Pasi Pitkänen

River to River revisits the important subject of criminal stalking.

Though stalking became a crime in the state of Iowa in 1994, it’s a difficult charge since in many ways stalking is an “invisible" crime.  Often, victims of stalking have a hard time proving they are being terrorized.


A Des Moines attorney was a key figure in the official inquiry into President Kennedy's assassination. David Belin investigated the rifle that made history 50 years ago.

martin/ x1klima / Flickr
forwardstl / Flickr

In the 1990s crack cocaine was Iowa's major scourge when it came to illicit drugs. Today methamphetamine poses the most issues for communities and law enforcement though Eastern Iowa has also seen a uptick in heroin use.  Host Ben Kieffer looks at how these legal substances are trafficked into Iowa and from where the drugs originate.

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The federal commission that regulates the U.S. futures trading industry has permanently barred the accountant who audited Russell Wasendorf’s Peregrine Financial Group in Cedar Falls and did not discover his fraud scheme. Iowa Public Radio’s Durrie Bouscaren reports.


Jul 29, 2013
Emily Woodbury / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa Public Radio concludes it's summer series on Iowa's corrections system with a look at recidivism. Host Ben Kieffer learns why offenders in rural areas may be at a disadvantage when they leave prison, and also, what factors influence an offender's likelihood to return to prison? 

INHERTIANCE magazine / Flickr

Even though slavery was outlawed almost 150 years ago, people are still imprisoned and exploited daily in the United States.

Human traffickers prey on the vulnerable and isolated. Often these individuals are children or teenagers hoping to escape a difficult home life, but instead are captured by predators who sell them for sex.

Today, we listen back to a conversation from November 2012. Host Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on the prevalence of and how to stop human trafficking in Iowa and nationwide.

Emily Woodbury / IPR

Prison inmates have a lot of time to think. Some offenders take comfort in their faith, for others it’s a time to explore a new belief system. Today on Talk of Iowa: spirituality behind bars.

Host Charity Nebbe finds out what the Department of Corrections does to meet the spiritual needs of inmates, and she listens to stories from those who have worked in Iowa Prisons, including a pastor, a rabbi, an imam, and a Native American spiritual guide. A former offender joins the conversation as well, to speak to her experience finding religion while incarcerated.

Emily Woodbury / Iowa Public Radio

Probation, parole, work release and other programs are designed to help offenders live as productive members of the community. Host Charity Nebbe continues Iowa Public Radio’s series exploring corrections in Iowa with a look at community corrections from the perspectives of offenders, parole and probation officers and volunteers.

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The U.S.

Emily Woodbury / IPR

In the summer of 1974, Rasberry Williams shot and killed a Waterloo man over a $30 gambling debt.  In April, Governor Terry Branstad granted Williams’ request for commutation, making him eligible for parole.  We continue our corrections series by talking about when a life sentence should be reconsidered.  Then, we learn about Skylark, which works with victims of domestic violence on commutation requests, and the Innocence Project of Iowa, which is about to file its first case.

Emily Woodbury

Many severe crimes alter a victim's life forever. People convicted of those crimes might be put behind bars for a very long time or even the rest of their lives.  Join host Charity Nebbe who talks with victims about what they want--and don't want--from the people that committed crimes against them or their family members.  Hear the story of one woman whose daughter was murdered and the personal journey she took getting ready to meet the murderer face-to-face ten years later.

Sarah McCammon / Iowa Public Radio

As we continue our series on corrections in Iowa…here's the second half of our report on sex offender treatment and monitoring.  

About 1 in 8 inmates in Iowa's prison system are sex offenders, and many go through treatment while in prison.  But does it work?

Jvstin / Flickr

Why do we have prisons?  Are they for retribution or rehabilitation or protection? Also, what are the strengths and weaknesses of Iowa's corrections system? Sarah McCammon steps in for Ben Kieffer to look at how prisons in Iowa stake up against prisons nationwide. 

Sarah McCammon / Iowa Public Radio

It’s been just over a month since two girls from Dayton, Iowa were abducted near their bus stop - allegedly by a convicted sex offender who’d served nearly two decades in prison.  Authorities say Michael Klunder abducted the girls and committed suicide later that day.

The fact that Klunder was free at all has prompted questions about how sex offenders are evaluated, treated and monitored. 

This story begins a summer series examining Iowa's correctional system.

LifeTouch, via the Dayton Leader

A body found in the Des Moines River is suspected to be that of abducted 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard, according to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. An autopsy will be conducted this morning to confirm identification.

Univeristy of South Wales / Flickr

Over a hundred years ago, searching for fingerprints became routine in crime scene investigation. In the intervening years the tools of forensic investigation have greatly evolved. Host Ben Kieffer speaks to Iowa State University Mechanical Engineer Daniel Attinger about his research for the U.S.

