Onawa Man Hurt in House Explosion

On January 13, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

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August 29, 2007

6 comment(s)

Onawa man hurt in house explosion

By Travis Coleman, Journal Staff Writer

An 80-year-old Onawa, Iowa, man was hospitalized with burn injuries Tuesday afternoon after an explosion damaged an unoccupied rural Onawa home he owns.

The explosion happened about 12:30 p.m. in the basement at 20877 Gum Ave., where Earl 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, said Carol Otto of Onawa, Thelander’s sister-in-law. Thelander was airlifted from Onawa to an Omaha burn unit, where he has second-degree burns over 40 percent of his body, Otto said. He is listed in critical condition.

“It’s so awful,” Otto said. “It doesn’t sound very good.”

At Burgess, Thelander told his family that he thought “all the gas was gone” prior to the explosion, Otto said.

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. No one has been arrested and there are no suspects, said Eric Martin, sheriff’s office dispatcher.

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

Siding was hanging off the front of the house, which the sheriff’s office said received considerable structural damage. The south wall of the home was blown out and is being held up by two poles, Otto said.

Sheriff’s deputies were assisted at the scene by the Onawa Fire Department and the Onawa Police Department.

“We’re all praying and hoping everything will be OK,” Otto said.
Read Comments > |

Gaylen-California wrote on Sep 22, 2007 6:45 PM:
“Let’s not let this story die. Criminals should be brought to justice. There are people out there buying this hot stuff, they know it, they aren’t stupid enough to believe some of the stories. CA has a one week wait period to get your money, you have to show VALID ID. Maybe some of the heat should go onto the guys who buy stolen material. How about some good ole investigative reporting?”

Cindy Miller wrote on Sep 2, 2007 10:05 AM:
“We lost a wonderful man last night to an incident that neve should have happened. Anyone that knew Dad knows that there was not a mean bone in his body and some jerk just took that person away from a wife,6 kids and their spouses,10 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren and a 2 foster grandchildren. Five more kids and their spouses, I don’t know how much more needs said, you get the picture? This is a senseless tragedy that should never have happened. Our only peace now is that he is not in pain and we WILL find those responsible and make them look all of us in the eyes to see what they robbed from us!”

Lori Mathes wrote on Aug 31, 2007 8:09 AM:
“My heart is aching every day for my stepfather, and I just keep praying that he will be strong enough to get through this. He is my Mother’s lifeline, and the thought of her having to go on without him only makes the aching worse. This family will not quit, until we find the person or people who are responsible for this. We ask for any help we can get…in bringing them to justice. PLEASE come forward if you have any information.”

Jody Ewing wrote on Aug 31, 2007 12:47 AM:
“Earl Thelander is not only my step-father, he’s the kindest, most gentle and decent man I’ve ever known. In his family and community, he’s regarded as a role model — someone who fully understands the difference between hard work and hard times — and one who’s led many by example through both. When Earl married my mother, Hope, 25 years ago come this December, that’s exactly what they shared…hope… Hope that his “6” children and her own “5” (+ the 2 of them) could somehow work together with that perfect baker’s dozen for the rest of all their lives. Mom and Earl, we’re all here for both of you and the cinnamon rolls are a’risin’! There’s a reason why God gave angels two wings.”

Nancy wrote on Aug 29, 2007 11:53 PM:
“I will Pray that he makes it i’m so sorry to hear about that i can’t beleve someone would do that and it almost killed the man.”

Doug Thelander wrote on Aug 29, 2007 10:52 AM:
“For less than $20 worth of old copper pipes, these cowardly thieves, with no thought of the consequences to innocent people, have caused a horrible accident, terrible trauma to a good man, and have affected the lives of dozens of close friends and family members. We ask for the community’s thoughts and prayers for our husband, father, and friend. We want this resolved. If anyone has any information about this crime, please call the Monona Co. Sheriff at 800-859-1414. Any information will be kept confidential. The Earl Thelander Family”

© Copyright 2007, Sioux City Journal

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Onawa man hospitalized after home explodes

On January 12, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing
Sioux City Journal logo


August 30, 2007

Onawa man hospitalized after home explodes

By Travis Coleman
Journal Staff Writer

An 80-year-old Onawa, Iowa, man was hospitalized after a rural Onawa home exploded Tuesday afternoon.

