Photo by Bulletin graphics
Photo by George Lauby
Big Rob Mitchell
Photo by George Lauby
Battle of Hue remembered
Photo by George Lauby
Photo by George Lauby
Joan Smith and her rebuilt home
Photo by George Lauby
Troyer's expanded shop
Dave Harrold, ready to ride
Head on collision
Converging on overturned rail tank car full of chlorine
Photo by Jay Huff
Photo by Jay Huff
Wolves like this reported in Lincoln County.
A big fighter changed his ways, Chuck Hagel and Dennis Thompson were promoted, construction in North Platte set a new financial record, and the old Catholic school building and two downtown stoplights were torn down... A Bulletin rundown of the top news stories of 2013:
Big Rob Mitchell, six-foot, seven-inches tall, changed his life. The former gang member was shot in the leg during a gang fight a few years ago. Now he teaches fighting in a new building near the Nebraska Athletic Club on East Fourth. He and other fight organizers are gearing up for the St. Paddy’s Day Beatdown, a night of mixed martial arts fights set for March 16.
Hagel nominated to cabinet
Chuck Hagel, born in North Platte in 1946, was nominated to become the U.S. Secretary of Defense, continuing his climb to national prominence. Hagel also served two terms in the U.S. Senate. He was born in a tiny house on the west edge of North Platte and grew up in the Sandhills, where his family owned a lumber company.
Star Wars spoofed
1991 North Platte High graduate Patrick Gorman hits it big with a quirky spoof of Star Wars, appearing on ABC’s Nightline. The play has run for 15 years at Star Wars conventions in the U.S. and Europe.
Former North Platte firefighter Aaron Vieyra, 33, was sentenced to up to three years in the state penitentiary for attempting to distribute cocaine.
Vieyra was arrested in May 2011 along with eight other people in a major bust in this part of the state. He later pled guilty to two counts of attempted distribution.
Lincoln County District Court Judge Donald Rowlands said a lesser sentence for the nine-year veteran of the fire department would send the “wrong impression to the public and the community.”
Vieyra eventually served nine months in prison and was released at the earliest possible parole date on Sept. 9.
Options narrow at Pawnee Hotel
Pawnee Assisted Living Hotel Director Sandy Schade met with about 30 people Jan. 5 from the community and said the operation might not be salvageable. Residents have had to wear their coats for more than two weeks after the heating system quit working and the hotel made do with temporary heaters. Health and Human Service inspectors have temporarily suspended the hotel’s assisted living operating license pending a formal hearing.
Goodbye to early out
The North Platte school district will officially drop its “early-out Wednesdays” program, when classes were dismissed every Wednesday afternoon so teachers could meet and collaborate. The program began in 2010 under former Supt. David Engle.
Jason Bielicki was sentenced to seven years in federal prison after pleading guilty to receipt and distribution of massive volumes of child pornography. U.S. Attorney Deb Gilg said more than 110 giga-bytes of pornography and erotica were found. Not only were the photos illegal, but missing and exploited children from the national registry were identified on 96 videos and 105 digital photographs. Bielicki was arrested in October 2011 at 2318 West First, police said.
Lincoln county courthouse workers donned coats and jackets in upstairs offices Jan. 14, as the building’s hot water heat showed its age. Too many space heaters caused other problems – blown fuses -- and part of the building was without electricity. The courthouse is going through a four-phase renovation, with new windows scheduled in 2013 and a new heating and air conditioning system in the plans for 2014.
Four die in crash
Four businessmen were killed Jan. 11 when their twin-engine aircraft crashed in the hills 13 miles northeast of Maxwell. The plane took off from North Platte Regional Airport around 3:45 p.m. The sky was misty, the temperature was slightly below freezing and a north wind was blowing around 20 mph, the weather service said. The wings evidently iced up and the plane went down violently in a small valley.
The city will spend more than $25,000 this summer for new golf carts at the financially troubled Iron Eagle Golf Course, the city council said.
Chronic criminal caught
Ryan Gabel led police on a car chase around town that reached speeds of 60 mph, but he was caught when he hit a parked car near A and Ash. He took off on foot, but police caught up with him at his house near Washington Elementary School.
Barbwire Bill, otherwise known as William Morris, ended up in the state penitentiary in the 1921. Morris’ wife Maud died, allegedly drug to death by a horse, in a strange series of events on a ranch near Tryon, in the history story of west central Nebraska.
