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Casterline trial underway
Now in its second week, a murder trial being held at Hastings is not only of interest to residents of Nuckolls and Webster counties, but current and former residents of the two counties have been called to testify.
A jury was selected last Monday and testimony began the next day.
Following the death of a Guide Rock resident, Shelley Casterline and her son, Andrew, were arrested in Iowa and charged with murder. Shelly Casterline entered a no contest plea and is to be sentenced Monday. Her son, Andrew, 24, has maintained his innocence.
The trial which normally would have been held in Webster County was moved to the Adams County courthouse at the request of the defense attorney.
Prosecutors allege Andrew helped his mother kill Virginia Barone, 68, last Oct. 4. He has been charged with first degree murder, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and burglary.
From the testimony presented thus far it appears greed and anger may have been the cause.
Ronald Jamilowki, Barone's son, testified that he and Shelley had a stormy relationship over the 25 to 26 years they had known each other. They are the parents of twin adult daughters who live in another state. He said Shelley has a terrible temper and occasionally got into physical fights.
In an attempt to reconcile, he asked Shelley to move from Pennsylvania to Guide Rock and live with him. A few months later her son, Andrew, also moved from Pennsylvania to Guide Rock. Jamilowski, Andrew and Barone all lived in the same block. Neither Shelly or Andrew owned a vehicle and relied on Barone for transportation.
However, Jamilowski said Shelley and Barone did not get along and frequently argued.
A prosecuting attorney alleged the slaying was fueled by greed and a desire to move back east. Shelley and Andrew allegedly stole Barone's debit card and 1995 Pontiac. In addition it is alleged a 51-inch television, game console and games were stolen at Trevor Marihugh's residence about a block away from Barone's home and sold in Grand Island.
Prosecutors showed Thursday how Andrew drained all the money from Barone's bank account in the hours after her death.
Marlene McGowan, manager of the Horizon branch bank office in Superior, was among the witnesses called last Wednesday. She testified Barone has received a Social Security deposit for $1,158 in early October. On Oct. 4, the day the murder is thought to have occurred, McGowan was called to fix an automatic teller machine located in the M&R Bookkeeping lot in Superior. She said she arrived between 9 and 9:20 a.m. and saw a man whom she identified as the defendant standing at the ATM. A woman remained in a white vehicle nearby.
McGowan said she drove alongside the white vehicle and told the woman the ATM wasn't issuing receipts. Then McGowan waited for the man to finish using the ATM so she could check the printer paper. The man was said to have turned his back toward her and McGowan became suspicious.
He was standing in front of the machine and it was obvious he didn't want me to see what he was doing, McGowan told the court.
After about five minutes the woman got out of the vehicle and spoke to the man. Both then left.
ATM records showed a withdrawal of $500 and failed attempts to make additional withdrawals from Barone's account.
Investigators used bank records to follow transactions from Superior to Newton, Iowa, where the mother and her son were arrested.
Friday it was said in court that Shelley and Barone had a screaming match while returning to Guide Rock from Hastings in the early morning of Oct. 4.
On Oct. 3 Andrew and Trevor Marihugh went to Hastings. Monday Michel Heikkinen, a Nebraska State Patrol Trooper from Nelson, testified he was one a group of four troopers who observed the two at a Hastings Wendy's. The troopers told the men they were not in a condition to drive and helped arrange a motel room for them.
Marihugh testified he returned to his vehicle and tried to pick up Casterline but was instead arrested by a trooper for driving under the influence.
Later Andrew called Shelley for a ride back to Guide Rock. Shelley asked Barone for help and Barone agreed.
Andrew has said he was not in the house when Barone was killed and claimed he did not know she had died. The state tried to present evidence showing Andrew was in the house and assisted his mother.
Monday the state finished its case against Andrew. Prosecutors said Andrew helped his mother kill Barone.
