Author’s Archive: Gregory Berry

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SAN BERNADINO COUNTY, California –It was the ordeal of a lifetime for Iowa native Eric Desplinter and his co-worker Gabrielle Wallace.  The two had being trapped on Baldy Mountain just northeast of LA since Saturday. The pair of hikers were rescued Wednesday night after crews found footprints and called in a helicopter. The chopper was able to spot the pair’s campfire.

“Thank you to all the volunteers that were helping look for us, we are very grateful to have been found tonight.  I’m ready to get to bed and get some rest” said Desplinter.

The two chose to summit Mt. Baldy after another pair of hikers they were with turned back to camp. According to his mother, the two experienced hikers tried to find a less challenging path down and ended up losing the trail.

“[We] rationed our food, drank water through a LifeStraw, kept as warm as possible” said Desplinter.

The LifeStraw was critical to survival. A $20 piece of equipment, it allowed them to drink fresh water when they ran out of their own supply.

“So, the life straw filters out bacteria and protozoa. It’s good for 1000 liters of clean, flowing water so great to have for anyone to have in their pack” said Taggart Lewsander, manager of the REI in West Des Moines.

Lewsander says you should also carry a map and compass in case cell service is poor, more food than you think you need, and a way to start a fire.

“Tried and true, just a waterproof pack of storm proof matches and a little bit of tinder in there” he said.

As for Desplinter’s mother Karen Ziebarth, all she can say is ‘thanks’.

“You can’t put words into what I feel. I keep looking at these workers and I keep saying ‘thank you’. You say thank you because it’s just words that come out of your mouth, because it’s not enough. I can’t say anything for the amount of work that they put in daily, and a lot of these people, most of these people are volunteers and they work out here and they came out all day to save Gabby and Eric. It’s a miracle, it’s truly a miracle” said Ziebarth.

She says her son is thinner than when he went up the mountain, but otherwise the two are in good health.

WINDSOR HEIGHTS, Iowa– A massage therapist is free on bond Wednesday, after being accused of sexually assaulting a female client.

Sixty-four year-old Kevin Thoren rented his business space called Banyan Health and Wellness in a Windsor Heights strip mall.  It’s there a woman tells police she was assaulted.

“I would have never expected it,” former co-worker Kelly Patterson-Brown said.

Ex-massage therapist Kevin Thoren rented his space in the same building as Kelly Patterson-Brown.

According to the criminal complaint, Thoren groped a woman during a professional massage back in November.

We took that complaint to Thoern who lives in Ankeny, he wouldn’t do an on-camera interview but did deny the allegation.

The criminal complaint says three months after that massage, Thoren went to police and denied the woman’s claims.

Thoren said he was performing “energy work” and never goes below the pubic bone, but the woman said during the massage she was terrified.

Patterson-Brown says her heart breaks for the victim.

“Well I feel bad, now she is not going to trust anybody or a massage therapist,” Patterson-Brown said.

Thoren shouldn’t have been giving massages anyway.

A couple months before the alleged assault, Thoren surrendered his massage therapy license after The Iowa Board of Massage Therapy launched an investigation over claims of misconduct.

Patterson-Brown says Thoren’s actions to not represent all massage therapists.

“I want people to think this is a safe and comfortable place to come to and not have to worry,” Patterson-Brown said.

The YMCA of Greater Des Moines says Thoren rented a space in one of their facilities from 2009 to January 2017, and over that time, no complaints filed.

Thoren is scheduled to be back in court on April 19.

We reached out to The Iowa Board of Massage Therapy for comment and haven’t heard back.

 

WINDSOR HEIGHTS, Iowa — Big things come in small packages.  “It is a critical tool for our officers to have that to save a life,” said Windsor Heights Police Chief Chad McCluskey.

The Iowa Department of Public Health received an additional allocation of $2.3 million dollars for a state opioid response grant and they hope to supply every law enforcement agency, city, town, tribal police officer or county sheriff’s deputy with two doses of Narcan.  IDPH Opioid Treatment Program Director Kevin Gabbert said, “If all six thousand officers were to come forward, we’d be looking at about $450,000 for that purchase and we are willing to do that because we do have grant funds available.”

The IDPH says opioid involved deaths have dropped from 206 in 2017 to a preliminary 137 in 2018 and they believe increased availability of Narcan to the public has helped.  “We don’t want to lose any more Iowans,” said Gabbert.

