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Latest Iowa news, sports, business and entertainment at 9:20 p.m. CST


Court upholds woman’s $4.9M verdict from icy sidewalk fall

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld a $4.9 million jury verdict awarded to a Texas woman after she fell outside a hotel on an icy sidewalk.

The court in its ruling Wednesday rejected arguments by Marriott International that the jury’s 2018 verdict was excessive and the result of jury prejudice against the corporation.

Brenda Alcala, a software consultant for Genesis Health Systems, filed the lawsuit. She was staying at the Bettendorf Courtyard by Marriott in January 2010 when she slipped on ice and broke an ankle.

In 2016 the Iowa Supreme Court threw out a $1.2 million verdict from the first trial in 2014 and ordered a new trial over errors in jury instructions. The latest ruling upholds the 2018 verdict.

Marriott’s attorneys didn’t immediately reply to a message.


Iowa governor appoints northwest Iowa judge to appeals court

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says she has appointed a northwest Iowa judge to the Iowa Court of Appeals.

Reynolds says in a statement released Wednesday that Paul Ahlers, of Fort Dodge, will succeed Judge Amanda Potterfield, who is retiring from the bench on December 25. She was appointed by Democratic Gov. Chet Culver in 2008.

Ahlers is Reynolds’ fourth appointment to the nine-member court.

He is a currently a district associate judge and previously practiced law with private firms in Spencer, Fort Dodge, and Webster City.

From 2008 to 2011 he worked for Travelers Insurance Companies in St. Paul, Minnesota.


The Latest: Highway lanes from California to Oregon reopen

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The northbound lanes of Interstate 5 have reopened heading from Redding, California, all the way to the Oregon border.

California transportation officials said Wednesday the freeway was clear and no chains are required.

I-5 was closed in both directions near the California-Oregon border Tuesday, stranding hundreds of people.

The southbound lanes reopened at Ashland, Oregon early Wednesday.

Don Anderson, deputy director of the California Department of Transportation in Redding, says Caltrans and many other agencies worked hard to communicate the seriousness of the storm but that many drivers were still caught by surprise.


Former care provider gets 10 years for stealing from clients

(Information from: Sioux City Journal,

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — A former care provider in Sioux City has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing from her clients.

The Sioux City Journal reports that 50-year-old Lisa Sembach-Preston was sentenced Tuesday. She’d pleaded guilty to two counts of dependent adult abuse and two counts of theft. The judge also ordered her to repay nearly $85,000 to Crossroads of Western Iowa, a Council Bluffs-based nonprofit that provides services to adults with disabilities and mental illnesses.

The records say Sembach-Preston was responsible for each victim’s bank accounts and financial matters. The thefts occurred from February 2015 through April 2017.

Authorities say she used the money to pay for furniture, clothes and a trip to Las Vegas.



Strong winds whip up snow, hampering Nebraska, Iowa travel

Strong winds are whipping up snow and hampering travelers in Nebraska and Iowa.

The storm system that wreaked havoc as it raced through Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska remains over much of Iowa. The National Weather Service says gusts could approach 60 mph (96.6 kph) as the storm heads northeast. A gust of 53 mph (85.3 kph) was reported Wednesday morning in Davenport.

The Iowa Transportation Department says several highways are packed with snow, but none is closed.

The National Weather Service says little new snowfall is expected over Iowa, where 8.3 inches (21.1 centimeters) was reported a mile west of Spirit Lake.

Far western Nebraska is shoveling out from higher amounts. Nearly a foot (30.5 centimeters) has been reported southeast of Lyman, with drifts up to 16 inches (40.6 centimeters) deep.

Several Nebraska highways and county roads are covered with snow as well, but no weather-related closures are reported.


Man accused of 1979 slaying wants trial moved

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — A man accused of killing an Iowa high school student almost 40 years ago wants his trial moved out of Linn County.

The attorney for 65-year-old Jerry Burns, of Manchester, said in a filing Monday that pretrial publicity made it unlikely Burns could receive a fair trial in Linn County. The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 10.

Police arrested Burns Dec. 19, 39 years to the day after 18-year-old Michelle Martinko was killed. Her body was found the next day inside her family’s car at a Cedar Rapids mall. She had been stabbed in the face and chest.

Associated Press

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