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Crime
Two suspects are in custody in Janesville homicide investigation

JANESVILLE

Two suspects have been taken into custody in connection with what could be Janesville’s second homicide of 2017, according to an update police released Sunday afternoon.

Police said they began investigating a potential homicide at about 4:44 p.m. Saturday, when officers were dispatched to 426 S. River St. for a 43-year-old woman who had been found dead inside a home, according to an earlier news release.

Police executed a search warrant at the home and collected evidence.

The suspects are a 21-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman, the latest news release states. Police said evidence linking them to the Saturday death has been recovered.

Police have said they do not believe the public is in danger.

An autopsy was still ongoing as of Sunday afternoon. Police will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. today to provide additional information, according to the news releases.

Although Chief David Moore declined to give more information about the case prior to today’s press conference, he did say the man is the main suspect, and they are looking at the woman as an accomplice.

Moore said the man knew the victim.

Moore added that his officers have gone door to door in the neighborhood, updating them that the suspects are in custody and that police do not believe the public is at risk.

The investigation is ongoing, according to the releases.

On May 27, police have said Barquis D. McKnight, 33, shot and killed Eddie L. Jones, 28, of Markham, Illinois, behind the house at 116 S. Franklin St.

McKnight’s attorney, Michael Murphy, said in September the evidence more closely shows a struggle for a gun than an intentional shooting, however.

McKnight is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and possession of a firearm by a felon.

McKnight in a September hearing proclaimed his innocence and insisted on going to trial, but the case was dismissed and charges were filed again.

He is now scheduled for a January jury trial with a final pretrial at 11 a.m. Jan. 18. Murphy had said he was working on a plea agreement with the prosecution.


Local
Milton mother hopes others can get treatment four years after son's overdose

MILTON

Watching her son leave the hospital after an overdose was infuriating, Lori Blum said.

He acted like it was no big deal.

“It’s frustrating because there wasn’t a lesson involved,” Blum said. “They overdose, they didn’t feel anything. They wake up, and they feel OK.”

Her son Jacob Heider died from a heroin overdose in 2014 in a California hotel.

The overdose that killed the Milton native was not his first, Blum said. She knew of at least three other times he was hospitalized for overdoses.

Surviving an overdose significantly increases the chances of early death, said Arthur Altbuch, an addictions and chronic pain specialist at Mercyhealth.

People who do not receive treatment after an overdose likely will overdose again and again until it kills them, Altbuch said. This is especially apparent with the opioid epidemic.

Rock County recorded 988 opioid-related hospital encounters in 2016, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. That was up 50 percent from 660 encounters in 2015.

Heroin is one of the drugs in the opioid family. In 2016, Rock County had 87 reported heroin hospitalizations and 13 fatal heroin overdoses, according to health services.

Raising Jacob

“It was so hard through his teenage years because it was constantly something,” Blum said.

A prescription for Adderall, on top of recreational marijuana and alcohol use, helped start Heider’s addiction as a young teenager, Blum said.

Heider began stealing medication from friends’ medicine cabinets after graduating from the Wisconsin Challenge Academy, an alternative learning program for at-risk teens conducted by the National Guard, Blum said.

“You didn’t think heroin,” Blum said. “It wasn’t a big thing through as long as my lifetime. You didn’t hear that.”

Heider knew he had a problem, Blum said. He asked his mom to enroll him at the challenge academy to get away from Milton, where he was starting to have problems with the law.

“I called Jacob a product of his environment,” Blum said.

Heider started using heroin after he returned to his hometown from the academy, Blum said. He was 17 or 18 years old.

“When I found out about heroin, I did what I thought was best,” Blum said.

“You kick them out.

“You try not to enable them.

“You don’t give them anything.”

Blum doesn’t like excuses, she said. She believes her son’s addiction was a choice, not a disease or something that happened by chance.

Heider asked his mom to help him get treatment many times, Blum said. He checked in to four rehab facilities across the country before his fatal overdose.

Some facilities accepted insurance, Blum said. But to pay for the last round, Blum used inheritance money from her brother.

