There were no indications of foul play in the death of a homeless man in Janesville on Sunday night. Those who knew him liked the quiet man, Michael P. Terry.
Gary L. Chamberlain
Donald Richard Kayser
John R. Kazort
Jesse T. Larson Sr.
Esther M. Silha
Daniel W. Wobig
Brenda Jean Wopat-Holder
Angeline B. Zydzik
Janesville nonprofit agencies say Mike Terry was a homeless man they had contact with almost monthly.
Local police and homeless outreach workers recently tried weekly to convince the man to accept help and shelter.
Terry, 58, had declined such services, instead opting to live homeless, sometimes outside, out in the elements, on his own. On Monday, Terry was found dead, his body inside a sleeping bag in the cold of the morning next to trash bins behind a South Main Street business.
Terry’s death comes after the arrival of an early winter and after several Janesville nonprofits joined forces with police, neighborhood services and Rock County crisis workers to create FOCUS, a local task force aimed at responding to homelessness.
The task force over the last year has worked to spur a handful of initiatives to reach out to homeless people and stem homelessness downtown and elsewhere.
The efforts have included overnight car parking for homeless people, more outreach by police and agencies and some emerging housing. But none of those measures helped Terry.
Stephanie Burton, Executive Director of GIFTS Men’s Shelter, a nonprofit shelter and resource center for homeless men, said her agency knew of Terry. She said her agency’s policy is not to divulge specifics about any homeless clients or potential clients, but she characterized Terry as a “kind and sweet-natured” man familiar to many nonprofit workers.
There were no indications of foul play in the death of a homeless man in Janesville on Sunday night. Those who knew him liked the quiet man, Michael P. Terry.
She and Jessica Locher, who oversees ECHO’s homelessness outreach program, both said Terry was among a small percentage of chronic homeless people who decline help offered by nonprofit agencies or Janesville police.
“Mike was one of the individuals that they (Janesville police homeless outreach officers) met every month. And then our (ECHO) outreach team had met with him, too. He never wanted anything from us that we have offered,” Locher said.
“But we just are going to continue to keep reaching out. For those individuals who don’t want the help, we’re still going to be there when they’re ready. Unless something tragic happens, like what just happened.”
It’s not immediately clear whether cold weather Sunday night played a role in Terry’s death. Family members indicated that early signs are that Terry might have died from a heart attack, but medical examiners who performed an autopsy said they must conduct further tests to determine a cause of death.
But the fact Terry was apparently staying outside in the cold when he died is troubling to local officials. The capacity available at local shelters and through emergency housing vouchers only accommodates about 10% of the several hundred people in Rock County who are homeless at any given time, officials say.
And the sudden onset of winter weather has nonprofit leaders concerned about the well being of their clients.
Maj. Thomas McDowell or the Salvation Army of Rock County said he learned the same day the season’s first snow was expected that a frequent visitor to his church’s lunch program was homeless. McDowell said he tried to find the man shelter quickly, but it took a week to find a place he could stay.
All five of the Salvation Army’s transitional apartments are being used, McDowell said. Some agencies say they’re short of either vouchers for emergency housing or spaces available to use the vouchers.
The county’s housing shortage, both of affordable and emergency housing, has struck McDowell as a major concern in his first year working in Janesville.
ECHO plans to place a family in a transitional living house it acquired from the city of Janesville. The home was renovated earlier this year with money from a federal grant program. And Beloit nonprofit Community Action seeks to develop part of a city park on Janesville’s south side with three 600-square-foot homes that would serve as transitional housing for families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
The Salvation Army plans to work with GIFTS this winter by finding volunteers for GIFTS’ overnight shelter, McDowell said.
Burton said GIFTS’ shelter now has enough volunteers to accommodate about 32 homeless men at any given time, and she said the center frequently runs at capacity. If extreme cold warrants, Burton said GIFTS has at times exceeded its threshold for guests.
She said GIFTS plans as early as Dec. 1 to make available an “extreme cold weather” space—essentially a warming center for people who aren’t necessarily GIFTS’ overnight clients.
Burton said GIFTS is still ironing out how it would operate a warming center.
Locher and Burton said the public-private FOCUS homeless task force has met monthly at City Hall since August 2018—the same month a homeless man was found dead in the Rock River downtown. It has made its greatest inroads through an increased focus on outreach to the homeless, they said.
Once a month, Janesville police officers and homeless outreach agents scour out-of-the-way locations in the city to find homeless people. ECHO workers do a search weekly. Locher said the Hedberg Public Library, where many local homeless people tend to congregate, is considering enlisting college students to help with outreach to the homeless.
But as with Terry, Locher said it can be difficult to convince homeless people to accept help.
