SIOUX CITY — Police delivered sweet news to the owners of a small Sioux City honey business Wednesday, nearly a month after vandals killed their half million bees and nearly wiped out their livelihood.
Wild Hill Honey owners Justin and Tori Englehardt went to check on their 50 hives on the morning of Dec. 28 and found them all destroyed, resulting in more than $60,000 in damage to the business.
The police department said Wednesday two boys, ages 12 and 13, have been arrested in connection with the incident, which drew ire from people across the country and garnered national and international media coverage. Because they were charged as juveniles, the suspects cannot be identified under state privacy law.
Seeing arrests made less than a month after the vandalism occurred was welcome news to Justin Engelhardt.
“It’s huge, right? It demonstrates the professionalism and determination of the Sioux City Police Department and we couldn’t be happier,” he said.
Despite the crime taking place in a secluded area with no witnesses, police were able to track down the suspects after following a series of leads and tips from the public. Police said they don't anticipate any future arrests in connection with the case.
The two boys have been charged with three felonies, criminal mischief in the first degree, agricultural animal facilities offenses and burglary in the third degree, as well as an aggravated misdemeanor, possession of burglar's tools. The felonies would carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines as much as $10,000. Criminal cases involving minors are typically adjudicated in juvenile court, however.
Though the law has been on the books in Iowa since 1991, prosecution for agricultural animal facilities offenses is rare, according to county assistant attorney Mark Campbell.
"I can’t think of any case where we’ve had prosecution in Woodbury County — I may be wrong, but I don’t recall anything,” said Campbell, who has worked in the office 34 years.
According to the state code, a person found guilty of violating the law can be taken to district court by the offended parties to seek recovery of damages in an amount that is three times actual and consequential damage, and also force the defendant to cover the victim’s court and attorney fees.
Engelhardt originally feared the huge financial losses likely would have put the six-year-old enterprise out of business.
Todd LaCroix of Sioux City, a friend of the Engelhardts, started a GoFundMe me page that raised more than $30,000 in online donations from 838 people in just a few days before the account was deactivated.
“It was amazing and we are deeply grateful for all of the contributions from the people of Sioux City and people around the country,” Englehardt said. “It’s thanks to those contributions that we’ll be able to rebuild in the spring. We’ve already made arrangements to get some hives down south and we’ll bring them up in the spring and we’ll be right back to where we were.”
Wild Hill sells jars of pure, raw and creamed varieties of honey and other honey byproducts at Pierce Street Coffee Works, Sioux City Gifts, Palmer’s Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe, trade shows and other outlets around the area.
Englehardt thinks the story of Wild Hill resonated with so many people because people are becoming increasingly aware of much the honey bee population is struggling to survive. Some of the issues include rapid loss of their habitat, varroa mite, which feeds on honey bees, and the mysterious phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder.
"Bees are critical and people are conscious of the fact that bees are having a hard time right now and facing some real challenges," Englehardt said.
SIOUX CITY | Last May, Amber Kilburn received something completely unexpected in the mail.
The 33-year-old Sioux City woman opened an envelope containing a new letter from her former psychology professor, Jack Hill, as well as a letter written by herself, 10 years earlier.
In 2007, Hill, the longtime head of Morningside's psychology department, began asking graduating students in his Psychology Capstone class to compose letters to their future selves.
Since then, he's given the same assignment to students attending the class.
"It's a pretty open-ended assignment," he said. "They can write about anything they wanted to as long as they showed how psychology would impact their lives 10 years in the future."
While Hill admitted some of the students didn't take the assignment very seriously, others did.
Kilburn was one of the psychology students who fell into the latter category.
"At the time, I wanted (the assignment) to reflect my entire college experience. That's why I also enclosed letters from my closest Morningside friends as well as a letter written to the fiancee (Eric Kilburn) I married after graduation," the former Amber Clausen recalled.
Last spring, Hill began rereading the letters students had written a decade earlier.
"Professors seldom stay in contact with their students," he said. "Students move away, start careers and begin the next stages of their lives."