State troopers narrowed their search Wednesday morning for 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard. She was abducted Monday while walking home from the bus stop in Dayton, Iowa with a younger girl who escaped soon afterwards. Their suspected abductor was found dead later that day. Despite the efforts search party of more than 300 members of law enforcement and volunteers from the area, Shepard has not been found.

Special Agent Bill Keitzman with the Iowa DCI says Wednesday’s search focuses on a smaller area.

Flickr / daniellehelm

Though stalking became a crime in the state of Iowa in 1994, it’s a difficult charge since in many ways stalking is an “invisible" crime.  Upon examining this crime River to River asks, "What should a person do if they're being stalked?" And also, "What drives stalkers to obsessively harass their victims?"

Brian Mennecke, associate professor of information systems at Iowa State

Facial recognition technology is increasing becoming a part of life, but how is this technology being used and how much is too much?  Brian Mennecke will explain the ways digital advertisements can "read" your face and discuss other commercial uses for facial recognition technology.  Later Gary Wells joins the program to discuss his recently developed proc

A landmark $240 million verdict against a Texas company who employed mentally disabled workers at an Iowa turkey processing plant will be reduced to about $1.6 million because of a law capping their damages. The 32 men faced decades of verbal and physical abuse at work and at home.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Henry's Turkey Service have agreed in legal briefs that each plaintiff can recover $50,000 - compared to the $7.5 million a jury awarded them on May 1st.

County Jails Struggle to Treat Mental Health Issues

Apr 30, 2013

Just about everyone – from the National Rifle Association to the American Civil Liberties Union — agrees that the mental health system in this country is broken. In Iowa, many local sheriffs say that means their county jails have become way stations for people with mental illness. Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports on what can happen when county jails are tasked with caring for the mentally ill.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, schools are changing their intruder response procedure from a stay put and hide method, to a fight or flight response. Today on River to River, we talk with violent incident trainers and educators who are changing the way our schools and our children prepare for the worst case scenario, and how these changes are empowering teachers and students in order to keep them safe.

tschundler / flickr

Recently cyclist Lance Armstrong, the seven-time victor of the Tour de France, was stripped of his titles when he admitted to illegal doping. Today on River to River, we talk to organizations around Iowa who are partnered with Livestrong, a cancer foundation that Lance Armstrong founded. We ask them what comes next and whether Livestrong will continue to live strong in Iowa.

In the second half, we talk with Zlatan Krizan, an assistant professor of Psychology at Iowa State University, about his new research exploring the connection between narcissism and envy.

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The names of Iowans who obtain permits to carry a weapon would not be public record under a proposal introduced to a committee in the Iowa House.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Matt Windschitl (R - Missouri Valley), is a leading gun rights advocate. He sees keeping private the names of Iowans who get permits to carry or acquire weapons as a matter of public safety.

Margaret Wertheim

Last July the president of Peregrine Financial Group, Russell Wasendorf Sr., admitted to stealing millions of dollars from his firm. On the first half of today's River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks about the Wasendorf case and discovers the personal, financial, and societal impact of this type of monetary fraud.

Courtesy photo

A  federal judge has sentenced 64- year- old Russell  Wasendorf, Sr. to 50 years in prison.  Last July, following an attempted suicide, Wasendorf  admitted to stealing more than 215 million dollars in customer funds from his Cedar Falls brokerage firm Peregrine Financial Group.

In a plea agreement in September, he pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud, embezzlement and making false statements. 50 years is the maximum punishment for those offenses. There is no parole in the federal court system. He was sentenced by Chief Judge Linda Reade.

Eric Hancock / Flickr

Ben Kieffer talks with rape victim advocates about how to prevent rape in Iowa. We’ll examine the attitudes and opinions that need to change so that Iowa is a safer place for everyone.

Then,  the creator of a new personal safety smart phone app  talks about how he hopes the app will help prevent kidnappings and assaults.

Clay Masters / IPR

In the wake of the discovery the bodies of two northeastern Iowa girls earlier this month, the talk of reinstating the death penalty is back at the state capitol. But proponents of capital punishment know they face a tough fight.

Iowa parents who have lost children due to kidnapping and murder met with Governor Branstad Monday morning to talk about reinstating the death penalty. Afterwards at a press conference, the parents told their stories.


12/6/12  4:30 PM UPDATE: 

The Black Hawk County Sheriff's Department says they're confident that two bodies discovered Wednesday by hunters in a Bremer County wildlife area are those of Elizabeth Collins and her cousin Lyric Cook-Morrissey. 

"We have no one else that’s missing in this area, we have two bodies that were found, smaller in stature, so we have nothing to think other than that at this time," Sheriff’s Captain Rick Abben said.