Missing Dad Earl: Five Years Gone

On August 28, 2012, in Family, by Jody Ewing

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.

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.

 

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

 

 

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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.

 

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Bailing out Benji

On June 3, 2011, in Pets, Videos, by Jody Ewing

Just ran across this truly beautiful and inspiring video on the new website “Bailing out Benji: Iowans for Pets!

How sad that Iowa ranks almost at the very bottom (only five below us) when it comes to animal cruelty laws. Christie Vilsack, we need you!

Thank you, Mindi, for creating such a great site and FB group!

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

On May 29, 2011, in Miscellany, by Jody Ewing

[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 speedtest.net 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 speedtest.net

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.

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Bringing Jack Home: Day 1

On May 26, 2011, in Pets, by Jody Ewing

One of three photos Sherry sent me

We’ve all seen the stories on TV and in our newspapers — the ones about starving or abused dogs that somehow managed to survive horrific lives until, almost miraculously, they stumbled or tumbled into some type of scenario where a perfect stranger took notice and came to the rescue.

They are the dogs every dog lover wants to adopt. By the time the stories hit the airwaves, a long line of potential new “owners” already has formed, hoping to give the neglected or abused pet his or her new “forever home.”

Since my 14-year-old Cocoa died in September 2010 (eight months ago today, in fact), I hadn’t given much thought to getting another dog. After all, we still have 12-year-old Bear, a chocolate Lab, and Hagan, our Chesapeake, who will be eight years old Sept. 1.

I hadn’t given the idea much thought until Tuesday, May 17, when I received an e-mail from Sherry Toelle, a friend from Atlantic, Iowa. She wondered if we’d ever got another dog, and whether we might be interested in one a friend of hers — Jane Loew, a social worker, like Sherry — had found on a country road between Atlantic and Exira in Cass County on Friday the 13th. Sherry had attached three photos to the e-mail, and I was struck by the dog’s similarity to my Cocoa; they shared the same colors, similar faces, and were nearly the same size.

The dog Jane found had not led a pleasant life. He walked on only three legs, was covered with wood ticks and fleas, and his ribcage  protruded from his starving body. His back right leg dangled behind him as he — in no uncertain terms — made it clear to Jane she would never get past him in the road without stopping first.

Jane did what most drivers would; she looked around for a farm or home, thinking he might be lost or someone’s family pet who’d been hit by a car. But there were no homes anywhere nearby, and the young dog clearly needed medical attention. She eventually opened her car door, and the dog jumped in using his three good legs.

Jane took the dog to the Cass County Animal Clinic in Atlantic, where Dr. L.E. Victora would attend to the injuries and keep him for the weekend. As it turned out, the dog’s right back leg was broken. He’d not only suffered a major fracture of the tibia, but four other cracks in the tibia from the top to the bottom.

Dr. Victora estimated the male dog’s age at about one year old. The dog was “such a good dog,” he said, he couldn’t bear to put it down.

On Monday, Jane placed the dog with a foster family, and Sherry e-mailed me the following day.

Dennis with Bear, Hagan and Jack at home

We met Sherry and Jane in Avoca on Wednesday, May 18, and I’ll never forget the first time I saw “Jack’s” face. He wasn’t jumping or barking or acting wild, just quietly peeking out at me — much like a small child evaluating his or her new surroundings — from the back seat. His black and brown face was all I could see between the driver’s headrest and the vehicle’s door.

I loved him instantly — even before he got out and I saw the long pink cast on his back right leg.

Dennis and I took separate turns walking him in the grass near the “Wings” truck stop, and I nonchalantly said many names aloud to see if he’d respond. “Cookie. Cocoa. Sam. Max. Buster. Buddy. Lucky. Jack. Toto. Toby. Gus.”

He kept walking, but I liked the sound of “Jack.”

Back in the parking lot, Dennis took his leash and, without a word from me, said “Jack. I think he looks like a Jack.”

Hagan shows Jack the yard

Once Jane and her son and Sherry said goodbye to the little dog, we promised them we’d keep them updated with photos and stories. We would never let them forget about the little black and brown dog.

On the way home, we talked more about names while “probably Jack” settled his back end on my lap in the passenger seat, his front legs and shoulders against Dennis and his middle resting on the console.

