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UPDATE: Reality TV star Chris Soules pleads to lesser charge in fatal crash

INDEPENDENCE — Reality TV star Chris Soules has pleaded to reduced charges in an April 2017 crash that claimed the life of an Aurora farmer.

Attorneys entered a written plea Tuesday on Soules’ behalf to a single count of leaving the scene of a serious injury accident in Buchanan County District Court in Independence.

Because the reduced charge is a misdemeanor, Soules didn’t have to appear in court. A hearing that had been scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday was canceled.

Sentencing will be in January. Soules faces a maximum of two years in prison and a fine of up to $6,250 plus costs and surcharges. The plea agreement notes the minimum punishment could be a deferred judgment, which could remove the case from his record following probation.

Authorities had charged Soules, a 36-year-old rural Arlington resident known for his appearances on “The Bachelor” and “Dancing with the Stars,” with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, which is a Class D felony usually punishable by up to five years behind bars.

Following plea negotiations, Buchanan County Attorney Shawn Harden on Tuesday filed an amended trial information, changing the charge to leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious injury.

Under the plea deal, the judge will postpone making a decision on whether or not to accept the agreement until after authorities complete a presentence investigation. If the judge rejects the agreement, Soules will be allowed to withdraw the plea.

On Tuesday, Judge Andrea Dryer ordered the First Judicial District Department of Correctional Services to file a presentence investigation report, which will include a copy of his driving record, and gave Soules until Nov. 20 to report to correctional officials to begin the process.

During sentencing, prosecutors will adopt the punishment recommended by correctional officials in the presentence report, and Soules will be allowed to argue for deferred judgment of probation, according to the plea agreement.

In the agreement, Soules makes the following statement:

“By way of a factual basis, I hereby state that on or about April 24, 2017, in Buchanan County, Iowa, I was driving a vehicle that was involved in an accident resulting in serious injury to another person. I knew the accident occurred, and I knew it resulted in injury to the other person. Though I immediately stopped, called 911 and identified myself, and rendered reasonable aid to the injured person — including requesting an ambulance and administering CPR while the ambulance was en route — I acknowledge I did not provide the registration number of the vehicle I was driving to 911 dispatch or law enforcement as required by Iowa Code.”

According to the accident report, Soules was driving a Chevrolet pickup truck south on Slater Avenue north of Aurora around 8:20 p.m. when he rear-ended a John Deere tractor driven by 66-year-old Kenneth Mosher. Mosher later died.

Authorities allege Soules left the scene in another vehicle after medics arrived, and was later found at his home.

Soules’ attorney, Brandon Brown, issued a written statement as part of the plea agreement, saying the defense had questioned about two dozen witnesses and didn’t find any evidence Mosher’s tractor was using flashing amber lights as was required by law.

“Based on witness testimony, the tractor could have been traveling as slow as 6 miles per hour at the time of the accident. Mr. Soules was traveling under the speed limit at the time of impact. At these speeds, law enforcement and collision experts concluded Mr. Soules reacted reasonably given the closing speed and known reaction time to seeing the slow-moving tractor. Mr. Soules found himself in an unavoidable accident,” Brown wrote in his statement.

Despite an airbag, Soules hit his head on his windshield hard enough to shatter the glass, and he suffered a concussion, according to Brown’s statement.

“One on-scene witness commented she was surprised Mr. Soules was up and walking around based on the condition of his truck,” Brown’s statement said. He said Soules was the only person who performed CPR and stopped when the chest compressions pushed blooded from Mosher’s mouth. He also showed medics where to find Mosher.

Brown also responded to earlier allegations in law enforcement reports that empty and partially consumed alcohol containers were found at the scene of the crash.

“All of the on-scene witnesses agreed there was no indication whatsoever that Mr. Soules was impaired. No one, even the individuals who knelt in close proximity to Mr. Soules while he administered CPR, smelled any alcohol or had any belief Mr. Soules had been drinking,” Brown’s statement reads.

Holiday Hoopla: Building Santa's workshop (PHOTOS)

CEDAR FALLS — Volunteer elves showed up in downtown Cedar Falls on Tuesday to officially mark the beginning of the holiday season.

“We are decking the halls,” said Carol Lilly, executive director of Cedar Falls Community Main Street. “We are decorating the downtown district for the holidays and putting up garland and holiday banners.”

Lilly and the group also are putting together Santa’s Workshop on the corner of Fourth and Main streets.

“We spend a lot of time on the corner because it’s the hub where the energy is,” she said. “We’ve got a light show, and we’ve got to get all those lights up and create a real festive atmosphere.”

Volunteers this week are decorating light poles on Main Street with live garland, twinkling lights and decorative banners.

“It creates an ambiance of Christmas and the holidays,” Lilly said. “We really want to create place of community, ... a place for the entire Cedar Valley where people can come and celebrate the season.”