Police are often the first to encounter a victim of an opioid overdose and Chief McCluskey and his department were in the process of purchasing kits for their officers.  “We don’t currently have it.  We just wrote a new policy to cover it within the last couple of months,” said McCluskey.

Until the initiative, police departments across the state could buy Narcan kits from the IDPH for $75 a kit.   Now that money can be used elsewhere for cash strapped departments across the state.  McCluskey said, “When we build budgets we try to plan for what is going to come up and something like this, where I need fifteen to twenty at $75 a piece, that is a chunk out of my budget not planned for at the time.”

In less than 24 hours, it’s reach has branched out.  “We had a call from the Department of Natural Resources and they said we have individuals that come into contact with people whether it be in a park setting or things like that.  We’ve extended the opportunity to those individuals as well,” Gabbert said.

In March a Fort Dodge officer was unresponsive after being exposed to an unknown substance.  Narcan brought him back.  On Friday, April 5th an Iowa State Penitentiary staff member fell extremely ill from an unknown substance.  “That brings everything to a screeching halt when we get an officer, firefighter or medic injured as a result of a substance that somebody has,” said McCluskey.

Four milligrams, saving lives and dollars.  It is worth its weight in gold to have that stuff on board,” McCluskey said.

 

DES MOINES, Iowa — Sakira Bonner was an anti-violence advocate but ended up becoming a victim of it. Last Friday, she lost her life in a shooting.

According to a criminal complaint, Eliazar Gama picked Bonner up from a West Des Moines Holiday Inn to sell her marijuana.

Police said shortly after, he beat, robbed and shot Bonner three times. Another passenger, Johndarius Lewis, is charged in connection.

A mile away, the two left Bonner for dead, police said.

“It just makes me want to cry,” said Stacey Diaz.

Diaz is an Illinois-based author and wrote a book turned into a film called “Mend Your Wings and Fly.”

Last summer, Bonner and other Scavo High School students were actors in the film. The film is about a teacher who is trying cut down on violence, by closing the gap between her students with trust and love.

“Which sheds light on violence, has just been killed because of violence, so it really touches my heart and makes me even more inspired to keep moving forward with it,” Diaz said.

West Des Moines police weren’t able to say if there are more suspects, but they did say there isn’t an ongoing threat to the community.

CULVER CITY, California – A professional gambler from Las Vegas smashed the Jeopardy! single-day winnings record when he won more than $110,000 on Tuesday.

James Holzhauer, 34, Holzhauer shattered the previous record of $77,000, set in 2010 by contestant Roger Craig, according to a press release.

With $72,600 heading into Final Jeopardy, Holzhauer correctly wrote down “What is quantum leap.” It was his aggressive wager, however, that drew audible gasps, then cheers from the audience – $38,314.

The bet paid off, leaving him with $110,914 and a new four-day record of $244,365.

“Is it too soon to start thinking of Ken Jennings comparisons?” asked host Alex Trebek, referring to the Jeopardy! legend who won more than $2.5 million while tallying a record 74-game winning streak in 2004.

Trebek announced in March that he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer but said he will continuing hosting the game show while he fights the disease.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Prospective solar energy customers could face new fees, and experts say it could delay a return on investment.

Jeff Tegrotenhuis’ solar panels cost about $8,000 to install. He saves about $50 a month. That’s about a 15 year return on his investment.

Tegrotenhuis’ current solar energy system is grandfathered in, but under a statehouse proposal, future solar customers won’t. The bill allows energy companies to charge solar users about $27 a month to use the energy grid.

“It’s a fairness issue because if you use the grid then you should take part in the safety and maintenance of the grid,” Tina Hoffman with MidAmerican Energy said.

1 Source Solar in Ankeny fears the bill could impact business.

“It’ll make our clients return on initial investment at least double,” said Todd Miller of 1 Source Solar.

The latest numbers from the Solar Energy Industries Association show nearly 4,000 solar panels were installed last year.

“We do about 60 to 70 residential installs a year. In total, 150 installations a year,” Miller said. “That number would at least be cut in half, if not more”.

Regardless of what happens at the statehouse, Miller hopes people see the value in solar energy.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — West Des Moines police announced an arrest Monday made in connection to the death of an 18-year-old woman.

