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.

KETV: Man Dies After $20 Copper Theft

On January 12, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Man Dies After $20 Copper Theft

 (Video has disappeared and we are trying to find another online copy.)

Video from KETV Newswatch Channel 7 in Omaha, NE,
regarding the death of Earl Thelander of Onawa, IA
Air Date: October 12, 2007

Onawa, Iowa — A $20 copper theft in August led to the death of an Iowa man, and local authorities said on Friday that they need the public’s help to solve the crime.

Earl Thelander, 80, died Sept. 1 after an explosion in a home he owns outside of Onawa. His son, Doug, said his father was preparing the property for a new renter. In the process, someone raided the inside of the home, police said, stealing wiring and tubing and cutting a gas line into the home.

Doug Thelander said his father aired out the gas smell in the house for almost three hours the next day, then plugged in a fan to move the air around.

“He said, ‘Doug, I didn’t smell anything, but that spark there was just a tremendous explosion,'” Thelander said, recalling one of his last conversations with his father.

Earl Thelander had second- and third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body. He died in a hospital four days later.

“It’s tough to watch. It’s tough to watch somebody like that just fade away,” Doug Thelander said.

Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt said he has been working the case since the beginning. Now, he’s asking the public for more help.

“We’re talking about $20 worth of copper,” the sheriff said. “We’re trying to make people aware that somebody had to of heard something, or somebody spoke about it. We just want people to call in and give us some information.”

“He was a humble man,” said Doug Thelander. “He was a strong man. He was a good man.”

If you have information, call 800-859-1413. Callers may remain anonymous, and there is a reward for good information.

Copyright 2007 by KETV.com. All rights reserved

More articles on Earl Thelander death

Home explodes after thief nabs copper pipes

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Record Herald logo


Home explodes after thief nabs copper pipes

“It blew out one wall and bowed another one”


August 30, 2007

A thief who stripped copper tubing from a propane tank is blamed for a gas buildup and house explosion that severely burned an 80-year-old Onawa man, authorities said Wednesday.

Earl Thelander suffered third-degree burns over nearly half his body in Tuesday’s blast. Investigators say the gas buildup was linked to the disappearance of the tubing, which has increasingly been targeted by so-called “urban miners” who hope to cash in on the high price of certain scrap metals.

The burglar who hit Thelander’s rural home “maybe got $15 worth of copper,” Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt said. “They cut the propane line going to the furnace of the house in an attempt to steal the copper.”

Pratt said Thelander discovered the theft Tuesday and tried to air out the house, which he uses for rental income. He went to the basement and plugged in a fan, which investigators say likely sparked the explosion shortly after noon.

“It blew out one wall and bowed another one,” Pratt said. “But Earl walked out of there.”

The thief got away with 25 to 40 feet of copper tubing. Scrap metal prices have climbed in recent years due to increased demand in countries such as India and China.

“This just totally bowled people over that someone would do something menacing like this,” Onawa Mayor Rebecca Tanner said. “It’s one thing to steal copper water pipes. But to steal copper gas pipes is beyond comprehension. This caused a tremendous explosion. Everyone knows how dangerous gas can be.

“Everyone in town who knows about this is amazed, startled and outraged.”

Thelander tried to use his cell phone to call for help, but it apparently was rendered inoperable in the blast.

“He drove himself back into town and to the hospital,” Pratt said. “He is really a remarkable guy.”

Thelander was later moved to an Omaha hospital with a specialized burn unit. He was in critical condition Wednesday.

Pratt said there have been relatively few copper thefts reported in Monona County.

“Counties to the south have had this problem,” he said. “Now we’ve got it – in a major way.”

Reporter Tom Alex can be reached at (515) 284-8088 or talex@dmreg.com.


Good point on if he had walked in on the thieves…
Posted by: leopard_colony on Sat Sep 01, 2007 9:18 am
Unfortunately Granddad hit the nail on the head… what would happen if someone interrupted these thieves? Odds are the homeowner would wind up dead. Since most theft is drug related it is likely the thieves have impaired judgment and are desperate for a fix. If you are in a rural area and hear someone outside you better be armed. There is no way the sheriff can reach you in time, nor do you want to pester them with false alarms. So grab your gun when you investigate. It doesn’t mean you have to shoot someone, it just means you can save your own life.

my solution
Posted by: FarWest on Thu Aug 30, 2007 2:00 pm
This thief deserves about 3 feet of 3/4″ copper suppository. I would say yes to attempted murder. I hope Mr. Thelander survives this. He must be one heck of a strong man to walk out of there and go for help.