A car ran through the back wall of the North Platte home of Ryan Jones on West Philip, narrowly missing Jones’ two-year-old daughter asleep in her bed. The driver, Benjamin Beauvais, just backed out of the house and drove off, tearing out Jones’ backyard fence as he went. He was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors. Jones estimated $10,000 in damage to his house.
Marilyn Merksick of North Platte was honored for rescuing a kindergartner at Lincoln Elementary School, after the little girl got chicken nuggets stuck in her throat.
“Her arms were flailing and she was grabbing me,” Merksick said. “She was scared to death.”
Mersksick, who is known as “Grandma Merksick” around the school, was honored with a Shining Star award by the North Platte school board.
Organizers flexed their urge to be crazy again and invited people to get wild in February, when the Hoggy Doggy Shadow Splash returns for the 15th year. Dressed in crazy costumes, “splashers” jump into the frigid waters of the South Platte River to raise money. This year, the proceeds will go to the Adopt-a-Backpack program, which sends food home with school kids on weekends.
The Splash has been a small-size event for a couple years, but organizers Russ Jones, David Fudge and Jim Paloucek are bringing it back, full force.
Christopher Boe, 21, was sentenced to 3-9 years of hard time for trying to have sex with a 12-year old-girl. Lincoln County District Judge Donald Rowlands told Boe that he “must realize this is a serious sex crime,” noting that Boe was 19-years-old when he took advantage of a 12-year-old.
Korey Elizabeth Huebner of Hershey was killed Jan. 28 from injuries in a deadly wreck at a three-way intersection north of Sutherland. Driver Micah Koch was later charged with motor vehicle homicide and driving under the influence of alcohol. Huebner was a 2012 nursing graduate of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Pot smokers are eager to start smoking marijuana in Colorado, after voters gave the okay to retail pot sales in November. However, they must be patient because legislators are working out the complex details of a new set of laws.
With a terse, one-sentence statement, Washington elementary school principal Shane Alexander resigned Jan. 28. No details of his departure were released.
More than a year ago, Karen Hough of Arnold made a phone call to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to find out how to become a licensed horse massage therapist. Hough’s straightforward effort to abide by the rules took her on a journey that lasted more than a year. First she was told she had to graduate from veterinary school, then she was told that new rules were being written, but those rules never became clear. The licensing process is tightly controlled by the veterinarian’s association.
“Did you ever play fox and goose when you were a kid?” Hough asked. “Government works a lot like that.”
Work is progressing quickly on the big new three-story building for Nebraskaland National Bank, with a commanding view of the South Platte River. Work did not slow during the winter and construction is on pace to be finished by fall.
Reports of wolves on the prowl are increasing through the central states, outdoor writer Rick Windham said, citing sightings in Kansas, Missouri and Minnesota.
Bailey Yard’s first black locomotive engineer, Bill Riley, is well-remembered. Riley is in the Bailey Yard Hall of Fame. His parents were part of a black homestead settlement near DeWitty in the Sandhills, near the present-day village of Brownlee.
There was no wedded bliss for Quincey Shugart of North Platte, whose honeymoon soured quickly. Shugart fought with his new wife, wrecked his pickup and landed in jail on the same day. Police said the couple had a fierce argument. Shugart punched his bride, Dawn Vanmeter, as he drove along in his pickup. He hit a car parked on the street, changed direction and hit a power pole. He was jailed on a series of charges.
Inmate Jeff Denson had a wild idea recently – to smuggle pot into the Lincoln County Jail. Denson stuck a baggie of weed up his butt and successfully snuck it into the jail when he was booked on drugs and weapons charges.
The pot was later found in the cells of two other inmates – Michael Malmkar and Matthew Mollman – in addition to Denson’s cell.
Inmates are stripped naked when they are booked, but are not routinely probed, a sheriff’s spokesman told the Bulletin.
In an emotionally charged courtroom, Michael Malmkar was sentenced to as long as 10 years’ imprisonment for motor vehicle homicide and leaving the scene of an injury accident.
Malmkar, 22, was driving an SUV in June 2011 that hit and killed bicyclist Lavern Walter on State Farm Road on the south side of North Platte. And, months later he was caught burglarizing a bar in Lincoln, near a halfway house where he was completing his treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.
Lincoln County District Judge Donald Rowlands said if Malmkar had completed treatment and received good evaluations, a lesser sentence might have been appropriate, but as it was, a lesser sentence “would send the wrong message to the public – that one can commit something like this and only get probation.”