Locher said a small portion of the homeless people they find don’t want assistance that nonprofits could offer them.
“Sometimes it takes 15, 20 even 30 contacts with a single person before you can convince them to accept that help,” Locher said. “We’ve got to just keep trying.”
The FOCUS task force met Wednesday, a previously scheduled meeting that coincidentally came just days after Terry was found dead. Burton said the task force is awaiting more information on the circumstances of Terry’s death, but his death was a topic the group discussed Wednesday.
“Every time we meet, the bottom line underneath what we talk about is that we hope to prevent something like this from happening. Of course we want to help everyone. No one should sleep on the streets,” Burton said.
“But at the same point, people have the right to say ‘no’ or decline help,” Burton said. “You don’t have the right to grab them by the arm and say, ‘You’re coming with me,’ even if it’s what your heart tells you that’s what you want to do.”
Gazette reporter Ashley McCallum contributed to this story.
A brother who won’t share his Fortnite video game.
A younger sister who drives you crazy.
A math problem that is the last straw, the thing that sends you over the edge into despair.
Those are all moments to practice mindfulness, the habit of stopping all the chattering monkeys in your head and just being—pause here for a deep breath—quiet.
At Van Buren Elementary School, practicing mindfulness has become part of the school culture.
At 2:05 p.m. every Wednesday, all students participate in a mindfulness exercise. It’s led by a different class each week and broadcast live on the school’s YouTube channel. Kids in the rest of the classrooms watch on large electronic whiteboards.
Many teachers use mindfulness more often in their classrooms.
“We’re really trying to give the kids the tools to self-regulate,” said Leslie Bauer, a school counselor.
Kids—and adults—need to understand they can’t control everything that happens to them, but with the right tools, they can control their responses, Bauer explained.
Many of the exercises involve deep breathing. To do “square breathing,” for example, students exhale for a count of four, inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four and then begin again.
This is not hocus-pocus. Studies have shown that deep-breathing exercises can help control anxiety and stress. When you breathe in and breathe out consciously and slowly, your heart rate slows. As you become calmer, the brain releases chemicals that help sustain the effects, neuroscientists say.
Another technique is called “creative visualization.” Children sit quietly and imagine they are taking a walk along the beach, and the water is lapping over their feet, and the sun is shining.
The students also have learned the value of “reset.” A reset involves stopping everything, taking a deep breath, lowering their heads and then raising them back up slowly. A reset helps bring students back from wherever their brains have wandered.
On Wednesday, Jessica Benish’s third-graders led the school in an exercise called “building a snowman.”
Brogen Braunreiter, 8, read the instructions, and the rest of the class went through the motions in front of the camera.
“Deep breath in and raise your arms,” Braunreiter intoned. “Now exhale and build the first layer of your snowman.”
Kids squatted down and patted an imaginary snowman in front of them.
It looked like modified yoga.
Benish said the breathing and reset exercises took time to teach, but the benefits have been worth it.
“When I say ‘reset,’ the kids know what to do,” she said. “It’s just one word.”
One of Benish’s students, Abel Lindsey, 8, said he finds mindfulness useful when he starts to get angry about something at school or at home.
Jesse Burton, 8, said mindfulness exercises help him get to sleep when he’s “super hyper.”
Katerina Breyman and Keyloni Barker, both 8, use mindfulness when their sisters are driving them crazy. Sibling conflict seemed to be a good reason to practice mindfulness.
Braunreiter said it was useful for helping him deal with sibling conflicts, as well.
“Sometimes my brother won’t let me play Fortnite,” Braunreiter said. “I keep on telling him, ‘I want to play, let me play, I want to play,’ but he doesn’t let me.”
Then he has to “try hard to be mindful.”
Mike Terry died while sleeping next to a downtown trash bin, probably sometime Monday morning.
He was homeless but not in the ways most people think of homeless men. Just ask those who saw him regularly.
“It’s hard on all of us right now,” said Joan Reddell, a bartender at the Looking Glass, a downtown tavern where Terry often spent his mornings as he waited for Hedberg Public Library to open.
Terry would drink coffee with staff members, who sometimes made him pancakes with leftover batter, and they bought him breakfast on Sundays, Reddell said.
“If you offered (food) to him, he would take it, but he never asked,” Reddell said.
“He was wonderful. He was just sweet,” Reddell said.
Terry was found behind a set of wooden doors that enclose an area where trash bins are kept behind the Olde Towne Mall, 20 S. Main St.
Two mall tenants found the body late Monday morning. He was in a sleeping bag, said mall manager Jackie Woods.