Reader Comment
Posted by: Granddad on Thu Aug 30, 2007 1:12 pm
That is nothing less then attemted murder Don`t know if they are the same thieves that stole the copper out of One of my rentals three months ago. But catch these rotten bastards before someone gets killed. seriously if This outstanding gentalman (for his survival skills if nothing else)would have walked in on them stealing the copper what do you think these scumbags would have done(Surrender) Right.Solution. Need to moniter all sales of bulk copper having said this 3 times now DMPD are you listening there is only a handful of places that take metel like this. ARE records being kept ,Names being taken,Follow ups being made MMMM or a police force being lazy. now an elderly man has third degree burns over half his body GET BUSY.

Reader Comment
Posted by: dvmurphy from Waterloo, IA on Sep 4, 2007
I personally know Earl Thealander and his wife Hope. I hope they catch the no-good idiot who stripped his house of the copper tubing to the furnace. I hope Earl is doing great at the hospital and my heart goes out to his family. He is a great man and a great landlord to have. I should know as I rented an apartment from them for two years. If you needed anything that family was great. He is a well respected man in his community and would give you the shirt off his back to help you. The punk who caused his burns I hope he enjoys his lousy $15 that could have cost Earl his life. My Father always said that what you don’t pay for on earth you pay three fold to the Lord. The idiot who caused this accident will have to live with what he did. God bless you Earl.

Reader Comment
Posted by: dvmurphy from Waterloo, IA on Sep 4, 2007
I just found out that Earl died. I am saddened for his loss. My heart goes out to his family. If they catch this person responsible he should be tried for murder.

Copyright The Des Moines Register

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Man Recovering After House Explodes

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

WHO TV logo

Man Recovering After House Explodes


August 31, 2007

Thieves broke into Earl Thelander’s Onawa home on Tuesday, stealing copper pipes and starting a gas leak. When Thelander turned on a fan to clear the fumes, the house exploded, burning over 80 percent of his body.

The 80-year-old called for help from his cell phone, but then decided to drive himself to the hospital. Thelander remains in critical condition, clinging to life.

Earl’s sons say they don’t have time to be angry at the thieves, they’re just hoping their dad pulls through.

“Tonight we’re just hoping that his kidneys and lungs keep functioning. You know it’s definitely a struggle at this point,” Brad Thelander said.

Police say the copper taken from Thelanders’s home was worth only $10.

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Victim Of Robbery And Explosion Passes Away

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

KTIV banner


Victim Of Robbery And Explosion Passes Away

September 1, 2007, 11:12 pm

KTIV photo of rural homeAn Onawa, Iowa man died Saturday night, just days after a propane explosion at his home.

On Tuesday, police say someone robbed this home and stole copper tubing water lines. In the process, the thieves cut the propane line.

Later that day, the homeowner, 80 year old Earl Thelander, turned on a fan to vent the fumes and that’s when the explosion happened.

Thelander drove himself to the Burgess Medical Center in Onawa, with burns over 40% of his body.

Copyright © 2007 KTIV

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Onawa man hurt in explosion dies in Omaha – SCJ

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Sioux City Journal logo


Onawa man hurt in explosion dies in Omaha


September 3, 2007
ONAWA, Iowa — The man hurt in a home explosion last week died Saturday in Omaha.

Earl Thelander, 80, died at Clarkson Hospital in Omaha. Funeral services will take place at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at First Christian Church in Onawa. Burial will be at a later date.

Thelander was hospitalized Tuesday with burn injuries after an explosion damaged an unoccupied home he owns in rural Onawa. The explosion happened in the basement at 20877 Gum Ave., where Thelander had just plugged in a fan to help vent fumes from a propane line that had been cut in an alleged burglary earlier Tuesday, the Monona County Sheriff’s Office reported.

After the explosion, Thelander drove about two miles to his home, where he then was taken to Burgess Health Center in Onawa. He was then was airlifted to an Omaha burn unit, where medical personnel treated second-degree burns over 40 percent of his body.

Authorities said they believe the explosion is connected to a cut propane line on a furnace in the basement. The sheriff’s office had been called to the home Tuesday morning on a report of burglary and vandalism, but when deputies arrived, no one was there.