Stores on the street also will decorate their windows.

“We need to have everything set and ready to go for next Friday,” Lilly said.

On Nov. 23, Santa Clause is coming to town.

“It’s our 10th anniversary, and it will be his magical arrival,” Lilly said.

After that Holiday Hoopla kickoff there will be family events every Thursday and Saturday through Christmas.

To create this year’s holiday display, Community Main Street worked with a variety of sponsors, including the city of Cedar Falls, Cedar Falls Utilities and members of the community.

Volunteers include local school kids and senior citizens, as well as members of the Waterloo Black Hawks hockey team.

“We just try to stay involved in the community,” said Brandon McConnell, Waterloo Black Hawks director of game operations. “We want to get them out here and show what they can do.”

Volunteer Larry Wessels showed the players how to decorate the light poles.

“We really try to get the entire community involved,” Lilly said.

Black Hawk County may sue over unpaid Country View Medicaid claims

WATERLOO — Black Hawk County claims UnitedHealthcare has shorted the Country View care center by hundreds of thousands of dollars in Medicaid claims.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to hire outside legal counsel to attempt to collect between $511,000 and $584,000 in claims for residents at the county-operated nursing home’s unit for persistent mental illness.

Assistant County Attorney Michael Treinen said UnitedHealthcare has only offered roughly $144,000 to settle the issue.

“That is why further action has been authorized on this claim,” Treinen said. “The supervisors have concluded … this is too much public money to ignore.”

The supervisors have retained attorney Craig Sieverding, of the Davis Brown law firm in Des Moines, to help develop the county’s case for reimbursement.

“If that is not successful to your satisfaction, then we will proceed with the filing of a lawsuit in this matter and it would go on from there,” said Assistant County Attorney Pete Burk.

The supervisors discussed the issue in closed session last week before authorizing Treinen to engage Sieverding, who has experience in insurance litigation.

Supervisor Tom Little said his main concern was ensuring the board is kept up to date with how much money the county was spending in legal fees.

Medicaid is a federal program, managed by the states, that provides care to poor and disabled residents. Iowa has privatized management of its $5 billion Medicaid program, covering 600,000 residents, to UnitedHealthcare and Amerigroup.

UnitedHealthcare officials were unable to provide a statement on the Country View situation by Tuesday night.

Country View is a county operated nursing center, which at one point last year had more than 90 percent of its 140 residents covered through the Medicaid program. County officials then said shortfalls in Medicaid funding contributed to staggering budget deficits at the nursing home.

The supervisors voted in October to sell Country View to Pritok Capital, a private firm based in Skokie, Ill., for $4 million. Closing on that transaction is expected by the end of December.

UPDATE: Waterloo woman arrested for murder in death of cousin Shavondes Martin

WATERLOO — A Waterloo woman has been arrested for murder in connection with the May 31 shooting death of her cousin.

Federal marshals and Virginia police detained 22-year-old Danaesha Lynne Martin on a Waterloo warrant for first-degree murder on Tuesday in Norfolk.

Authorities allege Danaesha Martin played a role in the death of her cousin, Shavondes Martin, 22, who was shot to death in May.

Shavondes Martin

Danaesha Martin has lived in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids in the past, and Waterloo police had information that she left Iowa and had been in Norfolk, Virginia, following her cousin’s death.

Waterloo investigators contacted the United States Marshals Service for assistance in locating her, and shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday, the Marshals Service, with the assistance of the Norfolk Police Department, found her in the 700 block of A Avenue, Norfolk. She was arrested without incident.

The investigation is ongoing, but no other arrests had been made as of Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, authorities are asking anyone with information regarding Shavondes Martin’s death or other cases to contact the Waterloo Police Department.

Shavondes Martin’s slaying came about four months after a jury acquitted him of murder charges in the July 2016 drive-by shooting on Logan Avenue that killed Otavious Brown, 21. Shavondes Martin and other person were found not guilty in the February 2018 trial that resulted in the conviction of Doncorrion Spates.

Around 5:30 a.m. on May 31, Shavondes Martin’s body was found dead in an alley behind the South Street apartment where Danaesha Martin had once lived. An autopsy determined he had been shot numerous times.

It wasn’t too long until another tragedy struck the family. In September, someone opened fire on the Ricker Street home of Shavondes Martin’s mother, 48-year-old Diane Martin. The house was peppered with bullets, one of which found its way inside and killed her.

No one has been arrested in Diane Martin’s slaying.

Court records show Danaesha Martin has a prior conviction in an October 2014 incident where she allegedly assaulted workers at the Sears store in Cedar Rapids when they attempted to stop her and another person for stealing. The other person bit and kicked workers. Danaesha Martin was charged with robbery, but the charge was reduced to third-degree theft as part of a plea. She was sentenced to time served and a fine.

Shavondes Martin