Just before we got home, I called my youngest sister Kysa and asked her to come over to meet our new friend. When she asked his name, we said we wanted her to help us decide; we didn’t tell her what we were thinking. She said she’d always kept a list of male dog names in the event she got another male dog, and after she’d rattled off a half dozen of them, she said, “But he looks like a Jack.”

Hagan and Jack take a breather on the (dogs') living room mattress.

Jack it would be.

Bear and Hagan eagerly welcomed Jack into their yard, home and hearts. They played for hours, getting to know one another, and when we finally brought them inside, Jack lay happily on the living room mattress (a dog-friendly living room), before finally falling asleep with Bear.

At bedtime, we all went upstairs, and while Bear and Hagan settled into the two twin mattresses lying side by side on the floor next to our bed, I lifted Jack up to see if he’d like to sleep with us. He stayed there only a minute, but preferred to spend his first night with Bear and Hagan.

Bear and Jack worn out on the first day.

I helped him down, secretly wishing he would have chosen to take Cocoa’s old spot on the bed next to me.

Just before I turned off the light, I leaned across Dennis to look down at the two beds below. All three dogs lay snuggled up together on the very same mattress … Jack in the middle.

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Getting Ready for Talk Radio

On February 7, 2011, in Entertainment, Writing, by Jody Ewing

Moebanshees Lair promoI’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little bit nervous about tomorrow night. I’ve been interviewed for television news programs before, have spoken before large crowds, and even appeared as a guest on Chris Matthews’ Hardball on MSNBC. But, I’ve never done a live radio show before. There will be no retakes.

Tuesday night (February 8) I’m the weekly guest on the Internet Talk Radio show Moebanshee’s Lair. The visionary talk radio program was launched by Asylums Gate in June 2008, and covers topics such as the sciences, environmental issues, criminology, history, politics, mysteries and more. I’ve had my hands and feet in a few of those over the past two decades — still have them in a couple.

Still, I find myself surprised whenever someone is interested in what I have to say.  To me, the real interest lies in the subjects I just happen to write about. (Yeah, I know; I just violated that spurious rule about never ending a sentence with a proposition. But I simply couldn’t force myself to write something like … about which I happen to write — or whatever.)

At any rate, I’ll have to remember not to talk too fast. Or speak too loudly (a family curse). I’m prone to do both — especially if I’m nervous. I’ll just have to be strong. Confident. Act like I know what I’m talking about. (Did I mention I love breaking rules?)

Past guests on Moebanshee’s Lair have included legendary Latin jazz guitarist Eddie Benitiz, anthropologist John Sabol, animal rights activist Amanda Sorvino, retired L.A. police detective & author Steve Hodel (The Black Dahlia Case), and actor Michael Patrick Boatman (Spin City, Arliss,Hamburger Hill). I am humbled.

The radio show airs Tuesday evenings from 10 p.m. to 12 midnight eastern daylight time, is hosted by Moebanshee and is carried on http://www.gameconradio.com/. Like I said, I’ve never done this before, but I think you just go to that link and can tune in by a link they’ll provide. And yes, I really am looking forward to talking about that which has mattered to me over the course of my life (so far), and it’s always a good thing reminding people of the many unsolved murders we still have here in Iowa.

I will stick Post-It notes on my telephone that say things like “Slow down” and “Don’t speak too loudly.” They only need to hear me on the other end of the line, not in Argentina.

And I will be strong. After all, if I can play hardball with Chris Matthews, this should be a piece of cake! I hope you’ll tune in.

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Losing Cocoa

On September 27, 2010, in Family, Pets, by Jody Ewing

Today was the first day in over 14 years I came home without Cocoa there to greet me. Cocoa, the eldest of our three beloved family dogs, passed away yesterday morning on Sunday, September 26, 2010.

Rhett and Cocoa

My youngest son Rhett with Cocoa

Earlier today, my mother took my son Rhett and me over to Mapleton, Iowa, to the veterinary clinic Cocoa just visited a week ago today, and where he will be cremated and then returned to us.

Losing Cocoa has stripped my emotions raw, but anyone who’s ever truly loved and lost a family dog or pet fully understands what we are going through.

