A record number of jury trials will take place in 2023 at the Greene County Courthouse in Jefferson. A total of 10 cases will be held beginning on Jan. 24.  BRANDON HURLEY | JEFFERSON HERALD

New year ushers in full case load for Greene County court system

By Brandon Hurley
Managing Editor


A record number of jury trials will keep Greene County’s court system quite busy in the early months of the new year.

Ten cases are set to take place, with the first batch beginning on Jan. 24. Sixty-seven additional cases are pending in the District Associate Court in Greene County, which include various misdemeanors, aggravated misdemeanors and Class D felonies, pushing the overall case load to 77. Never before has the county seat witnessed since an intense strain on the judicial system.
Despite the abnormal amount of jury trials in the coming months, Greene County attorney Thomas Laehn said local crime is actually lower than normal.

“Without referring to any case in particular, I can state that generally, crime rates are down in Greene County,” Laehn said. “Moreover, the number of repeat offenders has declined dramatically over the course of the past four years.  However, as I’ve previously reported to the Board of Supervisors, we’ve never had so many cases set for trial in District Court at the same time.”

Ten cases are currently pending in Greene County in district court, which has the jurisdiction to hear Class A, B, and C felonies.

The cases are as follows: 
• State v. Kaleb Lentz
Jan. 24 at 9 a.m.
    CHARGES: Third degree sexual abuse
    PLEAD: Not guilty on Sept. 12
    SUMMARY OF CHARGES: Kaleb Lentz, 28, of Scranton was charged and arrested for third degree sexual abuse Aug. 24 stemming from an incident in June involving a sleeping babysitter.
Lentz allegedly sexually assaulted the person who he had tasked with babysitting his young children. The teenage victim said they awoke around 11 p.m. June 8 with Lentz having removed their clothes and performing an unwanted sexual act. The teenager – who was 17 at the time of the incident – was at Lentz’s home taking care of his children while he was out before going to bed with the kids. Lentz’s wife was apparently on vacation, according to police reports.
Charges weren’t officially handed out at the time of the incident report – which the victim filed a day later on June 9 – due to necessary processing of Division of Criminal Investigation lab results.
Lentz was interviewed by an officer on June 9, asking if he had conducted sexual relations with the victim, which he denied. Law enforcement proceeded to search Lentz’s residence and also retrieved a DNA sample, though no arrest was made at the time, court documents say.  

• State v. Jerry Barker
    TRIAL DATE: Jan. 24
    CHARGES: Possession of methamphetamine, unlawful possession of a prescription drug, possession of psilocybin mushrooms, possession of marijuana and failure to affix a drug stamp
    PLEAD: Not guilty on Oct. 7
    SUMMARY OF CHARGES: Law enforcement executed a search warrant in the 700 block of Main Street in Grand Junction on June 23. According to police reports, Jerry Barker, 59, led officers to a gun safe, which he unlocked and revealed 33 grams of meth and packaging materials. A pair of notebooks were which allegedly contained “records of drug sales and owe records” were found as were other illegal substances in a desk drawer, including mushrooms, marijuana and oxycodone.
Barker admitted to officers he would purchase two ounces of meth at a time. He’d keep one ounce for his personal use and sell the remaining ounce. Records said he would not admit where he would purchase the drugs.
Barker has been convicted for marijuana possession in Marshall County in 1989 and again in Greene County in 2015. Barker posted bond in Greene County on Sept. 26
• State v. Michael Teeples
    TRIAL DATE: 9 a.m. Jan. 24
    CHARGES: Assault while displaying a dangerous weapon, intimidation with a dangerous weapon to injure or provoke, false imprisonment, reckless use of a firearm, and prostitution
    PLEAD: Not guilty on June 2
    SUMMARY OF CHARGES: Twenty-four rounds of spent ammo were found at Henderson Park in Jefferson after Michael Teeples, 28, a then Jefferson city employee at the time, allegedly offered $80 to a group of juveniles in exchange for wanted sexual favors.
Teeples was arrested at 2:25 a.m. May 10. He was allegedly at the boat ramp at Henderson Park the evening prior when a trio of juveniles arrived in their own vehicle. He allegedly gestured the juveniles over to his white Chevy pickup, which he was standing next to.
Teeples, who was wearing a yellow City of Jefferson shirt at the time of the encounter, allegedly offered one of the juveniles $80 in exchange for oral sex. When the juvenile refused, Teeples allegedly brandished a black handgun, later identified as a Beretta APX 9mm, and began firing bullets toward the Raccoon River, not at the juveniles. Criminal reports claim Teeples allegedly told the group he would “shoot out their tires of their vehicle” if they left. He then physically reached inside the car which the juveniles resided, allegedly grabbing hold of two of the youth in the front. He then fired off “three or four more rounds” of ammo next to the car before the juveniles left, according to court documents.  None of the victims involved were injured during the encounter.

