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Mason City man charged with first-degree murder in Illinois

OTTAWA, Illinois | A Mason City man will stand trial for murder after he was initially charged for involuntary manslaughter.

Mason Shannon, 43, was charged with murder Dec. 22, according to court records. He previously had been charged with involuntary manslaughter in mid-September.

Shannon was released from Cerro Gordo County's custody Sept. 22 and later extradited to Illinois, Sheriff Kevin Pals told the Globe Gazette in October. 

The LaSalle News Tribune reported this week that Shannon, who allegedly fatally choked Michael Castelli, 32, of Ottawa, Illinois, appeared in court.

His lawyer, Douglas DeBoer, said Shannon and Castelli were co-workers at Bonnie Plants when the incident occurred on July 20, the News Tribune reported.

Castelli was possibly on psychedelic mushrooms and was "filled with rage," DeBoer said. Others present at the scene had to restrain Castelli for 21 minutes, he added.

"Nobody wanted him to die," he said in court. "This was an accident."

Persecutors, however, allege Shannon knew what he was doing when he put Castelli into a chokehold, an action likely to cause death.

Shannon faces 20 to 60 years in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

His trial has been scheduled for Feb. 26, 2018.

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Clear Lake bar hosts sexual assault prevention class

CLEAR LAKE | North Iowa bar employees learned how to prevent sexual assault and harassment during a class in Clear Lake this month. 

In a back room of the Surf District Rock 'n Roll Grill Dec. 19, Erin Meyers spoke to about 20 people about how to prevent sexual assault in bars, nightclubs and similar venues.

The class, titled "Raise the Bar," aims to show bartenders and other employees how to identify issues that may arise, and different examples of predatory behavior.

Meyers, who serves as Crisis Intervention Service's sexual assault advocate and prevention specialist in Floyd, Mitchell and Worth counties, told the Globe Gazette she hopes to teach the class to several other bars and similar venues across North Iowa.

She added one of the most important topics of her class is bystander intervention. It doesn't matter who is acting like a predator, Meyers said.

"That’s one of my biggest things … even if it's uncomfortable and it’s your friend … and it’s a hard conversation, maybe you need to have it," she said.

Some of the other concepts included angel shots and drink tokens, techniques bartenders can use to help individuals if they need to use code words to leave a potentially dangerous situation.

Brady Tilkes, who has been a bartender at the Surf for about three months, said this, among other ideas, is what he gained from the class.

Most importantly, he believes a lot of cases of sexual assault and harassment can be prevented if just one person speaks up.

"A lot of the scenarios can be prevented if you say something," Tilkes said about one of the videos presented during the class. "People don’t want to do illegal stuff if they know people are watching."

Meyer also discussed how important it is to realize how trauma impacts the brain, especially for victims of sexual assault and harassment.

"A lot of times after someone is assaulted, they will seem crazy ... that's because of the trauma, your brain is acting very differently," Meyers said during the class. 

"People who are in trauma, they kind of get what they're trying to say, but they don't put the pieces the right way," she later added.

Grant Maulsby, owner/operator of the Surf District Rock 'n Roll Grill, said one reason he decided to host the class was because of the increasing amount of news stories about sexual harassment involving celebrities, politicians and other public figures.

Maulsby said he learned it's important for everyone in the bar to be aware of their surroundings, and urged people to use caution — especially on first dates.

"You just have to be really careful these days," he said. "Just be smart about the situation, and perhaps if you’re seeing someone for the first time, don’t drink."

Meyers emphasized that having a strong friend group can decrease the risks of assault and harassment. Predators will often "butterfly" around a room, and it's up to everyone to recognize this behavior, she added.

She thanked those in attendance for their feedback, and challenged people to act if they see suspicious behavior — even if it feels uncomfortable.

"A lot of times that person might be creepy … but we never really act upon it unless we see it’s actively wrong," Meyers said.