The burglar broke a door to get into the home and removed copper water lines before attempting to take the copper propane line, the sheriff’s office reported. Thelander owns the home, which was vacant, neighbors said.


Journal Comments

Phyllis Brus wrote on Sep 3, 2007 6:55 PM:
“My feeling is if this vandal is found he should be tried for manslauter at the very least.”

~~Tragic~~ wrote on Sep 3, 2007 5:24 PM:
“How tragic. Chances are the person responsible for this tragedy doesn’t read the newspaper. But if by chance they do; you should be ashamed of yourself. You stole things that weren’t yours and then took this man’s life; all over a couple bucks!? Hopefully this family can grieve and find peace; knowing the “big guy” knows who you are.”

Anyone with information about the crime is urged to call the Monona County Sheriff’s Office at (712) 423-2525.

© Copyright 2007, Sioux City Journal

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Onawa Explosion Victim Dies

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

WHO TV logo

Onawa Explosion Victim Dies

September 3, 2007

An Onawa man injured last week in a natural gas explosion in the basement of a vacant home has died. Earl Thelander died Saturday at Clarkson Hospital in Omaha.

Officials say they think the home exploded when Thelander plugged in a fan to help vent fumes from a broken propane line leading to the furnace.

Officials say the line had been cut when burglars were stealing copper lines from the home and cut the gas lines before leaving.

Visitation and a funeral will be held later this week.

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Monday’s Our View: Tragic Turn

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing


Monday’s Our View: Tragic turn

“A person who kills another person with malice aforethought either expressed or implied commits murder.”


Our Position: Copper thieves responsible for man’s death.

As unlikely as it may have seemed, the rise in copper thefts was bound to take a tragic turn. On Sept. 1, Earl Thelander, 80, of Onawa succumbed to severe burns and injuries he suffered after thieves broke into a house he owned and stole copper tubing waterlines and attempted to steal the copper propane lines as well. When they didn’t succeed in the later, they left the lines damaged, emitting propane gas into the house.

Monona County officials said Thelander triggered an explosion when he plugged in a fan to help rid the house of fumes. Thankfully no one was living in the residence, but tragically, Thelander suffered second and third-degree burns in the explosion.

While some may dub this incident an accident, it was far from it. Thelander died as the result of someone else’s disregard for the law, both natural and state mandated.

While the Monona County Attorney Steve Allen is investigating what charges to file in the event an arrest is made, law officials all over southwest Iowa have made a point of noting that these crimes are hard to prosecute because it is difficult to identify suspects. Allen told The Daily Nonpareil last week he had ruled out a charge of first-degree murder unless intent to cause Thelander’s death could be proven.

Obviously the people who would perpetrate such a crime are far from rocket scientists, they obviously knew that cutting into the propane line was a bad idea since they left without stripping the copper from it. Rather than admit what they had done and possibly sparing Thelander’s life, they left a dangerous situation to someone else. The result was an explosion and the loss of one man’s life.

Perhaps even more tragic about the situation is the fact that copper thefts are happening virtually every day. Power losses have been reported, construction sites have suffered financial and time setbacks and local residents have had to cope in the sweltering heat after thieves stole their air conditioning units.

If you don’t think it’s that much of a problem, talk to the Rev. Geraldine Sanford of the Mount Zion Refuge Center, 3032 Seventh Ave. In July, thieves took the church’s air conditioner, a large commercial ground unit that was bolted into a concrete slab. A repairman told Sanford the thieves cut the unit out and pulled the plug to the electricity so that they would not get shocked. The estimate to replace the unit is between $2,400 and $3,000.

Investigating officers said the suspects probably wanted the unit for the copper. They said there would have been $85 to $90 worth of copper to be salvaged.

Essentially, the thieves are causing enormous amounts of destruction for small amounts of money.

How can you compare the cost of scrap metal to one man’s life? This is something the thieves did not think about, but it’s time we did, before someone else is hurt or killed.

In late August, Pottawattamie County and Council Bluffs city officials took small steps to attack the problem. The Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance stating anybody caught burning the unwanted excess from the wires will now be issued with a fine.

On a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Melvyn Houser absent, the board approved a $750 fine for those caught burning copper wires the first time and a $1,000 fine for each time thereafter.

The City Council has approved the first reading of an ordinance introduced by the Council Bluffs Police Department in an attempt to curb copper thefts.