Most dogs have one family member whom they own, but over the years we never were really able to determine which one of us Cocoa had chosen because he’d laid his claim of unconditional love with all of us.

He’d started out as my daughter Jenny’s dog. Back in June 1996 when my sister Kim’s dog Shelby gave birth to Cocoa, we already had two dogs — Sam, a Cocker spaniel/Golden retriever mix, and Chelsea, a Shar-pei mix — and felt they were enough to make our lives complete. But 15-year-old Jenny, who very seldom asked for anything, had fallen in love with this little brown and black bundle who’d spent part of one of his first days locked in the glovebox of my brother-in-law’s pick-up, where my two young nephews had put him “just for fun,” they said, to see if anyone missed him.

Cocoa and Jennifer, Summer 2010

Cocoa and Jennifer, Summer 2010

“I’ll even take him off to college with me when I go,” Jenny had promised, and I simply could not say no. Two and one-half years later when she left for college where she’d live in the dorm, Cocoa remained behind and alternated sleeping with my youngest son, Rhett, and then me.

On Valentine’s Day 2001, Sam died three months shy of his 13th birthday, and both Chelsea and Cocoa grieved along with us. In 2002 when Dennis and his Golden Lab/Retriever mix, Bear, joined our family, Cocoa joyously welcomed them both.

Cocoa, Chelsea and Sam

Cocoa and Chelsea (back) and Sam (front)

The year 2002 wasn’t good for our new family. Dennis lost his 24-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, to cancer on June 30, and on December 12 we lost 10-year-old Chelsea, also to cancer. For a while, it was just Cocoa and Bear, and we tried to take them with us everywhere we went.

On Sept. 1, 2004, we moved into a 100-year-old home that at one time had been converted into apartments, but there was a unit on the ground floor for Bill Bowley — one of my late father’s best friends who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and for whom I cared.

Bill brought with him his Chesapeake Retriever, Hagan, and his African Gray parrot, Clyde. So in 2006 when Bill finally had to leave to go to a nursing home, we welcomed Hagan and Clyde into our family, and once again had three dogs in our household.

Hagan, Cocoa and Bear

Hagan and Cocoa (front) and Bear

They became the best of friends. We’d no longer refer to them as “the dogs,” but “the boys.”

All three had always been house dogs, and Cocoa — as the alpha male — continued to sleep on the bed with us until a few months ago when he began to fall backwards after his attempt to make the upward jump.

Some days, Cocoa would let me lift him up to the bed without a fuss, but more often than not, he’d growl under his breath — nothing threatening, but more as if to say “How dare you imply I need any help?” — and he’d quickly jump right back down and settle in between Bear and Hagan on the camping mattresses we kept beside the bed covered with sheets and comforters.

Cocoa

Cocoa

Losing Cocoa hurts. It hurts a lot.

Yes, I know he was 14 years old. I know he had a good, long life surrounded by people he loved and who loved him in return, and I also know he’s in a better place. But, just try to tell that to one’s heart. Try to explain that to Bear, whose eyes stare woefully into ours as he rests his head upon our laps. Try to explain that to Hagan, who keeps burying his face under the pillows on the edge of the sofa.

I tried to play fetch with Hagan this afternoon after returning from the vet without Cocoa. Hagan still chased after the ball, but then kept dropping down in the yard right where he’d found it. He’d rest his head atop the ball and stare off  into a yard conspicuously missing his companion and the only other competitor who always raced to get the ball first.

We all miss you Cocoa. We miss you even more than the day you disappeared and lay inside a glovebox waiting for someone to rescue you.

We will always miss you. We will always love you. You brought happiness and joy to so many lives, and you will not be forgotten in all the rest of the days of those lives.

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Dog Killer Bobby Loggins
Bobby Loggins of Sioux City, Iowa, fed his 5-month-old American Bulldog, “Sire,” bowl after bowl of beer, and when the puppy urinated on the carpet, beat the dog repeatedly in the head until it began coughing up blood, went into convulsions and died. District Court Judge Gary Wenell’s “…not some valuable fancy show dog” comments and slap-on-the-wrist punishment left a courtroom wailing.