Former North Platte convenience store clerk Jason Jones was sentenced to probation for accidently burning a car inside a garage that he was trying to burglarize. Inside the garage, Jones moved an air compressor that was wired into the wall and the sparks started a fire. He pled guilty to second-degree arson and possession of meth. He was ordered to pay $8,000 in restitution. (By the end of the year, Jones was back in jail again for violating probation. – Editor.)
North Platte’s Bob Schimek created a scale model of the city of Hue, Vietnam, in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the battle of Hue, one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. Schimek made the model as a tribute to the soldiers who fought in Nam, including his fired, ex-Marine Dan Dailey of North Platte. Schimek took his replica to the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles in Lexington, but first he stopped to show it to the Bulletin.
Neal Criddle, a former police officer, was hired as the director at the Connection homeless shelter, replacing Roy Lawton, who lasted just four months on the job. Criddle was a North Platte policeman for nine years, and more recently, was a manager for five years at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center.
A broad study of traffic in the city indicates that stoplights should be removed at Jeffers at Third and at Fifth, as well as other spots, according to a presentation to the city council. However, councilman Brook Baker questioned the accuracy of pedestrian counts near Memorial Park and Lincoln Elementary School because the study was conducted in October, when pedestrian traffic is lighter than warmer months.
Defense Attorney Russ Jones announced he is running for the Legislature, and intended to focus on the future. “Raw. Real. Problem solving for the future generations,” is how he described it.
The number of high risk sex offenders increased sharply since 2009. Today, there are nearly 90 registered sex offenders living in Lincoln County, according to a registry kept by the Nebraska State Patrol, which is more than a 100 percent increase since 2009, when there were only 42 offenders in the county.
A young North Platte man, 20-year-old Tanner Matthies, rammed his Dodge pickup clear through the front window of Perkins Restaurant, with a 25-year-old man hanging on the front. Police thought the two had argued on the phone before Matthies went ballistic.
Matthies drove across the lot at the man, who grabbed ahold of the bumper grill to keep from falling underneath. The victim ended up covered in glass near the checkout counter of the restaurant. He was rushed to the hospital, and Matthies was arrested.
Swipe a card or tap some buttons on an automated credit card reader and hope your data is safe. According to Western Nebraska Investigative Services of North Platte, criminals have their eyes on your bank account, and credit card fraud victimized nearly 800 Nebraskans in 2012. The thieves’ technology is often highly sophisticated. False keypads can be installed over the real keypad, so a credit card number can be collected and stolen without the victim suspecting there is anything wrong.
West of town, Joan Smith stood in her backyard on March 12, staring at shards of plastic and pottery in the ground, one year after a twister scattered most of her house and belongings to the wind. She will never get all the pieces back.
“My life changed (the day the twister hit),” she said. “I don’t worry about things that might happen in 10 years anymore. I make decisions based on what is important today.”
Smith’s home was completely rebuilt, this time with double walls in one room – a safe room – in case a twister ever strikes again. But she was still going through boxes of items that were salvaged from her wrecked home, a painful process.
Stephen Marquez and Shawn Reese are charged with theft from a salvage yard. They parked their pickup at the fence during the night and spent three hours loading batteries, tires and metals from inside the ABC Auto Salvage Yard. Sheriff’s deputies, acting on a tip from a passerby, found the men the next morning in a North Platte apartment.
The Pawnee Assisted Living Hotel got its operating license back on March 8, which had been suspended in October 2012. An HHS hearing officer said the hotel has made a good faith effort to clean and repair the building, and to keep good records of medication use, and HHS investigators have found no recent deficiencies, so the license was reinstated.
In full color layouts and photographs on the center pages, the Bulletin showed the wonder of the Sandhill cranes that arrived west of town during their annual spring migration.
Cody Jolliffe, Terry Houchin and Jacob Moser of North Platte were linked to not only the burglary of Kohler Trailer Sales in North Platte, but also to a break-in and theft of a safe near Lake Maloney, as well as the theft of a safe from Ideal Linen in North Platte.
The Bulletin looks at reports of prison camps being built inside the U.S., following the filibuster in Congress of Rand Paul, who tied up the Senate for 13 hours, until he received assurance that drones would never be used against U.S. citizens.
A watchdog group believes there are hundreds of prison camps ready for use in the U.S. in case of a mass uprising. However, many of the camps on their list are marked “ready for renovation,” or “currently in use for prisoners.” They are not sitting empty in anticipation of a rebellion.