She told her son after every stint in rehab that the program would not fix his addiction by itself, Blum said. He had to want to change.

What are the risks?

Professionals have seen an increase in overdoses among people mixing opioids with benzodiazepines, Altbuch said. Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, are used to treat anxiety and other issues concerning mental health.

“There’s a very strong co-morbidity between opioid use and mental health issues,” Altbuch said. “The obvious one with chronic pain is depression.”

It is common to find another psychiatric diagnosis in people with addiction, Altbuch said.

The largest health risk from opioid abuse, outside of unintentional overdose, is intravenous infection and diseases from sharing needles, Altbuch said. This includes infections in the blood stream, HIV and hepatitis C.

Numbers of hepatitis C patients are still small in Rock County, said David Pluymers, associate director of the Rock County Public Health Department, but he’s concerned about the shift in demographics of those infected with hepatitis C. Almost as many cases are reported among 20- to 30-year-olds as 50- to 60-year-olds, who usually have the most reported cases.

An increase in younger people contracting hepatitis C is likely a result of increased intravenous drug use, Pluymers said.

Opioid use also can lead to impaired immunity to infection, decreased sex hormones and increased stress hormones, Altbuch said.

Hormonal changes in the body can be reversed over time if a person reduces or eliminates opioid use, Altbuch said.

Stationed with addiction

Kole Farnsworth, Heider’s younger brother, has been home from the Army for a year, he said. He joined the Army to prove to his big brother he could do it.

“Me and him were like the yin and yang,” Farnsworth said. “We were connected, yet we were so far different.”

Heider was in the Army, stationed in Hawaii, Blum said. That’s when she realized the extent of her son’s drug use.

Blum visited Heider in Hawaii and knew he was “using” the minute she saw him at the airport.

Heider’s sergeant warned Blum that if her son kept up his behaviors he would be “kicked out” of the Army, Blum said. He was sent home after about two years and spent four months in jail in California.

The last overdose

Heider called his little brother the day Farnsworth arrived at his first duty station at Fort Carson in Colorado, Farnsworth said. It was the last time he talked to him.

“(My brother said) ‘I’m so proud of you, you’re now a real soldier now, you’re at your first unit,’” Farnsworth said. “‘I’m letting you know I’m getting out of rehab. I’m going to be taking a bus from California, cutting through Colorado, so I’m going to stop there.’”

“We’re going to hang out for a week or weekend, we’re going to party it up. We’re going to do some fun (expletive), then I’m going to go home.”

Heider had been working at a rehab center in California after his fourth round of treatment, Blum said.

He was clean for seven months before he relapsed and was sent home to Milton with hopes to return for more treatment, Blum said.

Blum was on the phone with her son hours before he died, she said. Her motherly instincts told her he was going to use drugs before he made it home.

Heider told his mom he wanted to see Hollywood Boulevard before leaving California. He sent pictures of the Hollywood Boulevard street sign, Sandra Bullock’s star and the street, Blum said.

“I said, ‘Where are you heading?’ He said, ‘To the bus depot,’ I said, ‘Get on the bus.’”

He called her about 15 minutes later to say he was getting on the bus and would call her the next day.

“So he never got on the bus, obviously,” Blum said. He ended up in a hotel on Sunset Boulevard, where he was found dead the next day.

“My son had cocaine, rat poison, fentanyl, carfentanyl and heroin (in his body) the last time he used,” Blum said. “Even the coroner said there was no chance.”

After Jacob

Heider’s daughter is now 7 years old, Blum said. She was 3 when her father died.

“She’s my rock,” Blum said.

Blum remains close with her granddaughter and Heider’s former girlfriend, she said. Heider told his mother while in rehab he hoped she would always watch his daughter if something happened.

Her granddaughter doesn’t remember her father, Blum said. She tries to recall him by looking at pictures of them before he died.

Blum talks to her granddaughter about addiction, she said.

“She is so much him,” Blum said. “You just have to look and you have to smile because you know he’s watching over her. You know she has a really special angel.”

Helping others

Writing her son’s obituary was one of the hardest things she had to do, Blum said.

