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Investigators: Foul play suspected in Iowa man's disappearance

GRUNDY CENTER | Investigators say they suspect foul play in the disappearance of a man reported missing to Grundy Center police in late October.

Michael Bruce Johns, 28, was reported missing on Oct. 26. He is described as 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighing 180 lbs.

At the time of his disappearance, Johns was wearing a white baseball cap, a green or dark colored Under Armour hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, and white and gray tennis shoes.

Johns was last seen in an area between Greene and Charles City around 6 a.m. Oct. 25, law enforcement said. Past that time, Johns has not been seen or heard from.

The Grundy County Sheriff’s Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation are asking for the public’s assistance in providing any information about having contact with or sighting Johns during the early morning of Oct. 25.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office at 319-824-6933, or contact Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers at 855-300-TIPS (8477). Tips may also be left at

Tips may also be sent with TipSoft or by texting the word CEDAR plus the information to CRIMES (274637). 

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

The CL Tel float rolls through downtown during last year's Christmas by the Lake parade in Clear Lake.

Festival of Trees, Christmas by the Lake return to Clear Lake for 22nd year

CLEAR LAKE | A jam-packed weekend of holiday fun is returning to Clear Lake.

And with a full slate of events scheduled for One Vision’s Festival of Trees and Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas by the Lake, children and adults in North Iowa are sure to find something to get them into the festive spirit this year.

The fun will begin Thursday with the fifth annual Lights On 5K Run/Walk and conclude Sunday with the NordKor Children’s Choir Concert and Messiah Sing-along.

“It’s such a wonderful event for everybody,” said Gene Madson, Christmas by the Lake Committee chairman.

Festival of Trees

The 22nd annual Festival of Trees will feature four days of events planned for children and families.

The festival, which serves as the largest annual fundraiser for One Vision, formerly Opportunity Village, will showcase — and sell — more than 100 Christmas trees, wreaths and swags decorated by various volunteers, including local organizations, businesses and residents, at the Kinney Lindstrom Center gymnasium, 1200 N. Ninth St. W., throughout the weekend.

“Every tree is new every year, so you never know what you’re going to see,” said Nanci Elder, One Vision director of marketing and communications. “The look is brand new, so the feel is brand new, too.”

The trees will be on display from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Admission to view the display is $2.

Proceeds from the festival will go toward One Vision, a nonprofit organization that supports more than 550 individuals with disabilities throughout 30 North Iowa communities.

Photos: Christmas by the Lake 2016

In addition to the display of trees, wreaths and swags, the festival kicks off with the fifth annual Lights On 5K Run/Walk at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The run will start at The Other Place, 200 U.S. Highway 18, and follow streets throughout the One Vision neighborhood in northwest Clear Lake.

“We encourage (participants) to dress in Christmas lights and holiday garb and have a lot of fun with the outfitting of it,” Elder said.

Registration is available at and costs $25 per person. Proceeds from the event will be used to buy Christmas gifts for in need who are supported by One Vision.

On Friday, One Vision will host its gala from 5 to 8 p.m. that will allow members of the public to be among the first to view the decorated trees, wreaths and swag.

The gala features hors d’oeuvres, desserts, wine and beer and live music. Tickets for the event cost $25 per person.

On Saturday, Breakfast with Santa will be held from 8 to 11 a.m. at the One Vision campus.

The Clear Lake Knights of Columbus will serve pancakes, sausage and bacon. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children ages 5 and under. Pictures with Santa are available from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Breakfast tickets also include admission to festival tree displays.

Children can also make gifts to take home or share with loved ones at the Santa’s Secret Workshop, held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The workshop allows children supervised “parent-free” time to create something special on a child-sized budget. Parents can enjoy a drink from the hot chocolate bar while waiting for their children.

The Festival of Trees events will conclude Sunday with the Cookie Walk from 11 a.m. until cookies are sold. Attendees will choose from a large selection of homemade holiday cookies and candies, available for purchase.

Photos: Christmas by the Lake 2014

Tickets for Opening Night and Breakfast with Santa are available online at They are also available at the General Store in Clear Lake, the front desk at One Vision’s Clear Lake campus or at the event.

For more information about Festival of Trees, visit or call Jennifer Pinske at 641-355-1356.

Christmas by the Lake

The 22nd annual Christmas by the Lake offers something for everyone, and that’s something the event’s organizing committee — and Madson — take pride in.

And that’s thanks to “great sponsors,” Madson said.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be able to put this on,” he said.