In Iowa and across the nation, there’s only one thing snowballing faster than the white stuff falling from the sky, and that’s the anger and outrage — downright rancor, in fact — toward Sioux City puppy killer Bobby Loggins and District Court Judge Gary E. Wenell, who, despite calling Loggins’ actions “depraved and sadistic” sentenced Loggins to only 30 days in jail (with credit for time already served), rather than imposing the maximum sentence of two years under Iowa law.

Adding insult to injury, Judge Wenell justified his decision — witnessed by a packed courtroom of dog lovers and owners, many of whom openly wept — by stating, “We must remember the victim herein was not a person,” and “[Sire] was not some valuable fancy show dog belonging to another. It was not a neighbor boy’s dog, it was not an elderly person’s companion…We do not have a statewide problem with this kind of crime.”

Wow. Just try telling any veterinarian that one’s own Border Collie beaten 30 times in the head felt less pain than neighbor boy Johnny Smith’s Border Collie, whom he also beat. Just try telling police that just because your mixed-breed terrier is bleeding from the mouth and ears and nose after you punched and kicked him that it’s really no big deal, because, after all, “Gee, it’s not like I did this to ol’ elderly Ethel Simpson’s companion dog down the road.”

Worse, just try looking into the eyes of a 50-pound bleeding and dying American Bulldog pup who wanted nothing more than to serve and love you but really just couldn’t help himself from piddling on the floor after you fed him bowl after bowl of beer, and just try telling him how his short life and the pain you inflicted on him didn’t matter because, after all, it wasn’t like he was a fancy show dog or anything. It wasn’t like he belonged to someone else. It wasn’t like he could suffer or feel pain. It wasn’t like he wasn’t yours to use and abuse as you saw fit. And, if there were any doubts about the rights you had to inflict such heinous and hideous cruelty upon him, just remind him this is Iowa where people can get away with things like that. Tell him too, that if he doesn’t believe you, well…. he could have introduced you to a judge who’d have set you straight had you not died.

Sire, the 5-month-old American Bulldog killed by his owner, Bobby Loggins

Sire

When I wrote my original post here on the blog about Bobby Loggins pounding to death his 5-month-old American Bulldog, “Sire,” for piddling on the floor, I had no foresight of the venom about to spew forth from across the country after Loggins’ sentencing. The judge’s slap-on-the-wrist punishment sparked a chain reaction of outrage and vitriolic comments with regard to Iowa’s double-edged and reprehensible miscarriage of justice.

I also, admittedly, did not know the full extent to which poor Sire was beaten and suffered until the recent court proceedings. And though it pains me even now to include those details absent from my original post, they are precisely why our state and every other state needs to recognize that tolerating such abominable acts is precursory to eroding one’s very morals and soul. When that happens, can the breakdown of families and communities be far behind?

Show and Tell: Value’s Sliding Scale

Not until Judge Gary Wenell’s Feb. 12, 2010, decision of Bobby Loggins’ fate did I really recognize the extent to which lives are graded on a sliding scale. It’s a tough thing to swallow. Like bile. The lesson began last June.

On June 9, 2009, Bobby Loggins, then 35, spent the first part of the day drinking beer, smoking marijuana and fishing with his friend, Chad Peterson. After the two returned to Loggins’ home at 1611 23rd Street in Sioux City and were joined by other friends for a party, Loggins began feeding his 5-month-old American Bulldog, Sire, “bowl after bowl of beer,” according to Peterson.

When Sire began to urinate on the dining room floor, Loggins — who has a history of drug and alcohol abuse — straddled the pup and restrained it with one hand while using the other to repeatedly strike blows to the dog’s head. He then picked Sire up by his ears and tail and took him outside through a back door.

Witnesses said (and later testified) that when Loggins eventually brought the puppy back into the house and placed it on the kitchen floor, that the brown and white pup was bleeding from the mouth and nose, shaking and unable to move.

“To me it looked like the dog was paralyzed,” Peterson stated. “He was shaking. It looked like convulsions. He was coughing up blood.”