Councilwoman Lynne Branigan was absent for the 4-0 vote, the first in a series for the ordinance, which requires local scrap dealers begin keeping records, including the use of fingerprints, of any individuals selling them scrap metals. The purpose is to crack down on the increasing number of scrap metals thefts, particularly copper and aluminum.

These records would then be used by the department for possible leads into metal thefts.

If we truly want to send a message to these thieves, there is no better place to start than in Monona County. Iowa law states “A person who kills another person with malice aforethought either expressed or implied commits murder.” By leaving a dangerous situation posed by the propane leak, the thieves knowingly placed Thelander in mortal danger before the explosion. Since the result was Thelander’s death, the thieves are ultimately responsible and should be charged with murder. Anything less would be a travesty of justice and an insult to Thelander’s family.

© Copyright 2007 SW Iowa News

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Copper Theft Compromised Safety

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing


Copper Theft Compromised Safety

Wire stolen cut railroad communication, crossing signal

September 13, 2007

Pole with copper hangingMore metal thefts have been reported in the metro and in one particular case, it again could have had tragic results.

Ever since the price of scrap metal has taken off, thieves have been stealing copper and aluminum, anything they can get their hands on.

Most of the easy targets have been stripped, so lately there has been a trend for more risky thefts. Thefts that endanger the crooks and compromise public safety.

“It’s not only against the law, it’s extremely unsafe,” says Mark Davis with the Union Pacific Railroad.

Someone snuck onto U.P. property at 6th and Pacific Tuesday morning, climbed the poles located along the tracks and made off with almost 5,000 feet of copper wire.

“That line there is dual purpose, not only commercial power to help with the line to serve for the signals, but also for communications in general,” says Davis. “Power the railroad signals which tells the trains when to move or not to move or the public warning device at the grade crossings.”

The line was quickly replaced, but at least for a little while, the Harriman Center couldn’t communicate with the some of the trains passing through the metro. The wire was stolen from the tracks that run parallel to I-480 in-between Vinton and Martha streets.

The disruption was minor and apparently no one was hurt, but Davis says there could have been a very different outcome. The thieves could have cut a “hot” line that supplied power to a railroad crossing signal, and endangered everyone crossing the tracks.

There’s also the issue of the personal risk the thieves took. “Very unsafe because you never know when these lines are going to be charged with power,” says Davis. “It could be very little power, it could be high voltage.”

When they’re caught, they’ll face felony theft charges. The U.P. works closely with local law enforcement, but they also send agents in undercover with video cameras. The railroad is serious about catching these people.

Last month, thieves stole about $20 worth of copper gas and water lines from an Onawa, Iowa house owned by Earl Thelander.

“The copper tubing had been cut down and the subjects had cut the copper tube on the furnace which allowed all the propane to be inside the residence,” says Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt.

Thelander was burned over 40% of his body when a fan sparked that propane, causing an explosion. The 80-year-old Thelander died several days later.

Those responsible for the theft have not been caught. Anyone with information about that theft is asked to call the Monona County Sheriff’s Department at 712-433-2525.

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of the station.

Posted by: Fitzy Location: Omaha
Why not go ahead and make it attempted murder when someone steals copper piping from a residence or copper wire from any type of signal/power wire. That is effectively what it is. Is it going to take another innocent person getting blown up or perhaps a whole family before authorities step up the efforts to stop the thieves from ripping people off? How rediculous and lawless is this place gonna get? If it’s not murder, shootings, stabbings, beatings….its thieves taking coppper gas pipes, steel siding, or whatever…The police need to be doing more all accross the board in my oppinion to stop this stuff. What a nightmre.

Posted by: Brian Location: Omaha
I moved here from California and out there to sell scrap metal or aluminum you have to have a valid ID or drivers license and they track how much in poundage and volume that you are selling to them. Isn’t there some kind of setup like this here or is it just see no evil, hear no evil here. Come on there has got to be a way to track these people and bring justice to those that are doing this for the quick buck.

Posted by: Good Question Location: Omaha
The government should require DNA samples from anyone selling more than 5 feet of copper wire. We need more laws to protect us! It’s for the children!

Posted by: TA Location: Iowa
If you need money. GET A JOB. Quit stealing you no good idiots.

Posted by: Anonymous Location: omaha
Are the police going after the scrap dealers in connection with this? Why not make scrap metal as hard to buy as cold medicine now adays? simple solutions to stuff like this, fingerprint and i.d. everyone that comes in to sell something. How hard is it to have a system set up to cross reference people selling scrap to different scrap yards?