Dr. Erin Linde testified she conducted the autopsy and said Barone died from blood loss. She said 13 of the 22 stab wounds Barone sustained were fatal or potentially fatal. None were instantly fatal but would have caused bleeding that would lead to death in 10 to 15 minutes. The wounds ranged from one-half to 8.5 inches in depth. Seven appeared to have a downward trajectory and while 13 had an upward trajectory.
More than 200 pieces of evidence were submitted before the state rested its case.
The defense began trying to refute the state's case on Tuesday.
This report was compiled from daily stories written by Will Vraspir and published in the Hastings Tribune for a more detailed report The Express suggests going to that newspaper's website at hastingstribune.com.
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House tells EPA to back off
By Dewey Linemann
UNL Extension Educator
I had a little time last Wednesday to work on a story for this week's newspaper as the powers that be cancelled the second day of Husker Harvest Days. I can understand why, it was very muddy and wet and they needed to have a day for it to dry and for them to help it to dry. I know there were a lot of disappointed farmers. FFA and 4-H kids, and I am sure that the venders there were the most disappointed of all. Wednesday is usually the biggest day of the event. I have been there when it rained, drizzled, and several times when it was so hot you had to find a way out of the sun and heat. I also remember one year when the wind blew so hard that they closed down all the tents and encouraged people to leave.
Sometimes we forget that Mother Nature is still the one in charge and there isn't much we can do about it except to work around the inconveniences.
The cancellation of HHD did give me some time to do a lot of reading and investigating some issues that have been on my mind. One thing that has been worrying me for quite some time is the EPA's broadening jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act with its proposed Waters of the U.S. Rule. For you that don't know about this, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed the rule this past March to clarify which bodies of water, such as wetlands and streams that will come under the agencies' authority to protect under the Clean Water Act.
I indicated earlier that I believe the proposed new definition of which bodies of water are under its jurisdiction should run up all kinds of red flags for farmers and ranchers as it looks to me that they could impose unworkable regulations on the nation's farms.
It appears this new rule definitely has the potential to drastically increase the amount of water and land under EPA's authority. Land that has water flowing through it one day per year, for example, could be subject to EPA's authority. As I read it, if the rule had been finalized, the EPA could potentially require permits for spraying pesticides, building fences, digging ditches or even planting crops not to mention that they can take over any land that water pools or runs through after a rain. Farmers would also be at the mercy of the EPA to issue (or not issue) permits on their timeline!
We had good news on this front (at least for the time being) when The U.S. House of Representatives took a firm stand with farmers and ranchers against the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory overreach by voting 262-152 to put a stop to the Waters of the U.S. rule. The WOTUS Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, H.R. 5078, passed with bipartisan support last Tuesday. This is good news because the EPA's proposal would massively expand EPA's jurisdiction over waters found on our Nebraska farms and ranches and we absolutely do not want that! I want to acknowledge the work of "Common Sense Nebraska" members who worked together to voice Nebraska farmers and ranchers concerns including: Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, Nebraska Pork Producers Association, Nebraska Poultry Industries, Nebraska Soybean Association and the Nebraska State Dairy Association. This effective group was formed to oppose EPA's efforts through the "Ditch the Rule" campaign. I suggest you go to: http://ditchtherule.fb.org/. It is note-worthy that all three of Nebraska's Congressmen (Adrian Smith, Lee Terry and Jeff Fortenberry) voted in favor of H.R. 5078. I hope that you all take the time to contact them and say thanks.
Unfortunately, directly following action in the House, the President issued a veto threat against the legislation, saying it "would derail current efforts to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act, hamstring future regulatory efforts, and create significant ambiguity regarding existing regulations and guidance." Despite action in the House, the measure is not expected to come up in the Senate. This is perplexing to me as I believe that is completely political and I do not like our farmers and ranchers being used as a political football. Too much is at stake for that to be the case. I believe that the Senate needs to act quickly to protect our private property rights and put an end to the EPA's attempted land grab. We have one hurdle cleared, now we all need to urge the Senate to join with the House to "Ditch the Rule" as well. I would hope that would encourage the President to follow suit and leave our farms and ranches alone and to "Ditch the Rule"!