State v. Zachery Waters-Rice
    TRIAL DATE: 9 a.m. Jan. 24
    CHARGES: Attempted murder (A Class B Felony), going armed with intent, use of a dangerous weapon in the commission of a crime, dominion control of a firearm by domestic abuser, third degree burglary, operation without owner’s consent, assault while displaying a dangerous weapon, eluding, manner of conveyance of a loaded gun, possession of a controlled substance - marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia along with two counts of probation violation.      PLEAD: Not guilty on June 6    
    SUMMARY OF CHARGES: The 25-year old first caught the attention of local dispatchers after witnesses reported seeing the suspect reaching into a backpack while on a bicycle and allegedly firing a gun at a moving car in the 700 block of N. Cedar Street around 8:30 p.m. May 16, 2022.
An owner of a home on Cedar Street told officers Waters-Rice had been yelling and swearing at him from the street. The resident said he heard an object hit the east side of his house and assumed Waters-Rice had thrown something, court documents say. Officers were later informed of a stolen vehicle a few hours after the alleged shooting, shortly before 3 a.m. May 17. A search for the stolen vehicle ensued. An officer was able to track down Waters-Rice roughly 25 minutes later in the 100 block of N. Chestnut Street, at 3:13 a.m.
The officer attempted to halt the vehicle by activating his sirens, but Waters-Rice did not pull over, instead fleeing east onto State Street before accelerating, initiating a high-speed chase. Waters-Rice navigated his way out of Jefferson city limits via Grimmell Road, reaching speeds beyond 50 miles per hour, before traversing gravel roads south of town.
The officer in pursuit eventually lost sight of Waters-Rice on L Avenue south of town due to “dangerous speeds and road conditions.” Waters-Rice was later found at a residence on Mulberry Street and promptly arrested.
In August, Waters-Rice was being held at the Iowa Medical Classification Center in Coralville, was later moved to Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, where court documents suggest he is currently being housed.

• State v. Shanda Ellingson
TRIAL DATE: 9 a.m. Feb. 28
CHARGES: Third degree sexual abuse of child victim in same household, child endangerment, domestic abuse assault - injury, controlled substance abuse violation, failure to affix drug stamp, willful injury
PLEAD: Not guilty on Nov. 24

• State v. Benjamin Ellingson
    TRIAL DATE: 9 a.m. Jan. 24
    CHARGES: Third degree sex abuse of child victim, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, indecent contact with a child, child endangerment, sex offender registry violation,
    PLEAD: Not guilty on Dec. 5
    SUMMARY OF CHARGES: The husband and wife duo of Shanda, 39, and Ben Ellingson, 37, were found hiding out in Muscatine in November using fake names. They had been on the run since June of 2022 after being accused by Jefferson police officers of child sex abuse in addition to a slew of other serious charges. The couple fled Greene County sometime around June 5, two days after Ben, 37, was released from jail following his arrest for domestic assault and harassment for allegedly assaulting and threatening to kill his wife, Shanda. Ben was also accused of making sexually explicit threats aimed at his wife’s teenage daughter as well.
Shanda, 39, was the person who initially accused Ben of domestic assault and harassment, reporting her husband for abusing her on a regular basis for more than six months.  
The couple, in a note left in their Jefferson home along Chestnut Street, said they were “headed off the grid toward Canada” in June, according to court records.
Officers believe the Ellingsons had been living together in Muscatine for two months, leaving Shanda’s children back in Jefferson without proper adult supervision, residing at 298 E. 2nd Street Apt. 2. Muscatine law enforcement was tipped off to the Ellingson’s whereabouts and arrived to arrest the couple at 11 a.m. last Wednesday. Ben refused to reveal his real name when officers first approached their residence, instead saying he was Jeffery Clark Miller born Dec. 1, 1983, though he couldn’t provide an identification card. He also said his wife, Shanda, was now going by the name Samantha Miller, born Jan. 1, 1983.
Ben allegedly forced his 15-year old step-child to have sex with him twice, while also forcing the victim to perform oral sex on him. Police evidence suggests Ben allegedly paid the victim between $50-$75 each time he had sex with the victim, and he also allegedly promised to buy a pet for the victim, court documents say, leading to a charge of prostitution against Ben.  
The Ellingsons married in 2020, court documents show, despite Ben’s violent past. He was convicted and sentenced to prison for kidnapping, third degree sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of a minor in 2004. Ben committed the crimes in Decorah and was sentenced to 10-15 years in prison. A newspaper account at the time said he lured his ex-girlfriend into his car, then drove to his apartment without her consent, handcuffed her and continued to sexually assault her. The charges were filed out of Winneshiek County, where he was convicted in 2005.