Posted by: Concerned Location: NE
I’d like to know who is “buying” the copper wire that these crooks are taking. We have to start somewhere – where are these being sold to? scrapyards? on the internet? The way it sounds is the theives are looking to score a quick buck by selling the copper for a fraction of what it’s worth – so, my question is ‘where the heck are they turning the copper into cash at?? Why can’t there be some kind of stake out at the places the copper is being taken to. 5,000 feet of copper wire has got to catch someone’s attention. If these are just punk kids stealing it then selling it – why are the buyers asking more questions. I sure hope some justice comes for Thelander’s case. I can’t imagine a few bucks is worth a life. Someone has to know something (or suspect something) – people need to step up and start asking questions and demanding answers. How about just banning the purchase of ‘scrap copper’?? Or knocking the ‘scrap’ copper price low enough that it’s not worth stealing anymore?

Posted by: Tatjana Location: Omaha
We need to make selling metal more difficult and only available to registered professionals. Registering sellers is a good start but evidently has not stopped thieves.

Copyright © 2007 WOWT

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Earl Thelander Articles

On November 23, 2011, in , by Jody Ewing

News and Articles with references to
Earl Thelander death


Earl L. Thelander


May 9, 1927


September 1, 2007



Cold Case: Exploring Iowa’s unsolved murders

October 24, 2015 | Independence Bulletin Journal

This is a weekly feature highlighting some of Iowa’s unsolved homicides in the hopes that it will lead to new tips and potentially help solve cases. The project is a partnership between this newspaper and other members of the Iowa Newspaper Association.

ONAWA – Earl Thelander sustained second- and third-degree burns over 80% of his body in an August 28, 2007 explosion caused by copper thieves. The thieves had stripped propane gas lines from a country home that Earl and his wife Hope had been renovating.

Gone Cold: Earl Thelander

September 1, 2015 | Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

Earl Thelander got second- and third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body in an Aug. 28, 2007, explosion caused by copper thieves. Sometime overnight from Aug. 27 to Aug. 28, thieves broke into the vacant home at 20877 Gum Ave. near Onawa, which Earl and wife Hope had been renovating, and stole copper propane and water lines, causing the house to fill with gas. Earl discovered the break-in at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 28. Read More

Gone Cold: Earl Thelander

August 24, 2015 | The Carroll Daily Times Herald


Earl Thelander sustained second- and third-degree burns over 80% of his body in an August 28, 2007 explosion caused by copper thieves. The thieves had stripped propane gas lines from a country home that Earl and his wife Hope had been renovating.

Gone Cold: Earl Thelander, killed in 2007

August 22, 2015 | The Des Moines Register

This is a weekly feature highlighting some of Iowa’s unsolved homicides in the hopes that it will lead to new tips and potentially help solve cases. The project is a partnership between this newspaper and other members of the Iowa Newspaper Association.

Name: Earl Thelander

Age: 80

Died: September 1, 2007

Location: Onawa

Earl Thelander sustained second- and third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body in an Aug. 28, 2007, explosion caused by copper thieves. The thieves had stripped propane gas lines from a country home that Earl and his wife Hope had been renovating. Read More

Iowa’s cold cases: Website offers hope to victims’ families

May 31, 2012 | The Des Moines Register

The stories kept coming.

The year was 2005. Newspaper reporter Jody Ewing had finished her series on a half-dozen Sioux City-area cold case crimes for the Sioux City Journal magazine, the Weekender.

But months after the last paragraph published, emails and letters continued. Family members of victims, amateur crime historians and retired law enforcement officers wrote and called Ewing with more stories of unsolved crimes from across Iowa.

Keeping cold cases from being forgotten

May 11, 2012 | The Iowa City Press-Citizen

When Jody Ewing first began writing about Iowa’s unsolved murders, people would ask if she had a personal connection to a cold case that sparked her interest.

Until 2007, the answer was always no.

On Aug. 28 of that year, 80-year-old Earl Thelander of Onawa, Ewing’s stepfather, was cleaning the basement of an unoccupied rental property that had been gutted by copper thieves. Earlier that day, he and law enforcement officials had turned off the propane tank and aired out the house, but when he turned on a blower fan to dry out the basement, it ignited an explosion. Thelander died of severe burns four days later.

Legislature tackles scrap metal theft

March 26, 2012 | Iowa Senate Democrats

The theft of copper and other scrap metal from construction sites, homes and businesses is a national problem, including here in Iowa.

