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Ice, ice, baby: Spirit Lake crew fishes Lexus from Clear Lake (with video, photos)

CLEAR LAKE | A crew of about eight men worked for hours in subzero temperatures Tuesday to recover a luxury SUV that fell through thin ice on Clear Lake. 

The 2017 Lexus RX 350 went into the water sometime Monday. At first, it was just the front of the SUV, allowing the people inside to get out and walk to shore.

Overnight, the SUV submerged itself in about 10 feet of water, with 3 to 4 feet of water above the vehicle. It went through the ice on the southwestern side of the lake, more than 200 yards from the shoreline. 

"I've been doing this since 1987," Bob Kirschbaum said. “I’ve never seen a Lexus go through the ice.”

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Okoboji Underwater Recovery Specialists employees use a winch to drag a 2017 Lexus RX 350 across the ice on their recovery rig after the vehicle fell through the ice in Clear Lake on Monday. The company uses specialized equipment to recover vehicles that fall through thin ice.

Bob owns Bob's Repair and Tow as well as Okoboji UnderWater Recovery Specialists with his sons, Josh and Jason. They were called from Spirit Lake to recover the SUV, but Jason said they had to find it first.

Temperatures Tuesday afternoon hovered just above zero in Clear Lake. Finding and recovering the vehicle took several hours. 

“By the time we got it set up, got the rig over the hole, found it, took us a little while because he (owner of the vehicle) couldn’t remember where he was quite at,” Jason said. “He was heading over to the other side and didn’t know it was this thin over here.”

The family might have been ice fishing, Josh said. The person who owns the vehicle has not been identified. Officials with the Iowa DNR, which oversees lake enforcement, did not return three calls seeking that information Monday and Tuesday. 

“Where the vehicle fell through, (the ice) was only about an inch, 2 inches thick,” Jason said. "It got a lot of front-end damage when it went in.”

Jason had to scuba dive into the frigid water for find the vehicle and hook it to the rig to be pulled up.

“I was in the water about 45 minutes, hooking up all four points of the vehicle,” Jason said. “The water is warmer than what we’re standing in. It's about 35, 36 degrees in there.”

Recovery can be dangerous. At one point, the crew was 100 yards back from the submerged SUV, where the ice was only about 2 inches thick. 

“This one here is difficult because of the ice conditions,” Bob said. “Normally, if we’ve got decent ice, we can be in and out of there in two hours.”

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Okoboji Underwater Recovery Specialists employees monitor their recovery rig Tuesday as it carries a 2017 Lexus RX 350 across the ice after it fell through the ice on Clear Lake Monday. The company uses specialized equipment to recover vehicles that fall through thin ice.

Bob said this is the longest recovery they’ve had this season, and praised his crew for their efficiency. 

“We need to keep things moving so we can get back to that heated trailer over there, if you know what I'm saying,” Bob said. “It’s an extremely cold day.”

Not far away, open water by aerators could be seen, along with several ice houses, trucks and people ice fishing. 

“Once we get back to some more solid ice — we’re at about 5-6 inches now — we get back and lower the vehicles down and tow it to shore,” Jason said. “It’s quite a process.”

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Okoboji Underwater Recovery Specialists employees monitor their recovery rig Tuesday as it carries a 2017 Lexus RX 350 across the ice after it fell through the ice on Clear Lake Monday. The company uses specialized equipment to recover vehicles that fall through thin ice.

The equipment used to drag the the recovery rig holding the SUV kept running out of battery due to the cold. Every once in awhile, they would have to stop and let the rig sit, suspending the vehicle.

The rig will float 25,000 pounds. The crew also has more the 3,500 feet of cable.

"Insurance companies will consider this a total loss," Jason said. Some parts may be salvaged. “We have two vehicles in our fleet that have been salvaged; one actually came in from Clear Lake.”

This is the second vehicle to fall through the ice this week. On Sunday, a truck owned by John Juhlin of Cedar Falls fell through the ice in Bayside, between the shore and the island. A firefighter was able to help Juhlin, who was not hurt, out of the truck. 

Josh said the Lexus was at least the second vehicle they have pulled out of Clear Lake this season.

“Fortunately, no one got hurt or killed,” Bob said. “We have had fatalities before.”

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Update: Samantha Teeter's family says 'justice was served' in Whaley's sentencing for Mason City murder

MASON CITY | A Mason City man has been sentenced up to 50 years in prison after he was convicted of second-degree murder in December.

Larry Whaley, 61, fatally shot 19-year-old Samantha Teeter through his apartment door on Dec. 2, 2016. According to Iowa law, he must serve 70 percent of that sentence — 35 years — before he is eligible for parole.

On trial in Mason City: Remembering Teeter and the case against Whaley (with photos)

David Teeter, Samantha's father, said he and his family were pleased with the sentence, but disappointed in Whaley's comments at the hearing.

"We were happy with the sentence, but saddened that when he spoke he took no responsibility for Samantha’s death, and feels everyone at trial including the detective lied and he did what anyone would’ve done," David Teeter wrote in a Facebook message to the Globe Gazette. "We believe he was solely responsible and justice was served."

