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CHRIS ZOELLER The Globe Gazette 

Family of the five youths killed in a car crash last April release lanterns in honor of their loved ones after a remembrance ceremony Tuesday at North Iowa Youth for Christ and Mason City Campus Life.

We Remember: Hundreds gather to mourn, celebrate lives of five Mason City residents killed in crash (with photos)

MASON CITY | The images of Zachary Hartley, Donte Foster, Sydney Alcorn, Alex Wiebke and Roderick Lewis flashed across multiple projection screens at the North Iowa Youth For Christ building in Mason City Tuesday night.

It had been a year since the five had died in a car accident in the 400 block of Sixth Street Southwest. And Katie Zickefoose, in a speech about the five, admitted that past year had been difficult.

"This year, I have spent a lot of energy trying to make it look like I had it all together," said Zickefoose, the high school ministry director at Youth for Christ. "A lot of energy trying to be strong, when my heart was just breaking ... I saw four of the five people the week before they passed away, and I struggled with guilt, with all the things I wish I would have said."

Thankfully for Zickefoose, her grief was shared with many others — specifically, more than 200 people packed into the main meeting room at the Youth for Christ building.

Those people ranged from friends and family members, to local officials like Cerro Gordo Sheriff Kevin Pals and Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley. But there were also droves of kids scattered throughout the audience, many of whom appeared to be around the same age of the five victims, who ranged from 14 to 20 years old.

Brinkley said Tuesday's turnout, especially among area youth was an indication of the victims' influence throughout town and beyond.

"This impacted tons and tons of kids throughout our North Iowa region," he said. "Bigger than Mason City, bigger than our county. But I think they're here to remember, they haven't forgotten. And that's the catch I think ... I hope that stays with them into adulthood and something they're teaching their kids because of the lessons they've learned." 

After Zickefoose finished her speech, music was performed by Youth for Christ volunteers and then family members and friends released sky lanterns outdoors in remembrance of the victims.

From left: Zachary Hartley, Alex Wiebke, Roderick Lewis, Sydney Alcorn and Donte Foster. 

One of the people who released a lantern was Julie Wiebke, Alex's mother. Both she and Travis Wiebke, his father, said the community's support has greatly helped them since the accident.

"If he saw someone sitting by himself, he went out of his way (to ask), 'Hey, how ya doing?' He wanted to make people comfortable," Travis said about his son's kindness.

Both he and Julie referred to Alex as a "gentle giant," given his kind nature even as he towered in height over his classmates.

"He loved everybody for who they were," Julie said. "He didn't shy away from anybody ... he wouldn't shun you off or blow you off because of who you were, how you looked, where you came from."

In her speech about all five victims, a common thread Zickefoose talked about was their high character and ambition. She believed Donte Foster had dreams to run for president, and she would have voted for him — handing a "Donte for President" T-shirt to family members. Foster's sense of humor would also "make you laugh until you cry."

Her stories spanned several more minutes: Roderick Lewis, who went by "Rod," was a man who could dance, and was athletic. Perhaps most importantly, Lewis had a big heart.

Sydney Alcorn was full of happiness, and that positive attitude was so contagious it would light up a room, Zickefoose said.

Zachary Hartley was a respectful young man whose handshake and warm first impression could cure anxiety and nervousness. And Alex Wiebke was a man whose deep faith and respect for others inspired many, including Zickefoose.

Mason City crash victims: Lewis, Hartley, Foster, Alcorn, Wiebke

Mayor Bill Schickel said it has been a tough year for many students in the area, but he was moved by the tribute to all five. He added a memorial is in the works, and will be located somewhere in town to remember the five victims.

"I do know some of their relatives, and it's just been gut-wrenching," Schickel said. "It's such a tragedy when you lose people, especially at that young age  ... it makes me count my blessings, but it is heart-breaking for myself and the community."

But to the hundreds who showed up in support Tuesday — including more than 100 kids — Julie Wiebke wants them to know their support will always be appreciated. 

"They were like a second family," she said. "It was just like a home away from home. They were all friends, they all hung out, this (Youth for Christ) was a safe place where they could hang out and know they can be themselves and have fun."

Photos: 'We Remember' memorial event for Mason City crash victims

Ryan says he'll retire, leaving big election-year GOP vacuum

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan abruptly announced Wednesday he will retire rather than seek another term in Congress as the steady if reluctant wingman for President Donald Trump, sending new ripples of uncertainty through a Washington already on edge and a Republican Party bracing for a rough election year.

The Wisconsin Republican cast the decision to end his 20-year career as a personal one — he doesn't want his children growing up with a "weekend dad" — but it will create a vacuum at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. It will leave congressional Republicans without a measured voice to talk Trump away from what some see as damaging impulses, and it will rob Trump of an influential steward to shepherd his more ambitious ideas into legislation.

It's unusual for a House speaker, third in line to succeed the president, to turn himself into a lame duck, especially so for Ryan, a once-rising GOP star who is only 48 and was the party's vice presidential candidate in 2012. His decision fueled fresh doubts about the party's ability to fend off a Democratic wave, fed by opposition to Trump, in November. And it threw the House into a leadership battle that could end up pushing Ryan aside sooner than he intended and crush any hopes for significant legislation before the election.

