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Homeless Murder Trial Underway at Story County Courthouse

Glenn Smith, 50, Credit: Story County Jail.

Glenn Smith, 50, Credit: Story County Jail.

(The first in a series of blog posts about a homeless murder trial)

The second murder trial of a homeless drifter accused of killing another man at a homeless camp in south Ames in 2008 is underway today at the Story County Courthouse in Nevada.

Glenn A. Smith, 50, is accused of stabbing Danny McGonigle to death during a fight in May of 2008. Smith and McGonigle got into a fist fight and wrestling match near a wooded area south of the Department of Transportation after spending the day drinking May 19, 2008.

Smith walked away from the fight with a scrape to his knee and cuts on his hand. McGonigle died on the way to the hospital. He had 32 stab wounds to his face, neck and chest area.

Smith was originally found guilty of second-degree murder in April of 2009. However the verdict was set aside in December of 2009 after Smith’s attorneys asked for a new trial saying that the verdict was contrary to the evidence.

Smith admitted to stabbing McGonigle, but has said it was an act of self defense.

The new trial has been delayed until this week because Smith had been diagnosed with a mental disorder while in jail.

* This story originally ran Thursday, May 30, 2013.

(Second post in a series of posts on homeless murder trial)

Attorney: If He Dies Roll Him Into the Creek

“If he lives, he lives. If he dies roll him into the creek.”

Those were the last words heard by Danny McGonigle before his death, Story County Attorney Tiffany Meredith told the jury in opening statements Thursday in the murder trial of Glenn Smith.

Smith, 50, is accused of stabbing McGonigle to death in May of 2008 after the pair of homeless drifters spent the day drinking and got into an argument.

After the fight, Smith told a third homeless man, Larry Fowler, “If he lives, he lives. If he dies roll him into the creek,” Meredith told the jury.

Meredith said Smith arrived in Ames just a few days before the murder and met Larry Fowler, another homeless man, and asked for McGonigle. Meredith told the jury that the men involved in the fight and Fowler, who was in a tent nearby, were all homeless drifters by choice. McGonigle and Fowler chose to live in a wooded area south of the Department of Transportation and Fowler had a job, Meredith said.

Smith and McGonigle came to Fowler’s camp with a 30-pack of beer on the evening of May 18 and Smith asked Fowler to come out and drink, she said.

Fowler will testify that he thought he saw the men get into a fist fight later and saw some swings and saw them rolling on the ground, Meredith said.

Smith had a scrape to his knee and a cut to his thumb and he walked away, she said.

“McGonigle suffered not one stab wound, not two, but 32 stab wounds,” Meredith said.

After the fight was over Smith told Fowler, “You never saw me. If he lives, he lives. If he dies roll him in the creek,” Meredith told the jury.

Meredith said what Fowler saw next was a lot of blood and a seriously injured McGonigle.

Fowler called 911 and waited for help to arrive.

Meredith said there is no question that Smith stabbed McGonigle.

“He stabbed him repeatedly,” Meredith said.

But Meredith said there was no justification, it was not done in self-defense.

“It was murder,” Meredith said.

* This story originally ran Thursday, May 30, 2013.

(Third in  a series of posts on a homeless murder trial)

‘Stop Fighting I’ll Get an Ambulance’

Defense Attorney Patrick Peters told a jury Thursday, that a homeless drifter only stabbed another to save himself during a drunken fight in May of 2008.

The second murder trial for Glenn A Smith, 50, began Thursday at the Story County Courthouse in Nevada. Smith is accused of stabbing Danny McGonigle in a homeless camp south of the Iowa Department of Transportation building on May 19, 2008. McGonigle died en route to the hospital. He had 32 stab wounds.

“What do you do in the dark of night, in the woods, when a much larger man without a logical or discernible purpose in a drunken rage, charges you and threatens to kick your head in and threatens to kill you and begins to assault you?” Peters asked the jury. “What do you do, when that man will not stop?”

McGonigle, who stood three inches taller and outweighed Smith by 45 pounds, was the aggressor, Peters said. Smith just wanted to drink beer, he said.

Deadly force is justified when that person believes he is in danger, Peters said. For murder to be proven, Peters said, prosecutors will have to show that there was an evil intent before the act.

“Not during the act, not after,” Peters said.

Peters said Smith arrived in Ames with another man just days before the death.

Smith spent his first night sleeping near the gate of a golf course before befriending a third homeless man named Larry Fowler, Peters said.