Not only are businesses and individuals being robbed, this is a serious threat to public safety. For example, thieves are entering homes and stealing copper wiring and tubing. That creates fire hazards and other serious dangers to Iowans. In Monona County, Earl Thelander died in 2007 from burns he suffered in an explosion after thieves stole copper piping from his rural Onawa property.

That’s why the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved House File 2399. The bill requires all scrap metal dealers to keep a record of their scrap metal purchases. The dealers are required to get the name, address and place of business of every person who sells them scrap metal. In addition the seller must provide some form of government-issued photo identification.

These records will be kept in a confidential log that law enforcement can use if needed in a criminal investigation.

Partnership to Combat Critical Infrastructure: Copper Theft

February 28, 2012 | SafeGuardIowa.org

A webinar focused on copper theft affecting critical infrastructure and designed for individuals interested in collaborating with public agencies and private-sector organizations to successfully investigate and prosecute copper thefts.

96 Webinar Slides — Earl Thelander case on page 42 under title:

Iowa Example: Homicide

Webinar Sponsored by:
  • Department of Justice — State of Iowa
  • Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • Iowa Department of Public Safety Division of Intelligence
  • Iowa League of Cities
  • Iowa Municipal Attorneys Association
  • Iowa Law Enforcement Intelligence Network
  • Iowa County Attorneys Association
  • MidAmerican Energy
  • Safeguard Iowa Partnership

Stealing Copper Can Be a Deadly Crime

October 21, 2011 | KCAU-TV Channel 9, Sioux City

After a rash of attempted copper thefts, authorities want people to know the dangers from stealing copper are real.

One Siouxland family has come face to face with the deadly dangers that copper thieves can leave behind.

Propane warning for LL

By RR [WA]) Posted on Aug. 31, 2011 10:54 AM

This story about Earl Thelander is a few years old, but I just read it and realized that it could happen to ANY ONE OF US.

Here’s the story:  https://iowacoldcases.org/case-summaries/earl-thelander/

In short, copper thieves stole propane lines, house filled with propane, gas was turned off, authorities were called, the house was aired out for a couple hours, THEN:

“Earl entered the house, and, smelling no propane gas, felt it was safe for him to work. In the basement, however, he discovered water had leaked onto the floor from the cut and stolen water lines. He set up a squirrel cage blower to help expedite drying the basement floor and plugged it in. The home suddenly exploded, throwing him all the way across the room and into a basement corner.”

I probably would have done the same thing…

How could this have been prevented? How long do you need to air out a house after a major propane leak?


COLD CASES: Death of stepfather drives woman to profile Iowa’s unsolved crimes

July 29, 2010 | WHO-TV Channel 13, Des Moines

Onawa, IA – For Jody Ewing of Onawa, near Sioux City, this is her calling. Remembering the forgotten. Profiling cold, unsolved cases throughout the state on her website iowacoldcases.org.

Iowa woman casts a wide net to catch criminals: Web site helps keep Iowa cold cases alive

The Muscatine Journal
February 12, 2010

ONAWA, Iowa – Bringing up unsolved murders can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, victims’ families hope new stories and information can cut through years of mystery and uncertainty and bring to justice the person responsible for their loved one’s murder.

‘Urban miners’ scrap plans to steal metals

The Des Moines Register
November 19, 2008

… A thief who stripped copper tubing from a propane tank in western Iowa in August was blamed for a buildup of gas in a house. The explosion killed 80-year-old Earl Thelander of Onawa.

Sioux City Journal copper theft imageCopper theft: It can have deadly consequences

The Sioux City Journal
September 28, 2008

SIOUX CITY — Even though he had retired from the plumbing and heating business, 80-year-old Earl Thelander liked to stay busy. On Aug. 28, 2007, he was cleaning up the basement of one of his rental properties in rural Onawa, Iowa, when an explosion occurred. Thelander, who suffered second- and third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body, died four days later at an Omaha burn unit.

Inside Edition: Copper Theft

May 14, 2008

The television newsmagazine reports on the nationwide copper theft epidemic and the death of Earl Thelander of Onawa, Iowa.

KTIV - Earl and Hope ThelanderRemembering Earl Thelander

KTIV News Channel 4, Sioux City
May 10, 2008

A year after his death, Earl Thelander’s family plants evergreen trees in his memory.