Peterson said he knelt down and tried to comfort the puppy while Loggins just stood there, showing no remorse for what he had done. When Peterson confronted Loggins about his [lack of] reaction, Loggins shoved him into a chair and ordered him to leave. Peterson obliged and peddled his bike to the Kum & Go station at 14th and Court streets, where he called police.

Guest Kollin Jones said he’d witnessed Loggins rubbing the dog’s nose into the carpet before pinning it down to inflict additional punches. Jones also said that he, his girlfriend, Alexandra Groves, Loggins and his wife and Peterson had engaged in a conversation about dogs drinking beer, and told police Loggins “took it way too far.”

Loggins’ wife, Rochelle Loggins, didn’t see it that way. Rochelle Loggins said her husband had only given the dog “a few taps on the head” before grabbing it by the collar and escorting it outside. She said her husband told her he had slammed the door into the dog.

Loggins was charged with animal torture, though Iowa’s current animal cruelty/torture laws allowed no more than aggravated misdemeanor charges being filed in his case, which carried a sentence of up to just two years in prison and a $6,000 fine. On June 18, 2009, Loggins pleaded not guilty to inflicting the 30 blows to Sire’s head that caused the puppy’s death.

On Friday, Dec. 18, 2009, Loggins stood trial before Sioux City District Court Judge Gary Wenell for allegedly beating Sire to death. Loggins, who waived his right to a jury trial, also was charged with making a false police report, a simple misdemeanor. Wenell dismissed that charge when Assistant Woodbury County Attorney Mark Campbell said the facts of the case did not fit the charge.

Wenell found Loggins guilty of the animal torture crime on January 25, 2010, with sentencing scheduled for Feb. 12.

As eyes across the nation focused on Iowa that day, it came as no surprise when Loggins’ attorney, John Moeller, and Loggins’ wife pleaded for a shorter sentence than the two-year maximum pushed for by the prosecutor. Rochelle Loggins argued she needed him at home to take care of the kids while she slept so she could work nights.

No one, however, ever imagined the nonsequitur the judge would deliver.

Wenell wrote that eyewitness accounts and testimony of the veterinarian clearly indicated that Loggins’ actions caused the puppy’s death. Loggins had restrained the puppy with one hand in order to inflict blows with the other, which Wenell said caused the animal severe physical pain.

Additionally, though no witnesses saw what happened outside, Wenell wrote that circumstantially, the evidence supported that additional blows took place outside, and that Loggins took the dog outside because he knew his actions would be deemed unacceptable.

“Restraint of a more or less helpless creature to administer pain to such a creature connotes depravity and sadism,” he wrote.

Yet after noting all these facts, the judge then stripped 95 percent off the maximum sentence, sentenced Loggins to only 30 days in jail and credited him for time already served.

“[Sire] was not some valuable fancy show dog belonging to another,” he said.

A fancy show dog? Belonging to another?

The sliding scale nosedived. I choked on the intimations: Show me a plumber and I’ll tell you why his life is less important than a bank’s vice president. Show me your next-door neighbor’s 5-month-old daughter and I’ll tell you why her life matters more than your own little girl’s. Show me a champion greyhound on the track and I’ll tell you why his life is valued more than that happy-go-lucky family retriever racing to fetch the frisbee your son threw in your back yard.

Wenell also stated that Iowa didn’t have a statewide problem with animal torture and that there was no evidence that Loggins — whose prior convictions include drug possession and traffic offenses — would commit similar violent acts against people. Loggins will be on probation for 18 months upon his release, and the possible $6,000 fine was shaved down to only $650.

Loggins was to report to the Woodbury County Jail by 6 p.m. on February 17th.

“We have to start as a community to change this, and today we didn’t do very good,” said animal rescuer Terry Mann, who added she was more motivated than ever to continue her fight against abuse. “We’ll be watching,” she said, “we’ll be watching, and you’ll be seeing us.”

In a landslide of raging injustice across Iowa and beyond, one question remained consistent: How could something like this have happened in our justice system?

For the answer, my friends, look no further than the voter registration card in your wallet or desk drawer, and if you hold it just right, you’ll see the state legislature in its reflection.

Making the Grade

Remember your school report cards? Yeah, me too. We may not always have liked all those grades, but how else were we to know if our efforts added up to usual, customary and reasonable standards? Report cards measure progress. They highlight our strengths, punctuate our weaknesses and enable us to work toward realizing our own individual capabilities.