The explosion happened around 12:30 p.m., in the home’s basement, where Earl Thelander was venting fumes from a propane line that had been cut in an alleged burglary earlier Tuesday, the Monona County Sheriff’s Office reported today. Thelander was then taken from the home at 20877 Gum Ave., by private vehicle to Burgess Health Center in Onawa with burns.

Authorities believe the explosion is connected to the cut propane line on a furnace in the basement. The sheriff’s office had been called to the home Tuesday morning for the burglary and vandalism but when deputies arrived, the alleged burglar was gone. No one has been arrested and there are no suspects, said Eric Martin, sheriff’s office dispatcher.

It wasn’t known if the home was Thelander’s, Martin said.

A relative in Onawa, Sharon Thelander, said she just found out about the explosion and didn’t know how Earl was doing.

The home sustained considerable structural damage, the sheriff’s office reported.

© Copyright 2007, Sioux City Journal

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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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Earl Thelander Obituary – SCJ

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Sioux City Journal logo


Earl Thelander


Earl ThelanderONAWA, Iowa — Earl Thelander, 80, of Onawa passed away Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007, at Clarkson Hospital in Omaha from burns sustained earlier in the week from a propane explosion at one of his rental properties.

Services will be 10:30 a.m. Thursday at First Christian Church in Onawa. Graveside services will be at a later date. Visitation will be 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, with a celebration of life service at 7 p.m., at Rush Family Care Service in Onawa.

Earl was born May 9, 1927, in Arcadia, Neb., the son of Henry and Amanda (Gestrine) Thelander. He grew up in Polk, Neb. He graduated in Stromsburg, Neb., in 1944. After graduation, he went into the U.S. Coast Guard. After his discharge, he began farming and farmed for several years.

On Feb. 3, 1950, he married Berniece Obrist and to this union six children were born. They lived and farmed in the Osceola area until he began working for Mamco Manufacturing Company in Stromsburg. He later transferred to Honeggars Manufacturing Company in Onawa. After they closed, he went to work for Onawa Propane and in 1967, started his own business, Thelander’s Plumbing and Heating in Onawa. He was blessed to have his entire family involved in the business.

On Dec. 30, 1982, he married Hope Ewing in Onawa. They lived in Onawa, where he enjoyed doing yard work, gardening, watching the birds and squirrels on his back deck and his “coffee time.” The couple owned and operated Thelander’s Softener Service and Thelander’s Rentals. They owned the Monona Hotel and the Park Hotel and many other rental properties over the years.

He was a member of First Christian Church of Onawa and helped with Boy Scouts, when his sons were younger. He enjoyed spending time with his family and was also loved by the entire community. He will be greatly missed by everyone.

He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Hope Thelander of Onawa; six children, Doug Thelander of Castana, Iowa, Byron (Sharon) Thelander of Onawa, Vicki (Otis) Gray of Onawa, Cindy (Doug) Miller of Sioux City, Gaylen (Ruthie) Thelander of Madera, Calif., and Brad Thelander of Sergeant Bluff; five stepchildren, Kim (Jon) Berens, Jody (Dennis Ryan) Ewing, Lori (Steve) Mathes, Kysa Ewing and Brett (Deb) Ewing, all of Onawa; 22 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; four sisters, Betty (Clarence) Nielsen of Stromsburg, Neb., Darlene Gordon of York, Neb., Jean Twarling of Sidney, Neb., and Wanda (DeLano) Ahlquist of Loveland, Colo.; three brothers, Doyle (Gina) Thelander of Lincoln, Neb., Darwin (Sarah) Thelander of Peel, Ark., and Dean (Ginger) Thelander of Harrison, Ark.; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents; a grandson, Bobby Gray; his father-in-law, Raymond Archer; a sister-in-law, June Ooten; and three brothers-in-law, Hal Gordon, Glenn Twarling and Dan VanWinkel.