When Fowler had to leave for work, Smith ended up meeting McGonigle near Hy-Vee and the pair spent the day drinking before returning to Fowler’s campsite about 11:30 p.m., Peters said.

Smith didn’t know that Fowler and McGonigle had a history and that Fowler had banned McGonigle from his campsite before, Peters said.

The argument began when McGonigle didn’t want to share his beer with Fowler.

Peters said that Smith didn’t argue but that McGonigle punched Smith twice in the face.

Fowler then came out of his tent and saw McGonigle walk to his bike, Peters said. McGonigle then asked Fowler why he was looking at his bike. Fowler said he wasn’t looking at his bike and McGonigle then charged Smith, Peters said.

Peters said McGonigle hit Smith and kicked him and the pair fell to the ground wrestling when the stabbings took place. Once Smith had the upper hand and sat upon McGonigle he didn’t hit or stab McGonigle, Peters said.

“What he says is ‘Stop fighting. I’ll get an ambulance’,” Peters said.

Peters said this is where the stories of the prosecution and defense diverge.

Smith took two beers and left, Peters said. Fowler said Smith walked north to Hy-Vee. Smith said he walked south toward Highway 30. Fowler called 911 and a belligerent McGonigle swore at paramedics who tried to help him and threatened to kill Smith almost a dozen times, Peters said.

Doctors will tell the jury that none of McGonigle’s injuries were debilitating enough to stop an attack, Peters said. Evidence will show that the stab wounds came from different directions indicating that both men’s positions were constantly changing, Peters said.

Smith had no motive to kill McGonigle.

“All Glenn wanted to do is drink,” Peters said.

* This story originally ran Thursday, May 30, 2013.


May 30, 2013 Posted by | Ames Patch | Leave a comment

Colleagues in Disbelief as ‘Fearless’ Barbara Mack, an Iowa Journalism Legend, Passes Away

Aug. 24, 2012 on

Barbara Mack Memorial

Barbara Mack Memorial

News of the death of Barbara Mack, an Iowa State University professor who impacted students and journalists across the state, came as a shock to her former students and colleagues who called her a wonderful mentor and friend.

Professor Tom Beell, who had an office next to Mack’s, found himself in a state of disbelief despite the fact that Mack had, had some scary health episodes over the years.

“Anyone who knew Barbara, knew she was an indestructible person. … It was easy for me to assume that she would outlive us all,” Beell said.

Mack, 59, an attorney and an Iowa State University journalism professor since 1986, was found unresponsive in her home early Thursday. Mack was set to retire in December.

“We expected that she would have a chance to enjoy her retirement with her husband,” Beell said.

Mack thought she was having a heart attack Wednesday and was released from the hospital after a checkup, according to a statement released by the Iowa State University news service. When her husband, Jim Giles, went to check on her at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday, he “found her gone.”

Kathleen Richardson, executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and also the director of the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said Mack was a person of great intelligence and good humor.

“She lived life fearlessly and to the fullest. It’s a great loss for the journalism education community and for the Iowa Freedom of Information community.”

Mack graduated from Iowa State University and earned a law degree from Drake University in 1977. She also worked for the Des Moines Register as a reporter and a corporate attorney, and as an assistant to former President Martin Jischke.

Richardson, who worked with Mack when she was an attorney at the Register and through the Information Council, said that Mack is both a journalism and legal legend in the state.

“I don’t think that is over stating it. She had such a big personality. She was so smart and funny and such a leading figure in media law and journalism education. I frequently run into working journalists who had Barb as their media law professor and say ‘It was the best class I ever took,’” Richardson said.

Mack could command the attention of hundreds of students at a time preventing them from slipping into their own world by talking to an individual student or bumping their chairs, Beell said.

“She had a wonderful sense of humor, and students enjoyed that,” he said.

She didn’t tell jokes, but she talked about things in an entertaining way that appealed to students, he said.

Mack often made light of herself telling students that she raced down Interstate 35 from Des Moines putting on her panty hose as she drove, said Julie Roosa, a DMACC professor of journalism and law and faculty adviser for the Banner News. She is also a former student of Mack at Iowa State.

Mack’s husband Giles had retired from Principal Financial and had been urging Mack to join him. Beell said Mack might have continued teaching not only for financial reasons but also because she had a great love for students who loved her back.

“Her students by and large really love her,” Beell said. “She was tough and she wouldn’t let people slide through. She made people work and some people didn’t like that.”

Roosa said she found herself in awe of Mack as an Iowa State student studying journalism in the early 1990s.

“I wanted her to be proud of me. … I am going to impress Barb Mack because she impresses me,” Roosa said.