Report cards don’t end after high school or college. The follow us throughout our lifetimes: in our jobs, in our families and communities, and even all the way to the legislature and beyond. We’re constantly being summed up, evaluated, measured and compared, and assigned a grade. Terry Mann knows this well; people are watching.

Rep. Steve King

Iowa Congressman Steve King

When it comes to Sioux City, Iowa, it’s really no exception to other states and cities. One thing Sioux City has that other cities don’t, however, is Iowa Congressman Steve King.

According to tabs kept on Rep. King by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), one might even say he’s a good friend to the likes of Bobby Loggins, who, fortunately for Loggins, just happens to reside in Steve King’s district. The HSUS, you see, also does report cards. Legislators nationwide are scored according to his or her vote on specific pro- or anti-animal related issues — everything from puppy mills and horse slaughtering to pet abuse and grinding chicks alive and using electrified prods to bring “downer cows” to their feet.

The Humane Society’s Legislative Fund just recently released their Mid-Term Humane Scorecard reporting on legislators either leading the way or blocking pro-animal legislation, and anyone living in western Iowa’s 5th Congressional District won’t even bother to ask how King fared. Of 100 possible points (equivalent to an A), King, not surprisingly, scored not only an “F” (Zero percentage points) but was singled out by a long row of bright red Xs used to denote those who specifically took an “anti-animal” issue with one’s vote.

Don’t for a minute think this “F” will cause King to lose a minute’s sleep; he’s repeatedly stated in the past he won’t support bills aimed to prevent animal torture and abuse until Roe v. Wade is overturned. (No, I am not making this up.) And while I truly understand and respect opinions on both sides of the abortion debate, I also recognize that it doesn’t preclude the crime behind beating to death either a 5-month-old puppy or 50-year-old woman and that each issue should be addressed on its own merit.

One might think a legislator would take into consideration the values and opinions in his or her legislative district, yet King places no more value on the HSUS report card than he did with the one at Northwest Missouri State University, where he dabbled in a few courses before becoming a college drop-out. His opinions regarding whether legislators should be educated mirror those pertaining to animal abuse and even human torture; he simply does not care what other people think. As has been noted repeatedly by the press, he actually brags about having said or done something that would render a decent human being embarrassed and ashamed.

To wit, King’s intense hatred and/or disregard for any animal’s welfare made headlines yet again as recently as yesterday. In Iowa’s bitterly cold temperatures, a raccoon seeking refuge from our latest blizzard had begun scratching at King’s rural home in search of shelter. King grabbed “Desert Eagle” (his gun) and went after the raccoon, who fled. King then chased down the cold but trusting animal and shot and killed it. And, once again, instead of feeling remorseful for his actions, King used the opportunity to brag about his “kill” on his Twitter page, going so far as to use the juvenile phrase “Desert Eagle 1, Crazy Raccoon zero.”

Bret Hayworth

Bret Hayworth

Sioux City Journal political reporter Bret Hayworth — one of the most unbiased political journalists I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and calling a friend — wrote yesterday about the King/raccoon incident on his Politically Speaking blog. I’ve known Bret for a number of years and have long admired his ability to remain impartial while still drawing in readers with his engaging writing style and commitment to certitude vs. slant. But in between the paragraphs of his King’s raccoon conquest post, I saw lurking between the lines a human being troubled by the story about which he wrote.

It’s that kind of character that earlier this month earned Bret the Best Blog by a Newspaper award by the Iowa Newspaper Association annual convention. The blog contest wasn’t simply for political blogs, but for blogs of any subject matter for Iowa newspapers. And, at the risk of offending other newspaper bloggers whom I regularly follow, nobody deserved that award more than Bret.

There are parallels here, you see, between the work Bret does and the work our congressman is supposed to be doing and the death of a 5-month-old American Bulldog named Sire. Perhaps if Rep. King led by Bret Hayworth’s example — that being the providing of fair and equal representation to both sides of those whom one is hired or elected to represent — it’s possible Sire might still be alive today and joyously chasing after a frisbee thrown in the back yard by one of Bobby Loggins’ own children.