, which was just after I took the speed test.

My Mac has a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and despite my almost weekly (at times daily) conversations with Long Lines (who promise connection speeds up to 5 MG in exchange for my monthly [cough] $44.99 + tax ISP fee), I just can’t help but feel the numbers aren’t quite adding up.

Here’s a quick look at what I’m often getting in exchange for those five monthly sawbucks:

Results from

Or, when I dared to take the Long Lines speed test:

Speed test result from Long Lines

Now, if this isn’t bad enough, imagine how depressed I feel when I visit Long Lines’ website and see something like this:

Long Lines tells me the 10 MB speeds are (so far) only available in South Sioux City, NE. Okay. So, I guess they get “up to 10MBs” for $41.99 while the rest of us pay $44.99 for “up to 5 MB.” And while both 0.44 Mbps and 627 kbps fall within that up to 5 MB range, they’re not exactly the speeds I feel I’m paying for.

I know exactly what you’re thinking: So don’t just whine and complain — switch to a more reliable ISP!

Here’s where I’d have to tell you we live in western Iowa. Sure, there’s another option: Qwest, which only guarantees speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps. For all I know, their customers might even be connecting at something close to that, but every time I think about switching, I remember some of those oh-so-glorious days where my speed tests actually registered around 4 Mbps and I was flying through page after page, getting things done, rather than constantly resetting the modem/router after waiting endless minutes for pages to load.

Nowadays, I feel a little like a dog waiting for Long Lines to throw me the occasional high speed bone. I’m beginning to think, though, those 1.5 bones might be rather tasty — especially if Qwest threw me one regularly … like every single day.