Ryan, though, said he had no regrets after having accomplished "a heckuva lot" during his time in a job he never really wanted. He said fellow Republicans have plenty of achievements to run on this fall, including the tax cuts Congress delivered, which have been his personal cause and the centerpiece of his small-government agenda, even though they helped skyrocket projected annual deficits toward $1 trillion.

"I have given this job everything I have," Ryan said.

Speculation over Ryan's future had been swirling for months, but as he dialed up colleagues and spoke by phone with Trump early Wednesday, the news stunned even top allies.

Ryan announced his plans at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans. Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina said an emotional Ryan "choked up a few times trying to get through" his remarks and received three standing ovations.

He later briefly thanked Trump in public for giving him the chance to move GOP ideas ahead.

While Ryan was crucial in getting the tax cuts passed, a prime Trump goal, he and the president have had a difficult relationship. Trump showed impatience with Congress' pace in dealing with his proposals, and Ryan had to deal with a president who shared little of his interest in policy detail.

Still, for many Republicans, it's unclear who will be left in leadership to counterbalance Trump. Ryan has been "a steady force in contrast to the president's more mercurial tone," said Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. "That's needed."

The speaker had been heading toward this decision since late last year, said a person familiar with his thinking, but as recently as February he had considered running for another term. His own father died suddenly of a heart attack when he was 16, and though Ryan is in good health, the distance from his family weighed on him. A final decision was made over the two-week congressional recess, which he partly spent on a family vacation in the Czech Republic.

Ryan, from Janesville, Wisconsin, was first elected to Congress in 1998. Along with Reps. Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, he branded himself a rising "Young Gun" in an aging party, a new breed of hard-charging Republican ready to shrink the size of government.

He was GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's running mate in 2012.

Ryan was pulled into the leadership job by the sudden retirement in 2015 of Speaker John Boehner, who had struggled to control the chamber's restless conservative wing. He has had more trust with the hardliners in the House.

"That's probably his greatest gift to us," said Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. "His ability to bridge the vast divide."

House Majority Leader McCarthy, a Californian known to be tighter with Trump, is expected to again seek the top leadership post that slipped from his reach in 2015. He will likely compete with Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Both men spoke at the closed-door meeting Wednesday, delivering tributes to Ryan, and both attended a GOP leadership dinner Wednesday night with Trump at the White House.

Another potential rival, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, demurred when asked if he'd pursue the speaker's job. "Leadership has never been on my bucket list, and it's not on my bucket list today," he said.

Ryan's announcement came as Republicans are bracing for a potential blue wave of voter enthusiasm for Democrats, who need to flip at least 24 GOP-held seats in November to regain the majority.

As the House GOP's top fundraiser, Ryan's lame-duck status could send shockwaves through donor circles that are relying on his leadership at the helm of the House majority. He has hauled in $54 million so far this election cycle.

"It injects some more uncertainty to be sure," said the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas.

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Prosecutor: Mason City man 'snapped' before causing brain injury to infant daughter

MASON CITY | Assistant Cerro Gordo County Attorney Andrew Olson spent about 30 minutes in court Wednesday morning describing a timeline of how Jeremy Rose allegedly abused his 5-month old daughter.

Rose, 28, has been charged with child endangerment because of those alleged incidents, which police said occurred in June 2017. Olson detailed cigarette burns, accused Rose of violently shaking his daughter, and then failing to get her the care she needed until she was taken to Mercy Medical Center--North Iowa on June 22.

In his opening argument during Rose's trial, he led off with a frank assessment of the whole chain of events.

"Jeremy Rose snapped, and caused damage to the brain of a 5-month old child," Olson said.


Olson added several witnesses, including Dr. Chris DeRauf from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, would testify to that brain damage.

Parker Thirnbeck, one of the public defenders representing Rose, described his client as a caring individual.

"You will hear Jeremy loved (his two daughters)," Thirnbeck told the jury. "And that those two girls were his world."

Rose appeared calm throughout the trial Wednesday, occasionally taking notes during attorneys' objections and throughout opening statements and testimony.

One of the main points of contention during opening arguments is what exactly occurred on June 22, 2017 — the night Rose's 5-month-old daughter was initially taken to the hospital.

Olson said in his opening statement that Jeremy Rose and the victim's mother, Alyss Michel, has been arguing in the weeks leading up to the abuse. 

"At the end of the day, Jeremy Rose was watching (his daughter), but no one was watching Jeremy Rose," he told jurors. "In the courtroom, you get to be the ones who watch Jeremy Rose."

But Thirnbeck argued that while Rose was the primary caretaker on June 22, that doesn't mean he was at fault for the injuries the 5-month-old suffered.

"What happened on this night was a tragic accident, and that was it," Thirnbeck told the jury.

The first witness called by prosecutors was Mason City firefighter Gary Akins. Assistant Cerro Gordo Attorney Steven Tynan asked Akins questions about June 22, 2017, when he responded to a call in the 1700 block of South Coolidge Avenue in Mason City.

Akins testified he noted Rose's 5-month-old daughter had bruises on forehead, cheek, mouth and other areas. He also noted the baby had difficulty breathing when first responders arrived.

In cross-examination, Thirnbeck asked Akins to read more of his report of the incident, which indicated Rose or the victim's grandmother initially didn't know what has caused the bruises or abrasions.

Testimony is expected to continue Thursday.