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Family offers reward for information on explosion

TOM MCMAHON, Staff Writer

ONAWA – Doug Thelander said his father was a good man who suffered a painful death because some “low life” broke into his house and stole $20 worth of copper.

He wants anyone with information about the Aug. 27 burglary of Earl Thelander’s Onawa rental property to come forward.

Earl went to the house that day after learning thieves had broken in and removed copper tubing waterlines and had attempted to steal the copper propane line. Cutting the line caused propane to leak into the basement.

“Dad had shut off the propane line, aired out the house and left,” Doug said. During one of the last conversations he had with his dad, Earl told Doug he returned to the house later and plugged in a fan.

“I didn’t smell anything,” Earl told his son.

A pocket of propane must have lingered and caused the house to blow up, Doug said. Earl suffered second- and third-degree burns in the explosion. A few days later, he died.

Doug said law enforcement officials interviewed several people following his father’s death, but so far no one has been arrested. Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt said the burglary remains under investigation.

When Doug and the rest of his family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner, they vowed to keep searching for the person(s) whose actions led to Earl’s death.

The family is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thief or thieves. In addition, friends and family members distributed posters to area convenience stores, bars and gas stations.

“Somebody knows what happened that day,” Doug said. “Decent people need to step up to the plate and take back their community. We want some justice.”

Doug said whoever cut the line had to realize it could have caused problems.

“They left the tank leaking gas. They had to have known the ending to that would not have been good.”

He said Earl’s death has been hard on Earl’s wife, six children and five stepchildren. Doug said his father and stepmother were very close and she has suffered health problems since Earl’s death.

“It’s tough for anyone to lose a husband, father or friend,” he said. “It is especially hard this time of year. It makes Christmas rough.”

Anyone with information is asked to call (800) 859-1414. Callers can remain anonymous.

“I don’t want this guy thinking he got away with something,” Doug said. “I want him to be thinking, ‘Is this the day they are going to catch me?'”

© SW Iowa News 2007

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