However, Hill still wanted to track down his students in order to distribute their 10-year-old class assignments.
"I imagined the letters would give students insight to their former selves," he reasoned. "Obviously, a 22-year-old is not the same person he will be at 33."
Kilburn said she barely remembered the letter she had written. Reading the unrealized dreams and ambitions of her 22-year-old self left her feeling conflicted.
"When I was younger, my dream was to become a lawyer," she said. "I thought I'd be a natural for law school because I'm used to being in front of people, I like to argue, and I enjoy wearing suits."
In the years following her graduation, Kilburn continued to work as her husband, Eric, now the principal at Sioux City's Unity Elementary School, pursued his graduate degree.
Then, the couple began a family when son Brixton, now 7, and daughter Brynnley, now 5, were born.
"Nothing turned out like I thought it would be when I was 22 years old," Kilburn acknowledged. "I had a lot of plans but sometimes life gets in the way."
Did she have any regrets?
"Absolutely not," Kilburn said. "I'm afraid I wanted to become a lawyer more for prestige than anything else. Plus, I found out wearing leggings were more comfortable than wearing suits."
In addition, she finds working as a coordinator for the Sioux City Community School District's Gear Up program very fulfilling.
"I help prepare students get ready for their post-secondary education," Kilburn said. "I prepare them for their future."
Family also plays a much more important part in her life than she could have imagined 10 years ago.
"My son had always been a high achiever, but Brixton was also experiencing some social anxiety issues," Kilburn said. "In large part due to what I learned in (Hill's) class, I was able to see the red flags and get Brixton the treatment that he needed."
This is why Kilburn would like to pursue psychology when she begins to apply for graduate schools in the next few years.
"Knowledge is something that occurs when you realize there's so much you don't yet know," she explained. "That's something my 22-year-old self needed time to figure out."
Hill said of the 15 letters submitted to him in 2007, he's only heard back from five students.
"I was hoping to hear back from more students," he said with a sigh. "Maybe, the second batch of letters that I'll be sending out in the spring will bring back a better response."
Still, Hill thinks writing a letter examining your hopes and aspirations can be an eye-opener when read well into the future.
"When I was 22 years old, I was convinced I'd become a full-time psychology counselor in the private sector," he said. "Instead, I've devoted nearly 30 years teaching generations of students about psychology.
"And you know what? I wouldn't change a thing," Hill said with a smile. "Life rarely turns out exactly as planned. That can be a very good thing."
SIOUX CITY -- Last Thursday, the Iowa Poison Control Center received its first call of the year involving misuse of laundry pods.
By Monday, the Sioux City-based center's specially trained nurses and pharmacists had recorded a total of five such calls -- four involving teenagers and one involving an adult, which was one more call than the center received in all of 2017.
Online videos and memes of teens and adults putting laundry pods into their mouths and biting into the slippery, concentrated liquid, which has been dubbed the "Tide Pod Challenge," have gone viral, leading the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to tweet against the fad with advisories of "Laundry pods are not a snack. Don't eat poison."
"We're trying to remind people that putting a poison in your mouth is not really the smartest thing to do," said Tammy Noble, a registered nurse and education coordinator for the Iowa Poison Control Center. "When you get those highly concentrated detergents that are found in the pod into your mouth and you swallow, it can cause some pretty significant diarrhea and vomiting."
Besides the potential for dehydration, Noble said consumption of laundry pods could result in burns to the mouth, throat and stomach. She said the liquid detergent could squirt into the eyes, injuring the corneas, or get into the lungs, causing serious breathing difficulties.
"Sometimes we've had people that needed to be put on a ventilator to help them breathe," Noble said. "By far, our calls about the laundry pods are usually young children that get into it because they think it's candy. Sometimes, it's elderly adults who accidentally do the same thing."
During 2013 and 2014, poison control centers across the nation recorded 29,891 exposures to laundry detergent packets, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Thirty-six percent of patients were seen in an emergency department, while 4 percent were admitted to a hospital.
