Nearly two years after ICE came to town, trauma still haunts these Iowa families

Editor’s note: This story was produced with support from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s National Fellowship and by the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism. Luis bent over his front porch, one knee on a piece of plywood as he muscled an old hand saw through a cut in the wood on a warm day in early February. He was repairing a section of flooring in the small white house he shares with three other men on a quiet street in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.The cuts became more challenging as the saw caught in the wood. Luis, whose name has been changed for anonymity,  shook his head and said he once owned newer power tools that would make the job much easier.

Report card for the states rates those with best and worst laws to cut traffic deaths

Drunk drivers, motorcyclists and young or distracted motorists make up the majority of those involved in fatal vehicle crashes, and many states are failing to pass key safety measures that could prevent such deaths, according to a new report by a highway safety group. The nonprofit Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety each year releases a report card grading states on their legislative efforts to reduce traffic deaths. The group’s 2020 report credits seven states—Rhode Island, Washington, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, California and Louisiana, along with the District of Columba—with having the best laws to reduce crash deaths. Twelve states—South Dakota, Wyoming, Missouri, Montana, Arizona, Ohio, Florida, Nebraska, Nevada, Vermont, New Hampshire and Virginia—ranked worst in the report card. In 2018, the most recent year for which federal data is available, 36,560 people died in traffic collisions in the U.S. The figure marks a 2.4 percent decrease from 2017, but is still high compared to earlier in the decade.

Missing DNA evidence hampers wrongful conviction fight in Iowa

In June, William Beeman, who is serving a life sentence in the Iowa Department of Corrections for a 1980 murder, asked a judge to order a DNA evidence test that he contends could prove his innocence. But police agencies involved in the case say they still can’t find the evidence to test. The missing items include a rape kit recovered from the body of the victim, 22-year-old Michiel Winkel, and bloody clothes from the state park where authorities found her dead. Beeman was a local DJ in rural Muscatine County, on the state’s eastern border, when police arrested him for murdering Winkel, who had been an acquaintance. Beeman’s attorneys argue that DNA evidence could shed more light on a crime with multiple suspects, no eyewitnesses, and a confession Beeman claims was coerced by police.