In a close 4-3 vote, the city council nixed a request for $51,500 to hire a consultant to look at North Platte’s recreation needs, and fitness centers, and plan for the future. Proponent Paul Pederson, president of the hospital board of directors, said the study would be community wide study, encompassing Lincoln County. Councilman Jim Carman led opposition, saying wellness and fitness are personal responsibilities, not a function of government.
Bulletin contributor Kaycee Anderson took readers on a night looking for ghosts in the old Fox Theater, part of an investigative effort spearheaded by the management of the North Platte Community Playhouse.
The North Platte board of education approved 3-percent across-the-board pay raises to 22 top administrators. That boosts Superintendent Marty Bassett salary to $187,200 – or more than $700 a day -- an increase of $7,200/year compared to the year before.
Overall, the raises will add $150,500 to the districts budget in the 2013-14 school year.
Drive to jail
Michael Stone, 24, was sentenced to 2-6 years in the state pen for taking a car from Missouri and driving it to North Platte in September 2012. Stone was already wanted in Lincoln County on seven charges, including theft, bad checks and failure to appear.
Ft. McPherson was the site of crucial Indian negotiations in the 1860s, and the Bulletin recounts the most colorful negotiation from the book, “Fort McPherson, Nebraska” by Louis A. Holmes, when the Pawnee and the Sioux were unable to resolve their differences. This is the 150th anniversary of the historic fort south of Maxwell.
The Bulletin began its 11th year. Launched in April 2003 from a basement, doubters said it wouldn't last, but our newspaper remains dedicated to straightforward information about North Platte -- the most important place in central and western Nebraska.
For a decade we have published a print edition each week, a special parade edition during every Nebraskaland Days and 25,000 news stories on the Bulletin’s website.
A new Credit Union building, a machine shop and a truck repair center opened in North Platte, marking what shapes up to be a record-high year of construction spending. A $100 million addition to the Great Plains Regional Medical Center, the completion of the $15 million Nebraskaland National Bank and a $1.6 million Centris Federal Credit Union help set the new record.
Also, Troyer Welding doubled the size of their machine shop; Inland Truck's built a new, $2 million center on Newberry Road; a $400,000 stairway and elevator was added to the northwest corner of the old 1913 post office on Jeffers St. as it becomes an arts center; Casey's General Store on Rodeo Road added a $350,000 expansion; the Holy Spirit Catholic Church was expanded to the tune of $344,000. A $200,000 Verizon antenna tower and ticket booth were added at Bauer Field at North Platte High School.
Other projects: A $200,000 storage unit in the Industrial Park, a Nebraska - Colorado Cellular warehouse, also in the Industrial Park, Dynamite Destruction's warehouse on West Walker Road and Troyer Crane Service's warehouse on N. Bailey. An office building on East C Street became Dr. Deb's Express Medical Care, Time Saver on South Jeffers was improved and a new open front building went up at the Lincoln County Historical Museum, adding to the grand total.
Councilman: No health consultant
North Platte City Councilman Jim Carman, an outspoken critic of hiring a consultant to do a health and wellness study, suggested it might be done anyway without taxpayer's money. Carman led opposition two weeks ago when the council voted 4-3 against hiring a consultant.
On the other hand, committee chairman David Pederson said that private money is not high on the list of options.
"I suppose that could be one (option) but the general consensus is that we need to work with the city, not around them,” he told the Bulletin.
Carman told the Bulletin he remains staunchly opposed to city endorsement of the study and is “happy that our council voted not to fund the study with (growth fund) tax dollars."
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services paid money to dead people and others who didn't qualify, wasting at least $7.7 million in federal money, Nebraska State Auditor Mike Foley disclosed after a lengthy investigation.
Foley said in August 2011 -- just 5 weeks before the end of the federal fiscal year -- the DHHS spent $17.6 million in an apparent effort to spend money before it became unavailable because the year was ended.
The payments were supposed to help low income people pay heating and cooling bills it they qualify.
Foley said thousands of people got the money even though they didn't qualify. Auditors questioned if most of those payments were ever even used to pay utility bills. The money could be traced to utility bills in only a handful of instances.
Most alarming, 261 payments totaling nearly $112,000 were sent to persons who are dead, in some instances for a year or more, the audit showed.