Over the years, laundry pod manufactures have made the pods harder to break open and added child-resistant latches to packaging.
Noble urges parents to only use laundry pods when children aren't present and to keep packages of laundry pods sealed and out of reach when not in use. When it comes to teenagers who would have no problem opening the packaging, Noble said education and communication are key.
"We want to remind people these are highly concentrated detergents meant to clean clothes. These are not to be played with. Whatever the circumstances are, whatever the age of the person, it's not meant as a joke and it's not a risk worth taking," she said.
DES MOINES — An Iowa House panel approved a measure Wednesday that would ban automated traffic cameras — including those in Sioux City — and end what one legislator called “legalized grifting.”
House Study Bill 512 would void local ordinances authorizing the use of traffic cameras as of July 1 and order their removal in eight cities and one county where they are used.
The use of the cameras may have been well-intentioned, said Daniel Zeno of the ACLU of Iowa, “but we don’t have to give up due process for safety. We can have both.”
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said two sheriffs in his district “wholeheartedly” oppose the cameras, “so I will stand with the police and the ACLU.”
In this case, Heartsill said, law enforcement is being outsourced to private vendors who are not sworn to uphold the law.
Rep. Brian Meyer, D-Des Moines, who was on that city’s council when traffic cameras were installed there, defended their use and said the process for people to contest their citations protects due process.
Meyer found irony in the partisan split on the issue.
“In this bizzaro world, Democrats will stand with the police and Republicans are standing with the ACLU,” he said.
The cameras have generated millions of dollars in revenues for Sioux City, which has used the money for public safety projects. But the city for years has been fighting an Iowa Department of Transportation administrative order to remove five cameras on state-controlled roads within the city, including two Interstate 29 speed cameras.
The fate of Sioux City's cameras is tied to a lawsuit over a similar DOT order to remove cameras in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine.
The bill approved Wednesday would not invalidate citations issued before July 1. That would allow Cedar Rapids, for instance, to continue trying to collect on citations issued before the cameras were turned off in 2017 while the Iowa Supreme Court debates the issue.
Just before Christmas, the city mailed out 221,000 notices seeking payment for $17.3 million worth of unpaid tickets, some from 2010 when the speed and red light cameras were first activated.
That helped convince some lawmakers the cameras were more about earning revenue than ensuring safety.
“Don’t tell me it’s not about revenue,” said the lawmaker who compared the cameras to legalized swindling, Rep. Greg Heartsill, R-Chariton. As evidence, he read from one city’s contract that notes any change in state law to curtail the revenue stream would be grounds for the private camera vendor to terminate the deal.
HSB 512, which may get a hearing Monday in the full Local Government Committee, is similar to Senate Study Bill 3025 sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Brad Zaun. He led an unsuccessful effort to ban the cameras last session.
If HSB 512 is approved, Iowa would be the first state to enact an outright ban on traffic cameras, said David Adelman, representing the Metro Alliance of the 10 largest Iowa cities.
Lindsey McCune of the Iowa League of Cities and others cited the need for local control as a reason for rejecting HSB 512. Cities that choose to use cameras for “traffic calming” and enforcement should have that prerogative, she said.
But Local Government Chairman Jake Highfill, R-Johnston, found it curious that cities cite local control when they want to use cameras on roads paid for with state tax dollars to generate local revenue. If cities want local control, he said, perhaps the state should stop “backfill” payments to make up for lost property tax revenues.
McCune encouraged subcommittee members to look at Senate File 220 as a “reasonable compromise.” Approved 31-18 by the Senate last year, the bill would keep the cameras but subject them to stricter regulations.
Although the House did not go along with that approach last year, SF 220 will get a hearing Thursday by a House Transportation subcommittee that may be more receptive to it.
Transportation Chairman Gary Carlson, R-Muscatine, has indicated a preference for regulation over a ban. He believes traffic cameras are an “efficient tool” for traffic control and the decision whether to use them should be left to local governments.
“Our law enforcement is valuable and having officers sit in cars to monitor traffic may not be the best use of their time,” Carlson said.