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NEWS 4.29.21: Murder Investigation, Agriculture Lawsuit, Community College Increase, and More

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Sioux City police investigating a murder at a home near Glenn and South Mulberry Street in Morningside. A news release says when officer arrived for a check welfare call this morning, they found a man and woman dead from apparent gunshot wounds. Detectives believe they identified all of the parties involved and are not looking for any suspects in the case. A spokesperson was not able to confirm if the deaths were caused by murder-suicide.

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Credit Sioux City Police Department

Authorities haven’t released more details on a farming accident in Woodbury County that killed an eight-year-old. The accident happened yesterday afternoon on a farm east of Climbing Hill.

The murder trial for a Winnebago man accused of killing his fiancé last year on the Winnebago Indian Reservation has been postponed.

Twenty-six-year-old Jonathan Rooney's federal trial, which had been scheduled to start on May 10 in Omaha, has been pushed back to August.

Rooney is charged in U.S. District Court with second-degree murder and tampering with documents in the killing of 22-year-old Kozee Decorah.

Officers responding to a call for help from Decorah on May 16 found her burning remains in a fire outside a cabin near Winnebago. Rooney was found sleeping in the cabin with the couple's 4-month-old son.

Domestic violence victims who are living with their abuser in a rental property could break their lease and leave without penalties under a bill that won final approval from Nebraska lawmakers.

Senators passed the measure through the last of three required votes, 43-3.

The bill was inspired by incidents in Nebraska where women left abusive partners but were forced by their landlord to keep paying rent while their partner remained in the apartment.

The Iowa Department of Public Health shows one more Iowan has died of complications of COVID-19 in 24 hours with almost 500 new cases with a dozen in Woodbury County. The statewide 14-day test positivity rate has held steady at 4%. The number is even lower for Woodbury County with 3.8%.

The vaccine dashboard on the department’s website reports more than 1 million residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

184 people are hospitalized with 5 being treated at Sioux City’s two medical facilities for COVID-19 only. 

An Iowa man charged with leaving a threatening voicemail telling Gov. Kim Reynolds she should be “hung for treason” is defending his comments as free speech.

Forty-eight-year-old Harvey Hunter Jr. is charged with first-degree harassment for the message he left on a governor’s office phone line in early January. It was set up to gather input over whether Reynolds should continue the statewide mask mandate.

Hunter called the governor a dictator and said “every single one of you need to be hung for treason for pushing this COVID scam.” Hunter says he was using his speech rights to criticize the government and has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The South Dakota Supreme Court has heard final arguments in a legal battle sparked by an attempt by Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration to strike down a voter-passed constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana.

The high court will decide whether recreational pot use, medical marijuana and hemp cultivation are enshrined in the state’s constitution.

Voters passed the measure in November. But the head of the South Dakota Highway Patrol mounted a legal challenge to its constitutionality on Noem's behalf, as well as the sheriff of Pennington County. On Wednesday, lawyers argued before five Supreme Court justices in Pierre.

Some Midwestern farmers are suing the federal government alleging they're ineligible for a COVID-19 stimulus loan forgiveness program because they're white.

The group of farmers hails from Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois and Ohio.

They filed the lawsuit in Milwaukee on Thursday.

They argue that the Biden administration's stimulus plan provides loan forgiveness to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, defined as Black, American Indian, Hispanic or Pacific Islander.

The lawsuit alleges that violates white farmers' constitutional rights. U.S. Department of

Agriculture officials said in a statement that the agency is reviewing the lawsuit, but the agency plans to continue to offer loan forgiveness to “socially disadvantaged” farmers.

The number of high school students earning community college credit hit a record high in Iowa, including the Sioux City Community School District. The rate locally increased 9% in one year that ended with last school year. All three highs schools and the Sioux City Career Academy saw more than 1,500 students enroll in classes with Western Iowa Tech Community College.

News release from the Sioux City Community School District: 

Number of high school students earning community college credit hits record high

SIOUX CITY- In March, Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education announced that a record-high number of Iowa high school students earned dual high school and community college credit for courses in the 2019-20 school year. Joint enrollment increased by 2.4 percent in the state. The Sioux City Community School District far exceeded this state metric, with a 9 percent increase from the 2018-19 to the 2019-20 school year.

Collectively, East High, North High, and West High had 1,525 students dual-enrolled in Western Iowa Tech Community College in the 2019-20 school year. This is up from 1,399 in 2018-19. Dual enrollment courses are offered through each high school in the District, as well as the Sioux City Career Academy. 

“The continued growth in dual enrollment in our District is evidence of the educational value students experience in the Sioux City Career Academy and through our partnership with Western Iowa Tech Community College,” said Katie Towler, principal of the Sioux City Career Academy. “Students today are entering a highly competitive global workforce. Our pathways allow high school students to begin career exploration and post-secondary education, while in high school, in order to be successful in meeting the demands of the ever-changing economy.”

Iowa high school students earn community college credit at no cost to their families because of supplemental weighting provided by the state’s school funding formula and the contracts that school districts and nonpublic schools typically arrange with their local community college.

“In Iowa we have put a strong emphasis on dual enrollment because it helps students get a head start on college coursework while lowering the overall cost of higher education,” said Gov. Reynolds. “There’s more work to do, but we continue to see the benefits of the strong partnerships that exist between business, industry, and educators as they help students attain the necessary education for a successful career and exciting future.” 

The full report from the Iowa Department of Education is available on the Iowa Department of Education’s website.

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