New equipment will improve the recording system at the Bridge of Hope Advocacy Center in North Platte, where victims of domestic abuse are often interviewed and give their statements to law officers. The center received a $2,500 check from the Lincoln County Drug Fund, Hershey Lions Club, the Thrift Center, Cabela's, Bill Summers Ford as well as Wal-Mart Supercenters in McCook and North Platte.
North Platte school officials selected the 2013 NPHS distinguished alumni: businessman Byron Boslau (class of 62), Dr. Jim States (62), for outstanding accomplishments in medicine and service to the community; attorney Jim McFarland (65), for outstanding accomplishments in both business and athletics and broadcaster Chuck Schwartz (68).
Divorced dads want more time
If it takes an act of legislature, divorced dads are all for it. Divorced dads want to be able to see their children for the same amount of time as the mothers. A bill in the legislature (LB 22) aims to do that, forcing the divorce court to set up a parenting plan that provides for both parents to share decision making about their child.
Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney said it is important to see that fit parents have a reasonably similar amount of time and opportunity to be parents. The bill did not pass the Legislature but Hadley vowed to continue fighting for it.
Girls’ diamond dust-up
Dissent erupted into the softball season of the North Platte Community College team when nine girls walked off the team April 8 during a tournament in Columbus, capping a long weekend of trouble. The girls were on the edge of the team by the time they returned to North Platte after the tournament.
Head Coach Janelle Higgins is accused of breaking the law by locking girls inside the bus after a season of verbal abuse and overly harsh practices.
Some parents filed a complaint with the North Platte Police Department, pointing to the confinement.
College Vice President Marcus Garstecki said the coaches should have done a better job but he would not suspend them. Garstecki offered to reinstate five of the suspended players if they would sit out a four-game suspension. The girls turned down the olive branch.
Discussions began to move North Platte's sixth graders to Madison Middle School and put all the seventh and eighth graders in Adams. Proponents said sixth graders would get the same instruction and get the support they need as they come together from North Platte's 10 elementary schools.
Bassett said seventh and eighth graders would also be together, eliminating the get-acquainted process during the critical freshman year in high school.
With 2 out of 10 students failing to graduate at North Platte High School, top administrators are looking for solutions.
Semi-trucker thanks his dad
A semi-trucker who ran head on into an I-80 overpass support post at full speed on April 5 believes his dead father saved him from death. Carl Shane Peck of Utah is in the hospital with a broken foot and nine stitches in his forehead, but is otherwise okay.
Peck said he remembered taking a drink of Diet Coke, part of which went down his airway. He started coughing, felt light-headed and looked to pull off the road safely. When his mind cleared, the cab was wrapped around the support of the overpass.
Volunteer crews from Hershey and Sutherland worked three hours to get him out of the cab. A helicopter flew him to Good Samaritan in Kearney.
Peck told the Bulletin that his dad was also a truck driver, but died from cancer in 2002.
“But, I believe he was there to protect me, I really do,” he said.
Peck drives for Hinz Trucking of Odessa.
Bank robber gets up to 3 years
Would-be bank robber Drew Steier was sentenced to up to three years in prison for trying to rob the Farmers State Bank in Wallace. Steier, 21, of Evanston, Wyo. was one of two men who made a stab at robbing the bank in August. Steier pled no contest.
The men did not complete the robbery. Steier went into the bank and waved a BB handgun around, but left frustrated when tellers told him they could not give him money because it was all locked up. He and accomplice Tracy Black, also of Evanston, drove out of town on a back road in Black's pickup and were caught about an hour later near Imperial.
Man shot in drug theft
Drugs, theft and gunplay put three young North Platte men behind bars, after a late-night shooting on the north side, near 17th St. Police were called to the Great Plains Regional Medical Center around 1 a.m. April 11 on the report of a gunshot victim, a 30-year-old man who was shot in the left leg. He told investigators he did not know who shot him as he ran away from a parked car. Soon officers became involved in a vehicle pursuit on West Second with suspects in the shooting. The chase ended near Third and Adams where three men in the car tried to run on foot. All three were eventually apprehended.
Britton Renfrow, 21, Matthew Bobo, 28 and Ethan Bentley, 21, all of North Platte were all in jail by April 17.
Hershey parents ticketed
Some Hershey parents, plus an entertainer from Lincoln, were shocked to find a $100 parking ticket on their car window as they left a post-prom party early in the morning April 14 at the North Platte Recreation Center. Hershey parents rented the rec center for a closed-door party to keep their children safe. The rec center was closed to other business.