She included Heider’s overdose in the obituary because she wanted to bring awareness to addiction and help “even just one person” realize how dangerous it can be, Blum said.

A friend of Blum met a man who said he saw Jacob’s obituary in the Milton Courier, Blum said.

The man taped the obituary to his refrigerator so his sons, who were starting to use drugs, could read it, Blum said. The man said his sons “never thought about the dying part” before then.

Blum is thankful she got to tell her son she loved him one last time before he died, she said. She always made sure he knew how much she cared.

“Once you have addiction in your family, it consumes you,” Blum said. “You try to find anything to save or make it better. You try to find something all the time.”


#MeToo movement challenged by cascade of allegations

The criticism came swiftly last week after Atlantic magazine published a writer’s account saying that Sen. Al Franken “groped” her in 2009 by putting his hand on her waist during a photo op, “grabbing a handful of flesh” and squeezing at least twice.

“I’m sorry, is that sexual assault now? To squeeze someone’s waist?” one Twitter user wrote.

“And this is your definition of a grope? Come on! This accusation trivializes real predation and abuse. Knock it off!” a woman echoed on Facebook.

“We are officially #offtherails,” another posted.

It was the type of backlash some feared. As a reckoning over sexual harassment sweeps the country, leaders in business, academia and other walks of life are pushing to sustain the momentum and ensure a positive, lasting cultural change without it getting derailed by politics, social media frenzies and outsize responses to infractions many deem small.

“There’s just too much putting everything into one big bucket instead of looking at the nuance,” said Fran Sepler, a Minneapolis human resources consultant who has helped develop training for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

As allegations spread from Hollywood figures to powerful lawmakers in recent months, what started as a “really extraordinary conversation” about the need for industries to examine their cultures and people feeling emboldened to speak out is, in some instances, getting politicized and weaponized, Sepler said. As a result, she said, it’s turned the discussion into “something a little more complicated and a little more nasty and I think a little less productive.”

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg cautioned that she’d heard “the rumblings of a backlash,” including men becoming afraid to hire women.

Conservative columnist Christine Flowers, in Philadelphia, called the #MeToo movement denouncing sexual assault and harassment “unwieldy and unforgiving, mixing all sorts of conduct together and retroactively stigmatizing acts that—until the social media age—were considered boorish and brutish but not capital offenses.”

Those who have spent part of their careers working to end sexual harassment are finding that the digital age has catapulted society into uncharted territory on the issue, bringing new voice to the debate while also posing a danger of distracting from it.

To change the culture, they say, people need a sense that fair process will prevail and responses will be commensurate to the behavior. Society needs to stay focused on the ubiquitous confirmed cases of sexual harassment and assault, they say.

“We lose the opportunity for education if everything is (seen as) a criminal offense,” said Hamline University business professor Peggy Andrews, a longtime human resources and management consultant. “On the other hand, we’ve allowed criminal offenses to go unpunished for so long.”

The recent wave of attention and awareness is widely seen as a long-overdue milestone, empowering victims to speak up while toppling perpetrators. It flooded social media when victims of sexual harassment and assault started typing #MeToo on their accounts after allegations were lodged against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

While distinctions need to be made between the severity of allegations, it all is part of a continuum that “has to do with a sense of entitlement” by the perpetrators, said political science professor Jill Locke, who directs the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Program at Gustavus Adolphus College. People have to be careful about sending a message that victims can’t come forward unless certain criteria are met, she said.

If someone comes forward alleging something that people on social media don’t think is a big deal, she said, then people should instead “focus on the plethora of cases that are a big deal and do something about those.”

Sepler, who has spent 30 years investigating harassment claims as part of her work, said that she thinks that “99.9 percent of the people who come forward claiming they’ve been sexually harassed believe they’ve been sexually harassed. … Whether the behavior they’re complaining about rises to the very high bar of unlawful harassment, and whether they feel sexually harassed are two different questions.”

A one-time, awkward hug, for example, won’t typically get someone fired, human resources professionals said, though it might result in a conversation. So getting caught up in too much debate about “gray areas” of social interaction isn’t productive, they say.

