Archive for  December 19th 2017

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DES MOINES, Iowa  —  “I am 60 (years old) today, thank you very much,” said Sheri Thompson, owner of Plaza Lanes. “Yes, I’m as old as the building.”

A fire that destroyed her and her husband’s business was not the birthday present Sheri Thompson was hoping for.

“My sister-in-law was knocking on our door this morning, and when I answered the door, she says, ‘the bowling alley’s on fire, let’s go now.’ So we headed here and saw the flames billowing and it was like, wow, 60 years down the drain.”

Plaza Lanes was built in November of 1957, and the so-called “man on the roof” sign on top of the bowling alley was iconic. Channel 13’s cameras captured the sign’s final moments.

“He was put up there by my father in 1957,” said Randy Thompson, another owner of Plaza Lanes. “And I asked my dad who built him, so he showed me the plan. Norm Cox, Neon Signs, who has since passed on built him, and he built one arm after another swinging, along with the balls as they moved down the lanes and struck the pins.”

Randy Thompson says the sign was unique, even by today’s standards, and will be tough to replace.

“He was still up there until the end,” said Thompson. “It cost my dad $40,000 to put him up there (in 1957).”

13Raw: Footage of the Plaza Lanes fire captured by Drone13

What does remain are the memories of a bowling alley that was a fixture in the community for six decades.

“I’ve been in Des Moines 25 years, raised three small children just a few blocks from Plaza Lanes,” said Betsy Blackford of Des Moines. “We had a lot of birthday parties here, brought home some of the pins that were retired from the lanes.”

“I was actually a participant in the last state bowling competition here at Plaza Lanes,” said Krissy Weir. “I’m from Waverly, Iowa, and I’m from the Waverly-Shell Rock bowling team, and last year I was the captain of the team.”

Sheri Thompson says she and her husband have joked that they could write a book about Plaza Lanes several times over because of all of the people that have come through over the years–people they consider family. The Thompsons say they’re grateful none of their employees were in the building during the fire and no one was injured.

MARION COUNTY, Iowa  —  A civil lawsuit has led to murder charges against a Marion County man.

On Friday, in a civil suit filed by Bill Carter, a jury ruled his son, Jason Carter, was responsible for killing his own mother. In less than 72 hours, Jason’s status changed from the 9-1-1 caller who reported the murder, to the son a civil court jury deemed responsible for his mother’s death, to a suspect criminally charged with murder.

DCI Special Agent in Charge Mike Motsinger says his team followed Carter’s civil trial the past two weeks. Bill Carter and son Billy Carter brought the trial after becoming frustrated that Jason had never been charged in Shirley’s death in 2015. Investigators followed who said what and determined Jason’s answers weren’t always consistent. They now believe they have the evidence to bring charges for what happened in the Carters’ Lacona home.

“We have a lot of information we had prior to the civil trial. The civil trial just added a couple pieces that we may not have normally gotten through our criminal investigation, obviously through depositions and trial testimony, it was just able to help out a little bit,” said Motsinger.

Hours later, in Des Moines, Jason Carter’s attorney Steve Wandro alleges what happened during the civil trial was unfair.

“I’m telling you that the law enforcement authorities and the plaintiffs were working hand in glove, not with us,” he said.

Wandro believes law enforcement worked too closely with Bill Carter instead of letting the criminal investigation finish before any potential civil trial, which is usually the case.

“That’s not what we expected at the beginning of that case. We had every reason to believe it would be Bill Carter and what evidence he saw with his eyes, his ears, and whatever he found. Now we find out that we just tried a mini-DCI case…unfair,” he said.

Either way, it’s a family torn. Shirley is dead, and her husband and son will head to court again to argue over which one killed her.

What does this mean for what happens next? Jason Carter had his first appearance in court on Monday and is jailed on a $1 million cash bond. His attorney plans to appeal the civil judgement that said Carter should pay $10 million to his late mother’s estate, and they plan to ask for a change of venue in the criminal trial. Wandro does not think Jason could get a fair trail because of all the publicity in Marion County.