Police issued parking tickets around 2 a.m. Police Information Officer Rodney Brown said one officer issued five parking tickets to vehicles parked in handicapped parking stalls, an offense that is enforceable 24 hours a day.
Unwind on bike
It boils down to one person on the seat, two wheels and a hand on the throttle -- the ingredients in the joy of motorcycle riding.
“When you twist the throttle, there is a power that moves you,” said Dave Harrold of North Platte. “The sensation is between you and the ground and the scenery. There is no separation between you and the environment. There is something to be said for a seat and handlebars,” Harrold said motorcycle riding is good therapy.
“If you go out and ride for a couple of hours you forget your problems.”
Tree for suicide victim
A lone tree will be planted near the Lincoln County Jail to honor a veteran who, struggling to recover from war, hung himself in the Lincoln County Jail in 2008. The tree is one of the outcomes of a years-long lawsuit pressed by the man’s sister after Brian Hatcher’s, death. The tree on the south side of the courthouse will honor her brother and all fallen veterans.
The total monetary amount of the settlement is confidential, but it gave Brian’s sister Kara a sizeable amount of money, $50,000 of which she will donate to Soldiers heart, a nonprofit group dedicated to supporting and healing veterans who suffer from PTSD.
Hatcher served from 2001–04 in the Army’s legendary 101st Airborne Division, deployed in both Afghanistan and Iraq. During his second deployment he began to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, and his symptoms worsened when his deployment ended.
Sixth grade: evenly divided
The North Platte School Board gave Superintendent Marty Bassett the green light to continue to look at putting sixth graders in Madison Middle School. Putting the entire grade in school together would reduce rivalries between middle school students and allow teachers to collaborate better, he said.
Bassett told the board Tuesday that nearly 200 parents and teachers attended public meetings last week at each of the schools. He said that opinions are nearly evenly divided based on a show of hands and numbers written on sticky notes.
St. Pat’s school building to bite dust
The 97-year-old original St. Pat’s school building will be demolished this summer. Salvageable items such as lights, desks, appliances and the flag pole will be sold at auction on May 18.
“It’s been a very difficult decision,” Fr. Jim Golka said. “It served for many years; there is a lot of history there. But, nothing has been going on there for two years. It is no longer a safe environment.”
Plans are under way to build a new family life center, hopefully within two years, Golka said.
Money for irrigators
Nebraska farmers might be reimbursed for water taken by the state with a bill advanced by Nebraska lawmakers. Christensen proposed this bill because residents of the Republican River Basin irrigation district in southern Nebraska have lost access to much of their surface water from the Republican River during the drought.
Gasp: Chlorine railcar derails
Anatomy of a near miss -- a black railroad tank car rolled by itself in the pre-dawn light, carrying a toxic load of liquid chlorine, covering three miles, past the intersection of Front and Bare Ave. where houses line the streets. It kept going below the overpass at Buffalo Bill Ave., the north-south arterial street on the west side of town.
The big car hit an automatic derail device that keeps runaway cars from rolling into town or straying onto the main lines. It tipped over, plowing a trench a foot and a half deep in the dirt, and stopped.
Sirens in Bailey Yard sounded and emergency responders scrambled. Bailey Yard workers were confined inside buildings, train traffic in and out of the yard stopped for nearly two hours, the Buffalo Bill overpass was closed for a short time. Front St. was closed to traffic for most of the morning. Eventually the car was set upright, but it took most of the day for cranes to lift the heavy and potentially deadly car.
The breakaway load of chlorine sparked a renewed emphasis on precautions, including the only quick response to a deadly leak of hazardous material – taking shelter in the home, sealing windows and doors with plastic and tape, and staying put for up to 12 hours.
Donald Warfield, 70, of North Platte, was convicted April 22 of third-degree sexual assault of a child. Warfield, who bears a resemblance to Santa Claus, pled no contest, in a plea deal from first-degree sexual assault of a child. Warfield lived in a trailer on the victim's family's property and inappropriately touched an underage female, now 16, beginning when she was seven years old and continuing for 3-4 years, prosecutors said. Warfield faces up to five years in prison and registering as a sex offender for life.
Future dark for downtown lights
Gary Thayer, District 6 Engineer for Nebraska Department of Roads talked about the removal of downtown traffic lights along Jeffers/U.S. Highway 83 at a meeting of the downtown association. Thayer took comments from downtown business owners and answered questions about the lights at Fifth and Third, the two that are slated for removal.