Jesse Teeter, Samantha's brother, said he will miss his sister but was also happy with Whaley's sentence.

"Samantha was my goofy, annoying little sister," he said. "I'll never know her as a mature young adult. I feel robbed of life experiences, sorrowed to know she'll never be here with family, during gatherings/holidays."

"I feel justice was served fair and swift — once the trial started," he added about the verdict.

Following sentencing Tuesday, Cerro Gordo County Attorney Carlyle Dalen also said he was pleased with Judge Christopher Foy's decision.

"We thought it was a just verdict and the family thought justice had been served," Dalen said.

Arian Schuessler / ARIAN SCHUESSLER, The Globe Gazette 

Larry Whaley enters a Cerro Gordo County District courtroom with State Public Defender Michael Adams on Thursday, Nov. 16.

During the trial, Whaley's attorneys — state public defenders Mike Adams and Jill Eimermann — argued he had been acting in self-defense, because he thought Corey Mays, a man allegedly involved in a prior shooting in town, might have been behind his apartment door.

The prosecution — Dalen and Iowa Assistant Attorney General Douglas Hammerand — stated Whaley was acting reckless and was not justified in shooting through his apartment door. 

Adams could not be immediately reached for comment via email or a phone call Tuesday.

The trial spanned four days, and jurors spent two-and-a-half hours before reaching a guilty verdict Dec. 21.

Jesse Teeter stressed that it's important that Whaley be punished for his actions.

"Whaley clearly doesn't understand what he's done," he said. "Or have a decent understanding of 'situational' awareness — (it's) a blessing to have such a person off of the streets."


Samantha Teeter with son, Andre. 

Lawmakers take on glitch over Iowa’s No. 2

DES MOINES — Iowa voters would be asked to amend the state constitution to solidify the lieutenant governor’s place in the line of succession under a bill that cleared a Senate State Government subcommittee Tuesday.

Senate Study Bill 3133 seeks to resolve a murky area of law and a constitutional dispute that arose last May after then-Gov. Terry Branstad resigned to become the ambassador to China and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds succeeded him as Iowa’s 43rd governor.

Reynolds picked public defender Adam Gregg to take her place as lieutenant governor. But Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller gave a formal legal opinion that put a cloud over his status.

Miller said research by his office found that an individual ascending midterm from lieutenant governor to governor does not have the constitutional authority to appoint a replacement.

Reynolds, Branstad and others disputed Miller’s position. But rather than risk a legal challenge, Reynolds appointed Gregg as her “acting” lieutenant governor — a hybrid that makes him a “full partner” in her administration but leaves him out of the line of constitutional succession to replace her if need be.

Reynolds’ aide at the time called it “unprecedented” to have an acting lieutenant do the administrative and ceremonial duties of the office and draw the $103,212 yearly salary, but be outside gubernatorial succession.

Reynolds asked lawmakers to look into it. Tuesday, the subcommittee forwarded to the full committee a resolution seeking a constitutional amendment to establish the lieutenant governor’s place in the line of succession with “the same powers and duties as one who was elected, including the duty to act as governor or to assume the office of the governor and appoint a new lieutenant governor.”

The resolution would have to pass both the House and the Senate in the same form and then be approved again by the next Iowa General Assembly to come before voters in 2020.

“I think this is a good amendment to the constitution to fix the problem that’s in front of us that we know is out there,” said Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, chairman of the Senate State Government Committee. “We’re going to have the people have the final say.”

Eric Tabor of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office said “we believe that it does solve the problem that we encountered last year.” But he raised a new concern that language should be added to address a possible scenario where a governor and a lieutenant governor have been elected but not yet taken office.

Smith planned to work with the Attorney General’s Office to address that issue before the resolution is taken up by the full committee.

Under the current arrangement, Senate President Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, would be in line to succeed Reynolds should she be unable to serve out her term.

Smith said he wished the state’s constitutional drafters “would have been more clear when they wrote it, then we wouldn’t be here today.”

“We have to come in and fix this and I believe this does,” he said.

Globe Gazette will move printing to Des Moines

MASON CITY | Starting Monday, Feb. 12, North Iowa Media Group's publications will be printed at Gannett Publishing Services in Des Moines.

Publisher Roy Biondi attributed the decision to the labor pool shortage in the area and a cost-prohibitive capital investment that would be required to meet the demands of today's advertising and subscriber customers.

"This will enhance the printing quality that comes with using a larger press," Biondi said. "This will allow us more opportunities at packaging our products with inserts, special sections and more color pages."

Last month, the Globe Gazette reported more than 1,000 available jobs in Cerro Gordo County. The county's unemployment rate has remained below 3 percent since October, its lowest for that period of time since 2000, according to the Iowa Department of Workforce Development.

Biondi also praised the work of Press Room Manager Rob Curley and Distribution Supervisor Salena Williams.

Most of the affected employees, about a dozen, are part-time workers. Those who qualify will receive severance packages.

The first editions printed in Des Moines for the Globe Gazette, Mitchell County Press-News and The Summit-Tribune serving Britt and Forest City will be distributed Tuesday, Feb. 13.