Iowa News

Deliberations to resume at Iowa man's murder trial
A jury will resume deliberations Thursday at the trial of an Iowa man charged with killing his pregnant wife. The jury is considering whether Seth Techel is guilty of first-degree murder and nonconsensual termination of a human pregnancy. The 23-year-old who once dreamed of a law enforcement career faces life in prison if convicted. Prosecutors say Techel shot his wife, Lisa, while she slept in their trailer in rural southeastern Iowa in May 2012. She was 17 weeks pregnant with the couple's first child. Seth Techel says that he was in the shower when he heard a loud noise, came out to find his wife dying, and dialed 911. The jury started deliberating Wednesday following a weeklong trial. Two previous trials in the case have ended with hung juries.

Report says Prairie Pothole region losing wetlands
Federal officials and conservationists say a recent report detailing annual wetland losses in the five-state Prairie Pothole Region highlights the need for increased protection for birds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its Status and Trends of Prairie Wetlands report earlier this month. The report shows that the wetlands in the region declined by an average of 6,200 acres per year — and some conservationists say the trend isn't slowing down. Conservationists and wildlife officials say more emphasis needs to be put on conservation easements and incentive-based programs that protect wetlands on farmland while reimbursing farmers for lost income. Officials say Prairie Pothole Region provides breeding and nesting habitat for more than 60 percent of the nation's migratory waterfowl.

Fatal boat pilot from 2012 offers insurance money
A man facing lawsuits involving a boat crash that killed four people and injured six others on the Mississippi River in 2012 has agreed to hand over $300,000 from an insurance policy, but he wants a judge to absolve him of future damages if he does. Reports say an attorney representing 22-year-old Joseph Schier Jr. has proposed the deal in court documents. Attorneys representing four people killed in the collision and two others injured want the court to hold hearings to determine if Schier has assets that could satisfy judgments if the wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits are successful. Schier and 23-year-old Douglas Metcalf were shuttling partygoers in boats that collided on May 2012. Lawsuits claim the men acted negligently causing a collision.

Clinton mayor walks out of closed council sessions
The mayor of Clinton has refused to attend two closed sessions of the City Council saying a recent lawsuit over open meetings which the city lost has taught him a valuable lesson. Mayor Mark Vulich stepped out of two separate closed sessions on Tuesday, one involving a salary increase for the city administrator and the other an undisclosed legal matter. The council voted to go into closed session but Vulich left and remained in his office during the two-hour closed discussions. Reports say he doesn't have to attend if he doesn't think it's appropriate. He says he's learned things through previous closed meeting lawsuits and doesn't "make the same mistake twice." He says whether he attends closed sessions from now on depends on the situation.

Tripoli says no to backyard chickens
Officials in the northeast Iowa city of Tripoli have rejected a request to allow backyard chickens in the community. Reports say the Tripoli City Council on Monday voted against a proposal to allow residents to keep chickens. Resident Paul DeGroote had gone door-to-door to gather signatures from neighbors in support of the change after realizing his four chickens were in violation of Tripoli's livestock ban. DeGroote expressed frustration, saying he didn't understand why, "in a small town that's got a thousand people, and it is supposedly agriculturally based, you can't have backyard chickens." Councilman Dan Woods supported the chicken ordinance but says others thought chickens would be noisy and hurt property values.

Democrat O'Malley: Governor shift key to Congress
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley isn't coy about considering a 2016 presidential candidacy. He tells the Associated Press: "It's something I'm considering." Until he decides, he's on a quest to help Democrats win back governorships seized by Republicans in 2010, which would give Democrats the edge in congressional redistricting, an act most governors are afforded. O'Malley headlines the Iowa Democratic Party's convention, and is scheduled to campaign Saturday with state Senator Jack Hatch, Democratic candidate for governor. Republicans won a majority of governorships, including an arc that stretches across Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all which had been previously held by Democrats. Governors elected in November will sign redistricting maps in their second term, he says. "So it's important for the here-and-now" but also "for the next decade."

Spontaneous combustion causes Cedar Rapids fire
Cedar Rapids fire officials say a fire at a local bar was caused by spontaneous combustion of rags and towels containing animal fat. An early morning fire Wednesday at the Chrome Horse Saloon and Slop House damaged the first and second floors of the four-story building. Fire department spokesman Greg Buelow says in a statement that investigators determined the fire started in a plastic bucket under a table in the kitchen that contained towels and rags. They smoldered before generating enough heat to combust. The fire department received video surveillance footage and it shows spontaneous heating of the rags and towels. Spontaneous combustion occurs when a flammable material slowly heats through oxidation until it reaches its combustion point and catches fire.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press