Police charged 17-year-old Eliazar Montoya Gama of Des Moines with one count of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree robbery.

The arrest was made in the connection to the homicide of 18-year-old Sakira Kezia Tamara Bonner.

Police said the investigation identified Gama as a person of interested, and he was later located by Des Moines police. West Des Moines detectives interviewed Gama and filed the charges.

Friday night, police got a call around 11:42 p.m. from someone driving through the area of S. 64th Street and Coachlight Drive in West Des Moines and found Bonner in the middle of the road. She was transported by ambulance to a hospital where she later died.

Gama is currently being held at the Dallas County Jail.

The investigation is ongoing.

SLATER, Iowa — On Saturday, Slater saw one of its iconic, local stops burn down. Cole’s Ice Cream Shop was severely damaged after a meat smoker caught fire, but people are now stepping up to make sure the restaurant that has a deeper meaning gets back up and running.

Owning Cole’s Ice Cream Shop for three decades, David Sturdy has many memories there with his son, Brandon.

“He was 4-years-old,” Sturdy said. “Me and him ran this place and we’d watch movies and it was a good time.” But 15 years ago it all stopped. Brandon died serving his country as a Marine in Iraq.

“When my son died in 2004, I closed down for 10 to 11 years,” Sturdy said.

It eventually reopened, in Brandon’s honor. The Slater restaurant started becoming a famous stop for everyone, from politicians to young kids.

“I wanted to stick out,” Sturdy said. “I have little kids who come in here and say they want to go to the Star Wars place and they come from 20 miles away.”

That’s the way things were until the fire ended it all.

“I was really depressed,” Sturdy said. “But now with the spirit of the folks, I am uplifted.”

The restaurant is iconic, unique, and 100 percent Iowan. Slater residents say there’s nothing quite like Cole’s Ice Cream Shop. That is why many are coming together to make sure the famous tenderloins are made once again.

“We make some good food. Real proud of it,” Sturdy said. “It was my son’s recipe, Brandon’s recipe, and we continue it in his honor.”

“Lot of love in the food, lot of love in the preparation,” Mark Eckhoff said. In return, Sturdy is getting a lot of love from the people who are cleaning up and reaching out for more help.

“Slater does not turn their back on their own. We help each other,” Mary Akin said.

“That’s how Iowans are,” Eckhoff said. “I think this place is going to get opened up a lot quicker than what people think it will.”

There’s still a long road ahead for Cole’s, but if there’s one thing keeping Sturdy going, it’s Brandon’s Marine flag still flying, despite the fire. He sees it as a sign that Cole’s will be back.

“I’ll work until, I’ll work until I get it done,” Sturdy said.

Sturdy says there’s some issues with his insurance because of some problems with his Ansul System, that’s supposed to extinguish fires. Most of the repairs will come out of pocket. That is why he is asking for volunteers to donate time or supplies. There is also a GoFundMe set up.

AMES, Iowa — Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, a former U.S. Representative from Texas, has shown an early campaign propensity for standing on things — tables, boxes, furniture — whatever. The sheer frequency of it has attracted its own Twitter handle.

O’Rourke has also shown Iowans that he will wear the local college or university of choice, depending on where he is campaigning in the state. He has worn Iowa, Iowa State, University of Northern Iowa and Grinnell University ball caps at different events.

(O’Rourke also discussed money in politics. Watch that part of the conversation here).

MOUNT AYR, Iowa — The beautiful weather Saturday made it the perfect day for the hometown of one of America’s most accomplished astronauts to pay tribute to her legacy.

Community members unveiled the Peggy Whitson Freedom Rock in Mount Ayr Saturday afternoon.

Whitson served as commander of the International Space Station. At 665 total days, she spent more time in space than any other woman, and she holds the record for most space walks as a woman. She retired from NASA in 2018.

Whitson grew up on a farm near Beaconsfield and graduated from Mount Ayr High School where she also played basketball.

“She is absolutely loved, and she’s such a huge inspiration. And that inspiration obviously carried me through the artwork,” said artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen.

“She’s really opened up a lot of things for women in America and in the world. She’s the reason why this rock is here,” said Ken Robertson, the project’s founder.

Organizers had planned to unveil the rock in February on Whitson’s birthday, but they were forced to reschedule due to harsh weather. Whitson was originally slated to attend but couldn’t make it because of the schedule change.