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Thieves Target Copper Pipes, Wiring

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing
Sioux City Journal logo


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thieves target copper pipes, wiring

By Loretta Sorensen, Journal correspondent

VERMILLION, S.D. — A unique kind of darkness has been invading rural areas in recent months: urban mining.

Thieves, who generally perpetrate their crimes under cover of darkness, have been stripping isolated farm places and sometimes homes in small towns of copper wire which they sell to area scrap metal dealers.

Concerns are mounting that thieves are not only risking their lives and causing thousands of dollars of damage to homes and businesses, but they also are endangering the lives of others.

The recent death of Earl Thelander, an 80-year-old Onawa, Iowa, man, who died from injuries suffered in an explosion that followed the removal of copper gas pipes coming into a house he owned validates those concerns.

“There’s a reward for anyone who can provide information about who did this,” said Jody Ewing, Thelander’s stepdaughter. “I never heard of urban mining before this happened. It’s so senseless.”

Leo Powell, operations manager for Clay-Union Electric Co-op at Vermillion, wonders if thieves in southeast South Dakota have at least some knowledge of how electrical power works.

“They’re putting themselves in some very dangerous situations in order to steal the wire, things a trained electrician wouldn’t do because it’s so unsafe” Powell said. “It makes me wonder if they actually worked for a power company. They either know what they’re doing and taking the risk anyway, or they’re mighty lucky.”

Powell cited the instance of a Kansas man who broke into a substation and was electrocuted because of his lack of knowledge about how electrical lines work.

“He was cutting ground wires off inside the substation and he was killed,” Powell said. “Some of the situations we’ve found, it’s hard to believe people would be that lucky. They almost have to know how electricity flows through the lines.”

Powell recommended that farmers be cautious if they find an isolated farmstead suddenly without power. In some cases, thieves leave dangerous situations behind when they dismantle electric poles and transformers.

It’s been about eight years since copper theft was an issue in southeast South Dakota. Rising copper prices drove the thefts then, just as they are now.

“Copper sells for about $3 a pound,” Powell said. “To put that into perspective, we paid about $900 for a transformer last year at this time. Now we’re paying $1,500.”

It’s not uncommon for thieves to steal as much as half-a-mile of copper wire.

In some cities, they steal copper elements from air conditioners. They begin at the end of a block and steal the same components from every homeowner on the block. Their actions don’t net them large sums of money; however, the damage they cause can run into thousands of dollars for homeowners and businesses.

“Scrap buyers in South Dakota are required to obtain a signature from sellers declaring that the wire they’re selling isn’t stolen,” Powell said. “Law enforcement is doing all it can to monitor homes and businesses, too. People should just be cautious if they find a situation where their power is suddenly out.”

© Copyright 2007, Sioux City Journal

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A good man died a needless, pointless death

On January 6, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Sioux City Journal logo


‘A good man died a needless, pointless death’

Two months after blast, search continues for those responsible

By Travis Coleman, Journal Staff Writer
October 28, 2007

ONAWA, Iowa — Not a week goes by that Doug Thelander doesn’t want to tell his dad, Earl, about something. Recently, he watched a movie on the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima during World War II, something he thought the U.S. Coast Guard veteran would have enjoyed.

“I wanted to tell him how good it was,” Doug said.

Two months ago today, on Aug. 28, Earl was injured by an explosion in the basement of one of his rental properties, which had been burglarized by copper thieves hours earlier. Four days later, the 80-year-old who family members said was as fit as a man 10 years younger died at an Omaha burn unit. His injuries were a result of a sliced propane line that ignited while he was cleaning.

Courtesy photo Tim Hynds/Sioux City Journal
Byron Thelander, Vicki Gray and Doug Thelander pose at a memorial they created at the rural Onawa home where their father, Earl Thelander, 80, died after a home explosion two months ago. He died as a result of burns after the home was broken into and copper thieves cut a propane line.