“Personally, I don’t see that it’s any more gray now than it’s ever been,” said Susan Strauss, a trainer, consultant and harassment and bullying investigator based in Burnsville, Minnesota. Even workplace flirting and dating will not end, she and some others predicted, nor should companies expect it to.

“You just use common sense,” she said. “If you ask somebody out and they say ‘No’ … then you say, ‘You know what, I’m sorry. I didn’t intend for that to be offensive and won’t do it again.’”

Lasting change will require specific cultural shifts, Finnegan and others say.

Male and female bystanders can help define what is considered acceptable by letting offenders know when a mildly lewd joke isn’t appropriate or when they see unwelcome interactions taking place.

“That helps people who are likely to harass or do other things, they will see that and they will recognize ‘Oh, the norm here is different,’” Finnegan said.

Hollywood can play a role, too, by putting story lines about harassment into movies and television, Finnegan said.

Fewer nondisclosure agreements in legal settlements will also help to show victims that action has been taken in cases and will “stop allowing people to hide behind their settlement agreements,” said Minneapolis employment attorney Stacey DeKalb.

Most critical for companies, schools and other institutions is for leaders to set a respectful tone, women’s advocates agree. Highlighting examples of positive behavior is more effective than focusing on what people should not do.

In the end, though, many say, much of the change will come down to finding ways for people to have potentially uncomfortable conversations with others.

“We’re human and we’re awkward; we need more pathways to have awkward conversations without fear of legal reprisals,” said Andrews, the Hamline professor.

Although the law says victims never have to directly confront someone who is harassing them, that doesn’t mean victims shouldn’t, Sepler said. While that might be the best way to address harassment from a manager, the more common peer-to-peer harassment can often be handled face to face and on the spot.

“I think there’s a powerful place for women to take on their own agency in those situations where they’re not afraid of reprisal and speak up for themselves or speak up for others,” said Sepler, who teaches people how to do it.

At company trainings, Sepler presents a scenario where someone is unknowingly annoying a co-worker—tapping their toes or looking at them in a way that makes them feel gross.

“Would you rather that they tell you? Or would you rather that they report you to human resources?” Sepler asks. “One hundred percent of people say, ‘I would rather they tell me.’” Addressing it with them can be a gift if it’s presented in the right spirit, she said. That may include telling the person that they are appreciated and that you don’t want to see their success derailed.

“We’re learning that if you actually tell them what they’re doing is bugging you, there’s a good chance that they’ll stop,” she said, “and that they won’t retaliate against you, if you do it in a way that’s you know, ‘Hey, you know, I really like you, but I’m not a hugger.’”


Price hikes push health insurance shoppers into hard choices

Margaret Leatherwood has eight choices for health insurance next year but no good options.

The cheapest individual coverage available in her market would eat up nearly a quarter of the income her husband brings home from the oilfields.

The Bryson, Texas, couple makes too much to qualify for Affordable Care Act tax credits that help people buy coverage. But they don’t make enough to comfortably afford insurance on their own, even though Paul Leatherwood works seven days a week.

“I hate to put it like this, but it sucks,” said Margaret Leatherwood, who stays at home and takes care of her grandchildren.

This largely middle-class crowd of shoppers is struggling to stay insured. They’ve weathered years of price hikes and shrinking insurance choices with no help. Faced with more price increases for next year, they’re mulling options outside insurance or skipping coverage entirely—a decision that could lead to a fine for remaining uninsured and huge bills if an emergency hits.

The sign-up period for 2018 coverage closes Friday in most states, meaning shoppers have only a few more days to find something that squeezes into their budgets.

“I kind of cringe when I am meeting with those clients because I don’t have a solution for them,” said Kelly Rector, a Missouri-based insurance agent.

The ACA helped chop the U.S. uninsured population 41 percent to 28.8 million people earlier this year from 48.6 million in 2010, when it became law, according to the latest government figures.