Police said the 58-year-old’s death was not suspicious. The official cause of death might not be known for weeks, but family members said they were told it was a heart attack.
The last homeless person known to have died outdoors in Janesville was Daniel L. Eccles, 68, whose body was found in the Rock River in August 2018. Police at the time said the death appeared accidental, and the medical examiner’s office suggested Eccles had a heart condition.
Many knew Terry as a quiet man who kept to himself.
Stephanie Burton from the GIFTS men’s shelter characterized him as a “kind” and “sweet-natured.”
A homeless person was found dead after spending the night in the cold.
Wood, who has run the Olde Towne Mall for years, exchanged pleasantries with Terry last week. She described him as always nicely dressed.
Wood knew he had been sleeping near the trash bins in recent months. She has found homeless people sleeping in the same area on many occasions through the years.
“He wasn’t one of the really down-and-out homeless people. He had family that cared about him,” Wood said. “He was always very nice, very pleasant. He had a nice sleeping bag, and he chose to live that way.”
Courtney Smith, who graduated with Terry in 1981 from Janesville Craig High School, renewed their acquaintance about four years ago when she saw him at the Olde Towne Mall, where she works.
She recognized the bearded man with long gray hair by his voice, which pleasantly surprised him.
“His eyes just sparkled,” she recalled.
Ever since, Terry was very nice to her and always remembered her husband’s name, Smith said.
Hedberg Public Library Director Bryan McCormick said Terry was at the library every day and spent much of the day there, sometimes falling asleep in a chair but never causing any trouble.
“We got used to him. He was like one of us,” McCormick said.
Terry’s niece Lindsay Wester said her uncle was troubled, however.
He always was pleasant when he encountered family members but didn’t get involved in their lives, Wester said.
“There was definitely effort put in to try get him to come over, and he was never upset or mad or anything. He just declined,” Wester said. “There was definitely mental illness but nothing we could get diagnosed because he was not a harm to anybody or to himself, and when that happens, you can’t force him to get help.
“There wasn’t much the family could do except offer help,” she continued. He usually declined.
Terry was also known for declining local services.
Jessica Locher of ECHO said her organization’s homeless outreach coordinator and the police department’s homeless outreach team had been trying for months to get Terry to accept services.
Wester said Terry was one of four children of Bernice and Martin Terry.
He was a U.S. Marine who served in Hawaii and Okinawa, Wester said.
He had been homeless nine or 10 years, and before that he worked night shifts at two local businesses, Prent Corp. and Janesville Products, she said.
Reddell said Terry was at the Looking Glass the day before he died. He asked, “Do you know about the forecast through this coming week? Because I’m sick of this cold.”
Terry complained of pain in his leg. She gave him ibuprofen, and he told her later he felt better.
Reddell said she had offered to buy him something alcoholic when she was hanging out at the bar, but he always refused.
Lt. Charles Aagaard of the police detective bureau said Terry “was not like any kind of person we had regular, negative contacts with. … He was not that type of person.”
Terry was wearing cold-weather clothing, Aagaard said. The low temperature Monday morning was 19.
Others who knew him, including his niece, said he wasn’t involved in alcohol or drugs.
Wester said Terry never got upset when family members brought up his living situation, but he seemed content with it and never complained.
“He was a good man who liked to keep to himself,” Wester said. “The fact that there’s talk about where he was found, that doesn’t reflect him or his life.”
Smith last saw him Saturday morning, as she often did, waking up near the trash bins behind the building, the same place where he died about two days later.
He asked what time it was. When she told him 8:30, he was surprised, saying he never sleeps that late.
Smith once asked Terry if he was cold, sleeping on the ground outside. He said no, “I have the best sleeping bag money can buy.”
Career U.S. diplomats delivered solemn testimony Wednesday about the Trump administration’s alleged misconduct in Ukraine—including a previously undisclosed cellphone call in which President Donald Trump appeared to personally press a senior State Department official to pressure the Eastern European nation.
As the historic public impeachment proceedings got underway, the two witnesses described a scheme by administration officials and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to push Ukraine’s president to launch investigations into Democrats in the U.S. that would help Trump in the 2020 election.
GOP lawmakers worked to undermine the legitimacy of the hearings and repeatedly noted that neither man had personally spoken with Trump and that neither had firsthand knowledge of his motivations.
The stark divide—in Congress and among the broader electorate—over Trump’s alleged misdeeds was on full display in the House hearing room. Committee members snapped at one another about the way Democrats were managing the proceedings and their decision to shield an anonymous whistleblower from public hearings.
As they did, the invited witnesses girded for a rough day.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., kicked off the hearing by expressing concern over Trump’s admonishment that Democrats should drop the hearings.