The event takes place Saturday and Sunday throughout Clear Lake and will feature some local favorites, like the Lighted Christmas by the Lake Parade and fireworks on Saturday, as well as some new offerings, like pony rides, a new petting zoo and strolling Christmas goats.

Madson said the goats will take the place of the beloved Paul “The Gooseman” Messerscgnudt’s geese, which died ahead of last year’s event in a bobcat incident.

“Everybody loved him ... but we do have someone who has baby goats walking up and down the street. It’s going to be wonderful,” he said.

This year’s petting zoo, which is out of Dayton, Iowa, will be new and contain a camel, a donkey and other animals that Madson said is going to be “really neat.”

A popular event returning this year is the Visit with Santa in City Park.

“We will probably go through 1,000 kids,” Madson said.

Christmas by the Lake 2017 Schedule

Other events taking place Saturday are: horse-drawn carriage and Main Street Trolley rides, a craft show, crowning of the prince and princess, s'mores for children, Christmas Karaoke, a free matinee of “Elf” at the Lake Theatre at 11 a.m. and strolling Dickens characters.

“Everything is free not just for the kids but for everybody,” Madson said.

The events on Saturday will conclude with the lighted parade at 5 p.m. and fireworks over the lake.

“At 4 p.m. you’ll start to see more and more people, and at 5 p.m., you’ll see 10,000 people,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable.”

Photos: Christmas by the Lake-Saturday

Christmas by the Lake events will continue on Sunday with the Polar Bar Dip at 12:30 p.m. at City Beach, Kids Treasure Hunt at 1 p.m. at the Lakeview Room for children 12 and younger, and a free family matinee of “Elf” at 11 a.m. at the Lake Theatre.

The festivities will conclude with the NordKor Children’s Choir Concert and Messiah Sing-along at 2 p.m. at United Methodist Church in Clear Lake, and Visit with Santa, which ends at 4 p.m.

“This year, the long-range forecast is just unbelievable weather,” Madson said.

“Some people liking snow and stuff like that, but personally 47 and sunny is going to be a perfect day for us.”

The Christmas by the Lake is organized by a committee of at least 15 people. The event has won several tourism awards for best holiday festival, according to the chamber.

Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers 


FBI reports rise in Iowa violent crimes

DES MOINES | While Iowa is among the nation’s safest places to live, the state’s prison system chief expressed concern Wednesday over a federal report indicating Iowa is one of only two states where homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults rose over a decade.

Jerry Bartruff, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, said the numbers may be “somewhat skewed” given that Iowa is a small state with a low crime rate, so percentage increases appear to amplify the data.

Nonetheless, he said he found the higher arrests over the past 10 years in all four major categories of violent crime covered by the latest FBI crime report to be “almost shocking.”

“Because we’re fairly safe in Iowa, any increase in the percentages looks huge,” Bartruff said in presenting his agency’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal to Gov. Kim Reynolds. But he said he was concerned there was a sizable spike in violent crimes being committed in rural areas as well as an uptick in Des Moines.

Iowa’s other metro areas, though, generally showed declines.

Another statistic that troubled the director was a slow but steady rise in the number of paroled prisoners who commit another violent crime. With that number also “creeping up,” Bartruff worried that Iowa’s prison population currently at 8,286 inmates could rise, as well as the cost of incarcerating people in Iowa’s nine prisons.

Currently, he said Iowa’s incarceration rate of 281 inmates per 100,000 is considerably lower than Missouri (530), South Dakota (413), Indiana (412), Illinois (360) and Kansas (328) and sought a “status quo” funding level of $378.7 million. The only new request he made was a $1 million increase to cover pharmaceutical costs.

The union that represents correctional officers and other workers in state prisons and community-based corrections repeatedly has asked for staffing increases beyond the current 3,742 full-time positions. But Bartruff told reporters, “we think that we have adequate staffing to take care of incidents as they occur.”

Last month, Danny Homan, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61, cited incidents at prisons in Fort Madison, Coralville and Clarinda in which correctional workers were injured in inmate attacks or had to quell “multiple race-fueled fights.”

Wednesday, Homan characterized Bartruff’s assertion that staffing levels are adequate as dangerously false.

“The drastic increase in staff being viciously assaulted over the past months prove the ignorance of this claim. Every single one of these incidents, including an officer being stabbed five times with two 10-inch shanks, is tied to woefully inadequate staffing levels,” he said in a statement. “ ... Director Bartruff ought to be more concerned with the safety of those in his department and less about kissing the governor’s ring.”