A three-year old boy fought for his life in a Denver hospital, the victim of a drowning on May 6 just east of North Platte. The boy was fishing with his stepfather in a pond east of Newberry Road overpass, Lincoln County Sheriff Jerome Kramer said.
The boy, Landon Schroeder, was taken to Great Plains Regional Medical Center in North Platte and then life-flighted to Denver Children's Hospital, where he was put into a medically induced coma. Landon was with his stepfather Trevor Perry when the drowning happened and Perry took him home instead of to the hospital. His mother rushed him to the hospital.
Perry’s strange behavior prompted an extensive investigation and led to criminal charges.
On the morning of May 8 family members reported that Landon cried and followed an object with his eyes, signs of near-miraculous recovery. Later, his grandfather told the Bulletin that he was resuscitated four times.
A major movie and an international Rail Town could be in North Platte’s future, developers say. A movie is planned about the notoriously mean Annie Cook, who used the county’s poor to bring lucrative contracts and business connections her way in the early 1900s. Producers said they were only waiting on the financing to take shape, but by the end of the year, no real progress had been made on that front. A Rail Town attraction is envisioned to stand near I-80 and attract travelers into town. It would include a new visitor’s center where people could see what North Platte has to offer.
Dennis Thompson is North Platte’s new fire chief after a unanimously vote by the city council. Thompson was deputy fire chief for five years and the interim fire chief since Paul Pederson retired early this year. Thompson is looking forward to providing leadership to the fire department, and talked about the department's team efforts.
"I don't do it alone," he said. "It's all of us down there that get out and do the job. I look forward to this opportunity to lead and help the department progress."
A former North Platte student with a strong background in athletics is lined up to take over at Madison Middle School. Superintendent Marty Bassett recommends Danny McMurtry to replace Tom Coviello, who is resigning without comment.
Ethan Bentley, 21, who once said he didn't know anything about a shooting and a meth deal gone bad in mid-April, will be prosecuted for his part in the shooting and attempted methamphetamine robbery. Bentley and two other men are suspected of trying to steal an 8-ball of meth, and then shooting the seller when he tried to run away. Bentley is charged as an accessory to assault, attempted robbery and giving false information.
Eric Humphrey, 29, will serve 4-5 years in the Nebraska State Penitentiary for two counts of child sexual assault. At most, Humphrey will serve slightly less than three years, four months before he is eligible for parole. He will also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. An extensive year-long investigation revealed Humphrey had an ongoing sexual relationship with a teenage girl who once told investigators that she had a sexual relationship with Humphrey's roommate Paul Timmer, but later said that Humphrey had tried to have sex with her too. Evidence showed that Humphrey had the ongoing relationship with the underage girl, not Timmer.
Touching sparks prison sentence
Birch also sentenced John Barr, 30, of North Platte, to 6-10 years in the penitentiary for attempted sexual assault of a child, and aggravated assault of a prisoner. Barr was arrested in 2012 after a teenage girl stayed overnight with her friend -- Barr's stepdaughter. Investigators said Barr assaulted the girl on the couch, touching her inappropriately her and trying to pull her pants down. While in jail, Barr got into a fight with another prisoner.
Wolves in hills
Wolves were reported in Box Elder Canyon, a few miles northeast of North Platte. Vernon and Jackie Stenger said they saw three wolves when they were feeding their calves about 15 miles from North Platte.
“We looked across the fence, and there they were, about 200 yards away,” Jackie told the Bulletin. “We watched them for a few seconds. They were on a mission, moving at a slow lope. They ran totally different than a coyote, much smoother.”
The Game and Parks Department was non-committal about the sightings, refusing to officially say that wolves are in Nebraska.
In related news, mountain lions are now so prevalent in northwest Nebraska that a hunting season could open. Game and Parks officials said lions have been permanent residents since the early 2000s and an estimated 18 now live there. They are considering allowing 1-2 cats a year to be hunted and killed.
A 15-20 member committee of residents and administrators was formed to look at an all-sixth grade Madison Middle School, planning to meet once a month, Superintendent Marty Bassett said.
Dallis Dye is honored as a Golden Senior just a few days before he passed away. Dye was active in the Eagles, Kiwanis, the opportunity center, the college booster club, Nebraskaland Days and the North Platte Ambassadors, among other civic contributions.