The law expanded Medicaid coverage for the poor and created health insurance marketplaces where people can use income-based tax credits to buy a single or family individual insurance plan if they don’t get coverage through work. Those subsidies cover part or all of the bill, capping insurance costs at a percentage of income for those who are eligible. That shields recipients from price hikes of 20 percent or more that have hit many markets.

But that help stops abruptly for people making four times the federal poverty level or more—around $48,000 for an individual and more than $98,000 for a family of four.

Of the roughly 15 million people who bought ACA-compliant individual insurance for this year, nearly 7 million had no tax credit help, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Meanwhile, the uninsured rate among adults who make too much to qualify for help buying coverage jumped to 5 percent this year from 2 percent in 2016, according to The Commonwealth Fund.

Brokers and health care researchers expect that to climb again, especially for people with income levels close to the cutoff for federal help.

“It’s not going to be like an on-off switch where prices get too high and nobody buys coverage,” said Sherry Glied of New York University. “It’s more like a drip, drip, drip.”

The vulnerable population includes the self-employed, small business owners and those close to qualifying for the Medicare program that covers people age 65 and over.

These customers can face monthly bills that climb past $2,000 for a family plan and then a big deductible before most coverage starts.

Leslie Glogau said some of her customers in the Orlando, Florida area are considering short-term, limited-benefits plans that are cheaper than ACA-compliant coverage but can leave them vulnerable to big medical bills. Such plans also won’t stave off the uninsured penalty, which can amount to a few thousand dollars depending on income.

“People just don’t know which way to turn,” Glogau said. Insurance shoppers won’t be fined if they can’t find an affordable option in their market. But going uninsured would still leave them exposed to huge medical bills.

Margaret and Paul Leatherwood wound up with a limited-benefits plan this year, but they want better protection in case of a big bill. She’s 58 and he just turned 60. They’re weighing joining a medical cost-sharing ministry for next year.

These ministries are not insurance, but they allow people to band together to share expenses, often by making monthly payments. They can be cheaper than regular coverage, and belonging to one allows customers to escape the ACA penalty for remaining uninsured.

Such arrangements usually come with restrictions or qualifications. For instance, participants may not be allowed to use tobacco, and there might be limits on help for medical conditions that existed before the customer signed up.

“That’s really the only option we have that’s going to cover anything,” Margaret Leatherwood said.

Lance and Stephanie Schmidt bought family coverage in the individual insurance market for years because they don’t get employer-sponsored coverage through Lance’s dental practice. But the Oklahoma City couple opted for a cost-sharing ministry this year after they realized the monthly insurance bill for their family of five would have more than doubled to over $1,200 and stuck them with a deductible that topped $7,000.

They now pay $450 a month for a plan through Liberty HealthShare, and they are leaning toward returning next year.


glance

local • 3A

Parcels keeping USPS busy

The Janesville Post Office is already having a busier-than-normal holiday season. It has been 10 percent to 15 percent over peak parcel levels when compared to last year, Postmaster Laura Coots said. And the busiest day has yet to come. The post office is projecting its busiest day of the season will be Wednesday, Dec. 13—that is when Coots said a lot of Cyber Week packages will be going through the Janesville location.

state • 2A

Students grow own lunches

Students at a private school in eastern Wisconsin are growing their own food for lunch in the school’s cafeteria. The hydroponics system at St. John Lutheran School in Plymouth is part of a pilot program through the nonprofit Feeding America. “In this day and age of conservation and resources, what a great way to show the students every day that there are ways to try and be a little more self-sustaining and have less of an impact on the environment,” said Jay Lindsey, the school’s principal.

sports • 1B-3B

Mauermann racking up awards

Janesville native and UW sophomore hockey forward Alexis Mauermann began November by being named the WCHA’s Offensive Player of the Week thanks to three goals and an assist in a weekend sweep of Ohio State. She continued the strong play the next three series and eventually earned the WCHA’s Offensive Player of the Month award.

nation/world • 6B-7B

Shelby: ‘Alabama can do better’

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said repeatedly Sunday his state can “do better” than electing fellow Republican Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate, making clear that a write-in candidate was far preferable to a man accused of sexual misconduct.