May 7 news

DES MOINES, Iowa — Just days after signing a disaster declaration for five southwest Minnesota counties in the wake of an early April ice storm, President Barack Obama done the same for five Iowa counties damaged by severe weather.

The announcement Monday means the counties of Dickinson, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola and Sioux will get federal funding under a public assistance program. Funding can be used for emergency repairs, essential government functions and grants for public schools.

The severe weather between April 9 and 11 included strong winds, heavy rain, thunderstorms, freezing rain, ice and snow. It damaged utility lines, poles, trees and vegetation.

The declaration puts into motion long-term federal recovery programs. Some are matched by state programs and designed to help public entities and certain non-profits. Gov. Terry Branstad requested the declaration on April 26.

MINNEAPOLIS – In an abrupt about-face, the former nurse charged in the "Man in Black" bank robberies now admits holding up all 13 banks he'd been charged with -- as well as 18 more he was not. On average, Mark Wetsch held up a bank every eight days in 2011.

Wetsch, 50, of Minneapolis, abandoned his claims of innocence and pleaded guilty to five federal counts of bank robbery in a plea Monday. He'd pleaded guilty last month to robbing the Rolling Hills Bank of Brewster, and was scheduled to go on trial in federal court in June on some others.

As she had done at an earlier hearing, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson told Wetsch that she believed it was "unwise" for him to represent himself and that an attorney could be appointed for him. As in the past, Wetsch declined the offer.

In court filings and letters to the editor, Wetsch had long denied his guilt. He has claimed that prosecutors had it in for him because he is Muslim, has two wives and supports the terrorist group al-Shabaab, which has been active in Somalia.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Deidre Aanstad declined to say when Wetsch's streak of bank robberies began. But there is little doubt that it ended in St. Peter on Jan. 3, 2012, about 90 minutes after the Brewster bank had been robbed.

WORTHINGTON — A “Pint for a Pint” blood drive will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday at Sanford Worthington Medical Center. The first 60 donors will receive a certificate redeemable for a pint of ice cream, compliments of the Worthington Dairy Queen.

Sanford Worthington blood needs are supplied by Community Blood Bank. Donors must be at least 17 years of age (or 16 years old with signed parent consent form), weigh 110 pounds or more and be in good general health the day of the blood drive. Bring a form of identification. To schedule an appointment or for more information, call Sanford Worthington, 372-3319. Walk-ins are welcome.

SLAYTON — Two training sessions are planned for the Lake Shetek Chapter of Let’s Go Fishing with Seniors. The Lake Shetek Chapter began in 2009, and since then has provided 113 free fishing/boating excursions to 1,039 guests and logged more than 5,000 volunteer hours.

The training sessions will be from 6 to 8 p.m. May 15 at Key Largo on Lake Shetek; or 6 to 8 p.m. July 1 at Kirkpatrick’s in Balaton. Each session will include a classroom training and pontoon training on the lake. For more information or to preregister, contact Kanani Peltola, (507) 626-4697; or Marilyn Strate, (507) 384-2926.

HARTLEY, Iowa - An investigation into suspicious activity at a convenience store parking lot in Hartley has led to the arrest of a Sheldon man on multiple charges.

Hartley police say it happened around 2:45 a.m. Monday morning when officers were called to the Dyno’s parking lot in Hartley. Upon arriving the officer confronted a man identified as Eric Schwager of Sheldon. Upon further investigation it was determined Schwager was intoxicated. He was arrested and booked into the O’Brien County jail on charges of public intoxication and open container.

Upon being booked into jail, it was discovered that Schwager had a substance alleged to be methamphetamine concealed inside a shoe. Schwager was additionally charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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