State v. Lori Gannon
    TRIAL DATE: 9 a.m. Feb. 28
    CHARGES: Five counts of distributing drugs to a person under 18, ongoing criminal conduct and failure to affix a drug stamp
    PLEAD: Not guilty on Nov. 21
• State v. Megan Wright
    TRIAL DATE: 9 a.m. Feb. 28
    CHAGES: Three counts of distributing drugs to a person under 18, ongoing criminal conduct, three counts of possession of controlled substance, two counts of child endangerment and failure to affix a drug stamp
    PLEAD: Not guilty on Nov. 17
    SUMMARY OF CHARGES: Gannon, 61, Churdan and Wright, 29, of Jefferson, were part of a recent marijuana distribution sting last year. A confidential informant relayed to the Greene County sheriff’s office that Gannon was selling marijuana and marijuana related products out of her residence at 460 130th Street in Churdan. A search warrant was executed on Oct. 16 at Gannon’s residence. Officers learned, via her own admission, Gannon had been selling marijuana and marijuana related products to “roughly” 10 customers on a daily basis. Wright was pinpointed by Gannon as the supplier, telling officers she was buying illegal drugs from the Jefferson resident for “roughly one year,” court documents read. Gannon then sells her supply to her various customers.
The sheriff’s office subsequently executed a search warrant on Wright’s home at 108 East Central Street Trailer 4 in the afternoon of Oct. 16 following their conversation and interrogation of Gannon, discovering marijuana, drug paraphernalia, other marijuana related products as well as “physical evidence of the sales of the product,” documents say.
Deputy Enns said Wright thusly admitted to selling marijuana, saying she “used the profits to pay” for normal household bills. Officers also searched Wright’s cell phone and found her making contacts with a number of “customers” via social media apps. Officers later interviewed six juveniles across an eight day span to help build their case.

• State v. Candi Lamberti  
    TRIAL DATE: 9 a.m. Feb. 28
    CHARGES: First degree theft, possession of methamphetamine and three counts of unlawful possession of prescription drugs.
    PLEAD:  Not guilty on Dec. 2
    SUMMARY OF CHARGES: Lamberti, 38, of Des Moines, allegedly stole a Rolex watch worth $12,000 from an acquaintance on Dec. 29, 2021. She allegedly met the subject online and was visiting the person in Jefferson, making a trip from Des Moines. Upon an ensuing search of her vehicle, officers also found meth, methamphetamine, pills, syringes and four bullets in her vehicle. Lamberti turned over the allegedly stolen Rolex to officers after the narcotics were found. The pills located were three different illegal substances, including 17 tablets of Alprazolam, three tablets of cyclobenzaprine, and three tablets of tramadol.

State v. Olvin Aguilar Flores
    TRIAL DATE: 9 a.m. Feb. 28
    CHARGES: Two counts of sexual abuse of a child, third degree sexual abuse of a child victim of same household and two counts of child endangerment.
    PLEAD: Not guilty on Dec. 20
    SUMMARY OF CHARGES: Aguilar Flores, 32, of Jefferson, was booked into the Greene County Jail at 7:45 Nov. 21 for two counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child following a brief investigation. The first juvenile came forward to police on Nov. 20 while the other approached officers a day later on Nov. 21.
Aguilar Flores admitted to law enforcement at the Greene County Jail to having repeated sex with a step-child since 2015, acknowledging he had sex with the juvenile around 30 times in the last three years. Aguilar Flores said he had sex with the juvenile in multiple locations in Jefferson and Greene County.  Another step-child, who is now a teenager, has accused Aguilar Flores of sexually assaulting the youth since the age of seven, over a span of six years.
Aguilar Flores allegedly sexually assaulted one of his step children by taking away their cell phone and refusing to give it back unless intercourse was performed.


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