Return to Vietnam
Airport Manager Mike Sharkey took Bulletin readers back to site of intense battles 45 years age in the Vietnam war. Sharkey hired a rickshaw driver to take him to the airstrip where he served during the war. The driver’s father was a South Vietnamese security guard at the airstrip and was killed during the war. The driver would not accept any money for the ride. Sharkey found a beautiful country full of forgiving people.
BB shooter sentenced
BB gun shooter Justin Belsky was convicted of 10 counts of criminal mischief in an August 2011 shooting spree that damaged approximately 200 windows all over town. Belsky was ordered to write letters of apology to all victims and pony up 30 percent of his paycheck until restitution is paid. He was placed on strict probation for two years.
Stepdad in trouble
Accused stepdad Trevor Perry is arrested for the second time, once for the near-drowning of Landon Schroder, age 3, and the second time for the assault of his step-mother, 61. Bond was set at $500,000.
Honorary bricks for the20th Century Veteran's Memorial will be reordered after an order of 38 turned up missing. The bricks, each engraved with the name of a veteran, were delivered April 25 to the Pawnee Assisted Living Hotel, where the memorial's office is located. An employee at the hotel signed for the 40-pound box and they were left in the lobby, but were nowhere to be found when secretary Wilma Salisbury went to get them. Salisbury said the shipment is covered by insurance.
Gun owners, fearing new restrictions and swayed by rumors, are buying excessive quantities of bullets. The buying spree is making it difficult for manufacturers and retailers to keep ammo in stock. Some critics attribute shortages to an unusually high number of federal ammo purchases. According to widespread internet rumors, federal officials have hoarded more than a billion rounds of ammo in an attempt to disarm the public and in effect, control guns.
However, in reality people are stockpiling ammo. Nick Legas of Five Star Pawn Shop in North Platte told of two men who came looking for .22 ammo. Both had said they had stockpiled 10,000 rounds each and wanted another 10,000 rounds. Jim's Hobby shop owner, Jim Harris Jr., said .22 caliber are used for target shooting and small game, and the widely used bullets are the toughest to find these days. Harris said 9mm and .45 caliber bullets are in short supply too.
Police looked for suspects in a theft from Kohler Trailer Sales on Rodeo Road. Sometime during the night, unknown persons broke in and removed a large safe and other items Kohler Trailer Sales is at 3821 Rodeo Road.
Young men, thefts and meth
The list of young men arrested this year for break ins, thefts and drugs is a long one. Here are a few:
• Britton Renfrow 21, Matthew Bobo, 28, and Ethan Bentley, 21 are suspected of trying to steal an 8-ball of meth from Benjamin Newman, 30. Renfrow allegedly shot him when he tried to run.
• Joseph Duran, 28, was sentenced to 1.5-3 years in the pen for the burglary of the Westfield carwash and taking two bill changers from the office.
• Stephen Marquez, 24, sentenced in March to 180 days in the county jail for possession of codeine without a prescription. He faces charges of burglary, theft possession of stolen property, unauthorized use of a vehicle, trespassing and criminal mischief in connection to a pickup load of items taken March 9 from ABC Auto Salvage.
• Timothy Jones, 25, was sentenced recently to 1-3 years in the pen for burglary. Arrested in December, his record of crimes shows three burglary charges, drug possession, five counts of theft, several charges of assault, stolen property, trespassing, witness tampering, shoplifting, contempt of court, disturbing the peace and failure to appear.
• Chance Ragle, 23, jailed June 1 for stealing cars and joyriding during the Christmas holidays. He has a history of theft and was charged with possession of amphetamine in 2011.
• Troy Culpepper, 26, sentenced to 3-6 years in the pen June 2 for a felon in possession of a weapon, after an Aug. 29 burglary where four guns, a large knife and $1,000 cash were taken. A few days later, police found the knife and one of the guns in Culpepper's car.
• Seth Schuett, 23, arrested June 3 after deputies found eight guns that were stolen a week earlier in Maxwell. Most of the guns turned up at a rummage sale in Sutherland. The person running the rummage sale told deputies he had bought the guns from Schuett.
A new business failed and the city inherited the office equipment. The city received about $20,000 in exchange for quality growth money that was appropriated in mid-February for a business start up for People Oriented Planning. The business did not develop. Organizer Michelle Stephens initially received a $30,000 grant to launch the business.
To be continued… First published in the Dec. 26 print edition of the North Platte Bulletin. Back issues of the Bulletin are available at our office at 1300 East Fourth St.