If enacted and passed by both sides of the Congress, H.R.5078 would uphold the existing federal-state partnership by prohibiting the EPA and the Army Corps from developing, finalizing, adopting, implementing, applying, administering or enforcing the proposed rule to or any similar rule that would expand the agencies' jurisdiction over these waters. It would also require the EPA and Army Corps to consult with state and local governments to come up with recommendations on how to identify which waters are to be covered under the CWA and which should be regulated by states and localities. Each state knows their water, their soil and their farmers and that is in who hands it should be not some federal bureaucrat! Not only is the EPA still taking public input and you should still be active - but it now behooves us to step up our efforts to get the Senate to take up the mantle and put their actions where their mouth is in saying they support our farmers and ranchers.
I also encourage our farmers to make an appointment or begin a Livestock Forage Disaster Program application with their county FSA office before Oct. 1, to lock in the current zero percent sequestration rate. It may interest you that an online registration is available that enables farmers and ranchers to put their names on an electronic list before the deadline to avoid reductions in their disaster assistance. You can access it at: http://askfsa.custhelp.com/app/disaster-register. Producers who already contacted their county office and have an appointment scheduled need do nothing more! Good job!
· The commissioners reviewed and approved the monthly report for the county treasurer's office.
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LRNRD Action Avoids
Massive Acreage Shutdown
Were it not for the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte
Enhancement Project NCORPE, Mike Clements, manager of the Lower
Republican Natural Rersources disctrict, believes the district
would have had to stop farmers from irrigating 327,000 irrigated
acres in the district this year. As it was only those farmers
who depend upon irrigation district supplied surface water for
irrigation, were ordered to stop.
Coming off the two driest back to back years on record, the LRNRD had a huge challenge to meet compact compliance obligations for 2014. Both 2013 and 2014 were Compact Call Years for the Republican Basin as a whole. A compact call year simply means that consumptive use is projected to be more than allowable groundwater depletions.
Last November when the forecast came out, which combines the actual usage for 2013 and the projected usage for 2014, it projected the LRNRD to be a negative 17,370 acre feet of consumptive use. Clements said, "That meant that we had to submit a plan to the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources by Jan. 31 as to how we would mitigate the projected deficit. The LRNRD off-set plan called for 2,325 acre feet to be utilized by the Dry Year Lease Program and the remaining 15,045 acre feet would come from the district's share of the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project (N-CORPE).
The N-CORPE Project was fully operational on the Republican side by mid-April. There were 30 wells pumping 40,000 gallons per minute into a 42-inch diameter pipeline which dumped into the headwaters of Medicine Creek.
Clements said augmentation projects like Rock Creek and N-CORPE are critical to the sustainability of irrigated agriculture in the Republican Basin. Without these projects, during drought conditions, all that is left to make up projected shortfalls is regulation. Curtailing irrigation to make up short falls is not a viable short term option and one that would be devastating to the economic viability of the Republican Basin.
Clements said the LRNRD has taken a more holistic approach to managing groundwater, one that encompasses a myriad of management actions. It began several years ago with moratoriums on new irrigation wells and new irrigated acres. Next came flow meters and groundwater allocations. Allocations are such in the LRNRD as to maintain compliance with the compact in normal and above normal precipitation years without the need of further regulation or augmentation.
The LRNRD has supported or introduced numerous other programs or projects intended to reduce consumptive use. Programs such as CREP, EQIP, AWEP, and the Dry Year Lease Program are all intended to temporarily or permanently retire irrigated acres in areas of high groundwater depletions. Soil Moisture sensors have been installed on nearly 160,000 acres with an estimated annual water savings of 15,000 acre feet. Finally, the Republican River was cleaned all the way from Cambridge to Hardy. This allows the water to flow freely and not be consumed by noxious and invasive weeds and trees such as Phragmites and Salt cedar.
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