Remembering Earl Thelander

KMEG Channel 14, Sioux City
May 10, 2008

Copper Theft Killing Now a Cold Case Investigation

(Visit the Discussion Forum on this article here.)
Action 3 News, Omaha
May 8, 2008

U.S. News & World Report logoPrice Hikes Lead to Rash of Metal Thefts

U.S. News & World Report Magazine
March 27, 2008

Australia’s new crime wave

The Scone Advocate
March 6, 2008

Reward Offered in Copper Theft That Led to Deadly Explosion

WHO-TV Channel 13
January 8, 2008

Earl Thelander working at Monona HotelThelander Family Offers Reward for Information

KTIV News Channel 4, Sioux City
January 6, 2008



Family offers reward for information on explosion

Council Bluffs Nonpareil
December 22, 2007

Sioux City Journal article‘A good man died a needless, pointless death’

The Sioux City Journal
October 28, 2007

Two months after blast, search continues for those responsible






Man Dies After $20 Copper Theft

October 12, 2007

Victim’s family awaits copper thief’s arrest

Omaha World-Herald
October 12, 2007

KETV Image of Earl ThelanderMan Dies After $20 Copper Theft

KETV 7, Omaha
October 12, 2007




Man Dies After $20 Copper Theft: Onawa Police Seek Informants

KCCI Channel 8, Des Moines
October 12, 2007

Copper Theft Crackdown

WOWT News Channel 6, Omaha
September 25, 2007

Thieves target copper pipes, wiring

The Sioux City Journal
September 22, 2007

Copper Thieves Cause Explosion – Man Critically Injured

Williams Kherkher
September 18, 2007

Obituaries: Earl Thelander

Polk County Newspaper.com
September 14, 2007

Copper Theft Compromised Safety

WOWT Channel 6, Omaha
September 13, 2007

Monday’s Our View: Tragic turn
Our Position: Copper thieves responsible for man’s death

The Daily Nonpareil
September 10, 2007

While some may dub this incident an accident, it was far from it. Thelander died as the result of someone else’s disregard for the law, both natural and state mandated…

Man killed in blast died for ‘piece of copper piping’

The Des Moines Register
September 5, 2007

Robbery Suspects Face Enhanced Charges After Explosion

September 4, 2007

Explosion victim dies of injuries

Denison Bulletin Review
September 4, 2007

KLEM News Update

KLEM 1410, Le Mars
September 4, 2007

Natural gas explosion leads to man’s death

Iowa State Daily
September 4, 2007

Explosion victim dies of injuries

The Daily Nonpareil
September 4, 2007

Onawa Explosion Victim Dies

WHO TV News Channel 13
September 3, 2007

Obituary: Earl Thelander

The Sioux City Journal
September 3, 2007

Onawa Explosion Victim Dies

September 3, 2007

Onawa man hurt in explosion dies in Omaha

The Sioux City Journal
September 3, 2007

Iowa Man Loses Fight for Life

WOWT News Channel 6, Omaha
September 3, 2007

Victim Of Robbery and Explosion Passes Away

KTIV TV News Channel 4
September 1, 2007

Man Recovering After House Explodes

WHO TV News Channel 13
August 31, 2007

Home explodes after thief nabs copper pipes

The Record Herald and Indianola Tribune
August 30, 2007

Victim’s Family Speaks Out About Copper Crime Explosion

KTIV TV News Channel 4
August 30, 2007

Iowa Man Burned in Explosion

WOWT News Channel 6, Omaha
August 30, 2007

Onawa man hospitalized after home explodes

The Sioux City Journal
August 30, 2007

Copper theft results in explosion, injuries

Omaha World-Herald
August 30, 2007

Home Explodes After Thief Nabs Copper Pipes

DTN Blogs
August 30, 2007

Onawa Man Injured in House Explosion: Officials Say Burglar Tried to Steal Copper Propane Line

KETV 7, Omaha
August 29, 2007

Onawa man injured in house explosion

Associated Press
August 29, 2007

Blast Victim In ‘Critical’ Condition

KTIV TV News Channel 4
August 29, 2007

Onawa man hurt in house explosion

The Sioux City Journal
August 29, 2007

Copper Theft blamed for house explosion

The Des Moines Register
August 29, 2007

House Explosion

Godlike Productions (from KCAU TV)
August 28, 2007

Explosion Damages Onawa, IA Home

August 28, 2007

KTIV - Top Story imageTop Story: Rural Onawa, IA Home Explodes

August 28, 2007