“She had a way of engaging with students and helping them,” Beell said. “She could be an extraordinary friend to students who needed help. She was a surrogate mother for some of these people,” Beell said.

Beell said he’s often seen football players waiting outside Mack’s office door. She counseled a lot of athletes and they listened to her, he said. She had the same kind of connection with faculty.

Faculty often sought out Mack for a range of professional and personal advice.

“I did myself,” Beell said.

Beell said she would counsel people through their marriages and help people decide whether they should go to the doctor.

Roosa said with Mack’s retirement nearing, the school was obviously working on a plan to replace her.

“But she is irreplaceable even if it hadn’t (happened in a) tragic way it wouldn’t be the same place without her,” Roosa said.

Beell agrees:

“In the old days you had what you call Renaissance men, guys with a range of wonderful skills they’ve picked up. Barbara Mack was a modern day Renaissance woman, she knew a little about everything and it was wonderful to talk to her about any topic,” Beell said. “She was a wonderful colleague and she will be terribly missed.”

August 24, 2012 Posted by | Ames Patch | Leave a comment

VIDEO: Howard Snider, Ames Police Officer, Remembered Saturday

Hundreds attended a funeral held for Sgt. Howard Snider at Cornerstone Church Saturday, (June 25, 2012)

Family and friends of Ames Police Sgt. said goodbye Saturday to a gruff and tough marine, mentor and police officer who once posed for a photo with blank bullets sticking out of every hole in his face.

Snider, 51, died June 17, after jumping into Lake Geode in an attempt to reach his daughter who had drifted from a ramp in a fishing boat.

His funeral was held Saturday at Cornerstone Church.

A childhood friend and fellow officers made it sound as if Snider was the last person a bad man would want after him and perhaps not the first person wanted at a rescue.

Steve Wilson, who grew up with Snider in the small Iowa town of Fort Madison, said Snider once hung Wilson’s younger brother David out of a moving car and forced him to imitate superman before pulling him back inside. When Wilson crashed his motorcycle into a tree — smashing his left foot, left hand and knocking himself out in the process — he woke up with Snider standing over him.

“There’s Howard kicking me, calling me a few choice words and telling me to get back on my bike, so Howard is a man of great sympathy,” Wilson said filling Cornerstone Church with laughter.

Wilson said some will remember Snider’s death as a great tragedy: dying trying to save his daughter on Father’s Day.

But Wilson said not to think of it that way.

Wilson said Snider’s back wasn’t hurting as much as it had been and he was spending the day fishing with his wife and children. They were the people who meant the most to him, Wilson said.

“He went out the way he wanted to. He was caring for his family,” Wilson said.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Ames Patch | Leave a comment

Ames Woman Heard Locomotive Sound as Storm Passed

May 3, 2012 Ames.Patch.Com


Heather Botine heard the storm coming from her open bedroom window about 2 a.m. Wednesday and fought extreme wind to close it.

“Then I heard the locomotive sound everyone hears about when there is a tornado,” Botine said.

Not having time to make it to her basement she ran to a bathroom.

“It happened so fast. Within five minutes the wind was gone,” she said.

Botine lucked out. The damage to her Northridge Heights home was minor. High winds took out trees and branches across Ames, but the damage seemed concentrated north of 24th Street. Botine lost some shingles and a weighted patio table had blown out of place. Her plants were mashed down and the leaves of her columbines were whipped into a swirl.

But her neighbor, Chunhui Chen, lost his roof. Chen said he woke up to feel his two-story home shaking and swaying back and forth. The sound of rain became louder and when he walked into an unoccupied bedroom he saw the sky.

The wind blew off a section of his roof littering his and his neighbors’ yards with insulation. His garage door caved in during the storm and hit his vehicle, but no one was hurt.

“I think we are really lucky,” Chen said.

Contractors told him that damage to his home surpassed the $25,000 threshold and worked to tarp his home Wednesday morning.

Chen wondered if a small tornado hit his home, not believing winds could do such damage.

And the National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for northern Story County north of Highway 30 just before 2 a.m. The warning area included Gilbert, Story City and Roland, but Craig Cogil, a National Weather Service meteorologist said he didn’t believe Ames was included.

Botine thought she heard the sound most people describe during tornadoes, but didn’t look outside. She said the winds sounded like the rumble of a train engine passing.

Cogil said no tornado sightings were reported in Ames or Story County. Winds of 70 to 80 miles an hour make a lot of noise, he said and strong straight line winds can also cause a lot of damage.