“If we find that the president of the United States abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections or if he sought to condition, coerce, extort or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his re-election campaign and did so by withholding official acts … must we simply ‘get over it’?” Schiff said, referring to a comment last month by Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.
“Is that what Americans should now expect from their president?” Schiff said. “If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?”
California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, objected to how Democrats were running the impeachment inquiry.
“This is a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign,” he said.
The dismissive posture of the GOP—toward Democrats and the witnesses—stood in contrast to the weighty testimony presented in opening statements by the diplomats, who outlined how the White House leveraged its power over a small nation with a relatively new democracy to score political points at home.
“In mid-August, it became clear to me that Giuliani’s efforts to gin up politically motivated investigations were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine,” said George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department. “I don’t believe the U.S. should ask other countries to engage in selective, politically associated investigations or prosecutions against opponents of those in power because such selective actions undermine the rule of law, regardless of the country.”
His opening remarks were followed by those of William B. Taylor, the top U.S. official in Ukraine, who had previously outlined for investigators a shadow diplomacy effort in Ukraine led by Trump loyalists looking for political dirt. He recalled the text message he sent after learning that $400 million in sorely needed U.S. aid to Ukraine was being held up until Ukrainian officials agreed to announce the politically motivated investigations that Trump wanted.
“I wrote that withholding security assistance in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign in the United States would be ‘crazy,’” Taylor said. “I believed that then and I believe it now.” And Taylor also recalled sitting in “astonishment” when he first learned in a security briefing that the assistance had been put on hold.
Taylor also revealed some of the only new information that emerged Wednesday, which involved Trump’s ongoing eagerness for Ukraine to open the investigations.
Taylor recounted that, during a July 26 telephone conversation overheard by a member of his staff, Trump asked Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, about “the investigations.” It was the day after Trump personally pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and false allegations that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
The staff member, who was not identified by Taylor, then asked Sondland about the call.
“Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said.
Taylor told lawmakers he did not know of the incident when he gave a sworn deposition Oct. 22.
The comment as relayed by Taylor is secondhand—a point made by Republicans in trying to undermine it. But it will probably also put even more heat on Sondland, who has changed his testimony during the course of the investigation and is due to testify publicly Wednesday.
Republicans vacillated during the hearing between aggressively questioning the relevance of testimony from diplomats who did not have direct contact with the president and pursuing lines of inquiry that seemed to muddle their defense of Trump.
Republican counsel Steve Castor challenged Taylor’s account of the “irregular channel of diplomacy” Giuliani led on Trump’s behalf by asking: “It is not as outlandish as it could be, is that correct?” The question drew a chuckle from Taylor, who responded that yes, it could have been even more outlandish.
But Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a firebrand who was added to the House Intelligence Committee in recent days in preparation for the impeachment hearings, was more effective as he took aim at Taylor, mocking his standing as the Democrats’ “star witness.”
Jordan tried to undercut Taylor’s statement that he had a “clear understanding” that security assistance funding would not come until the president of Ukraine committed to an investigation into the Bidens and the 2016 election. He suggested the understanding rested on a lengthy exchange between Taylor, Sondland and several other people—not a direct line to the White House or a direct comment from Zelenskiy. Taylor met with Zelenskiy at three points during the time period in which the aid was held up—although not necessarily when the Ukrainians knew.
Jordan said it was surprising that Zelenskiy did not bring up the aid, “even though you have three opportunities with President Zelenskiy for him to tell you … we’re going to do these investigations to get the aid.”
Jordan also pointed out that Taylor was not on the July 25 call at the center of the inquiry, and had never spoken to Trump or Mulvaney. And in later questioning, the Ohio congressman would make the case that withholding aid from Zelenskiy was sound policy as the White House tried to sort out whether he was a true ally in the fight against broader corruption that had plagued Ukraine for years.
Even in this era of political chaos and theatrics in Washington, Wednesday stood out for the intensity of the drama and what was at stake. Democrats were for the first time televising their case before a nation largely unfamiliar with the detailed evidence.
It was only the fourth time in the nation’s history that impeachment proceedings have been brought against a president. Trump started the day with a signature string of angry tweets, accusing Democrats of a “witch hunt” and the day’s witnesses—who had notched years of service under Republican administrations—of being aligned with the “never Trump” movement. Both witnesses are career diplomats who have worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
At the center of the inquiry is the pressure Trump put on Zelenskiy to publicly launch an investigation into the Ukrainian business dealings of Biden’s son, Hunter, during the Obama administration. As Trump and his surrogates demanded the investigation, the Trump administration withheld nearly $400 million in aid and delayed scheduling an Oval Office meeting Zelenskiy desperately sought.