No arrests have been made in the case, and Earl’s family and the Monona County Sheriff’s Office are still searching for those responsible for his death.

“No one is going to let this go away,” Doug Thelander said.

Rising scrap metal prices — about $3 a pound — drive the theft of copper from homes, businesses and construction sites. Although not completely absent from Northwest Iowa, Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt said the problem exists mostly in southern Iowa and cities such as Omaha. Since Earl’s death, there have not been any reported copper thefts in Monona County, Pratt said.

“I think people to the south are still having problems,” he said.

A deadly crime

At times, thieves steal miles of copper wire, leaving thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to buildings and, in the case of Earl Thelander, a family without its patriarch.

Sometime between 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27, and 8 a.m. the next day, the thief or thieves broke into the unoccupied home at 20877 Gum Ave. in Onawa.

They stole about 20 feet of copper tubing from the basement and, in a search for more, cut what they may have believed was a water line, Pratt said. In fact, it was a propane line connected to a furnace. They then left with about $20 worth of copper.

Sheriff’s deputies went to the home that Tuesday morning to investigate after they got a call about the burglary. All the while, gas continued to seep out of the severed tubing.

Earl, who owned the home but didn’t live there, stopped by to clean up the mess left from the burglary. Around 12:30 p.m., he plugged in a fan to vent the gas fumes and believed the gas had dissipated when the home exploded.

“He said it was the brightest flash he’d ever seen,” said Byron Thelander, another of Earl’s 11 children.

“Unfortunately, it was one of the last ones.”

With what were later determined to be third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body, Earl crawled from the basement to his vehicle and drove more than three miles to his home, waving at people as he passed, said Vicki Gray, his daughter.

Earl was taken by ambulance to Burgess Health Center in Onawa. Initially, Gray said, her father didn’t look too bad — his face a little red — and he had been joking with family members after being admitted to the Onawa hospital.

“He was blaming himself,” Byron said. “We try to keep everything light.”

More than 30 people gathered at the Onawa hospital, the largest gathering of a family at that hospital, Byron said nurses told him. But almost immediately, doctors told the family Earl’s chances for recovery were slim. While Earl was in a medically induced coma, they said their goodbyes.

“I just told him how proud I was of him,” Doug said.

Earl was airlifted to the burn unit at Clarkson Hospital in Omaha, where he died.

‘A constant reminder’

In the days following his death, family members received more than 1,000 cards, Gray said.

Front page of Sioux City Journal article

The investigation remains open, in hopes that someone who knows who broke into the home will talk. It’s unknown if the culprit was simply passing through the area, but Pratt has been in contact with salvage yards in Onawa, Sioux City and Omaha. The sheriff’s office has interviewed 20 people so far, Pratt said. He’s also notified all sheriff’s offices in Iowa about the investigation.

Doug talks to Pratt every Thursday to check for any new developments.

“The case file has been left on my desk … it’s a constant reminder,” Pratt said.

Looking for leads

Doug believes someone in the community knows more about the burglary, and he is calling on decent people to take their community back.

“A good man died a needless, pointless death,” Doug said. “(Whoever) did this … knows someone, sooner or later, is going to talk.”

Last Wednesday, Doug, Byron and Vicki gathered outside the house where Earl was hurt but didn’t want to go inside. The walls were still held up by poles.

It was then that Gray spoke about losing her 19-year-old son, Bobby, in 1998. Years ago, Bobby wrote about how he’d like to be reincarnated as an eagle so he could see everybody from the sky. It’s not often one spots an eagle in Onawa, and Gray said Bobby is often symbolized by a hawk.

Recently, Gray spotted two hawks perched on two telephone poles, a sign, she believes, of Bobby and his grandpa, Earl. One hawk flew off, soon followed by the second.

“I knew it was Bobby trying to get his grandpa to fly,” Gray said. “It was a sign to me that he was OK.”

Reward being offered

Officials are offering a Crimestoppers reward for information leading to an arrest in the case involving the theft of copper tubing from Earl Thelander’s property and his subsequent death.

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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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


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.