A tree fell on a Nixon Circle home and a large green ash fell on 70-year-old Ruth Jensen’s home near the intersection of Bloomington Road and Grand Avenue.

She told her daughter, Kris Jensen, that she believed in guardian angels. Kris Jensen said her mother woke up to see the ceiling coming down. The 50 foot tree hit the roof right above her bedroom.

May 3, 2012 Posted by | Ames Patch | Leave a comment

Ames High School Grad Honored at ISU Veterans Ceremony

Ames Patch Nov. 11, 2011

A photo of Robert “Bob” Peterson, 25.

A photo of Robert “Bob” Peterson, 25.


A lifetime yet to be lived with a daughter and a young wife went unfulfilled when Robert “Bob” Peterson, 25, flew on a night bombing mission over Korea.

The B29 Peterson and his crew were in ran low on fuel, an engine failed, and the pilot attempted an emergency landing. The plane struck a mountain; everyone aboard was killed.

Peterson’s wife, now Mary Jane Clithero, 83, of Ames remembers hearing the news. She worked part time as a ticket-taker for a Des Moines theater so her parents could watch their daughter, Dana. When she came home on a September evening in 1951 her parents handed her a “chilling telegram,” Clithero said.

“It said, ‘We regret to inform you’ just like in the movies,” she said. “I repeated it to my daughter several times.”

Clithero recalled the story before Peterson was honored, along with three other veterans, during Iowa State University’s Gold Star Ceremony Thursday.

“Today’s a tribute to him and none of us have forgotten him, none of us,” Clithero said.

The names of Peterson and the three other men, who had all attended Iowa State University and died while serving in the military in a combat zone, had their names added to the Memorial Union’s Gold Star Hall.

During the ceremony Marc Hardin and Terry Mason, read the veterans’ stories. Korean War veteran Dean Fredericks, 25, of Hampton, a fighter pilot, died in an accident above South Korea. It’s assumed lighting struck his plane.

Korean War veteran Charles Rhinehart, 23, Brooklyn, ejected over the Yalu River after his engine froze. His family thought he was dead, but his name turned up on a POW list in 1993. He was taken by the Soviet Union.

Finally Joseph Hamski, 28, Ottumwa, died in an explosion in Afghanistan in May 2011. He was working to clear a path for other men.

Peterson was in Korea for less than two weeks before his death.

The veteran had first served during World War II. Peterson graduated from Ames High School in 1943 and he and a friend spent the following summer in Hollywood working as messengers. By the end of summer, fun was over and they both joined the Army Air Corps in Des Moines. Peterson became a bombardier for the 56th Fighter Group and remained stateside during World War II; he was honorably discharged in 1945.

He enrolled in Iowa State University and later transferred to the University of Iowa, where he met Mary Jane. After graduating, times were about like they are now, Clithero said, and finding a job was tough. Peterson was encouraged to re-enlist in the Air Force, but the service wasn’t accepting anyone, Clithero said. He eventually found a good job and moved his family to Mason City. Once the Korean War started he was asked to enlist and was called immediately.

Peterson went to Korea that September and wrote daily letters home.

He described long days of work and bombing missions that took more than 10 hours. Peterson seemed to struggle with his position, “Undoubtedly some innocent people suffer,” he wrote.

Another time he said, “It also makes me feel kind of funny and maybe a little guilty to think of the damage and destruction and misery those bombs cause on the ground. … What I’m doing here sitting in a tent, eating bad food and risking my life in such a useless war is beyond me. Maybe it has a purpose that I don’t see.”

The letters home always included a paragraph for Dana, said Kathy Svec, an Iowa State University retiree who researches the veterans’ stories.

“He adored his baby daughter,” Svec said.

Clithero remembers Peterson often wrote about telling Dana not to forget him.

“Hope Dana doesn’t forget her pop,” he wrote.

Both Clithero and Peterson were worried about his possible death, but they tried to focus on a reunion they would have in Japan during a break Peterson would have earned after a number of flights. Clithero said she thinks her husband would have made a career out of the military if he had survived the war.

Clithero said one of her favorite memories is a 1940s song Peterson would sing to Clithero and Dana called “For You.”

“It was just about caring for somebody,” Clithero said.

Clithero, who often attends the Gold Star ceremonies, asked last year if Peterson’s name could be added to the Memorial Union’s wall. She never expected that they would also include him in the ceremony.

“I’m sad to do it, but I am happy to do it for Dana and all the family.”

November 11, 2011 Posted by | Ames Patch | Leave a comment