The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa on December 5, 1992 · Page 17
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The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa · Page 17

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Saturday, December 5, 1992
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The Des Moines Register l l Saturday, Decembers, 1992 3M Iowa6 Gene therapy experiment is OK'd Drug dealer cooperates, receives light sentence Tn: Rk ;iht:h'k l( m; Sm Skmvk :e Cedar Rapids, la. A Brandon man who admitted selling about 1250,000 worth of Illegal drugs received a light sentence Thursday because of his cooperation in the prose cution or other drug traffickers. Merle Cook Jr., 35, received a two-year federal prison sentence that was suspended. He will serve 120 days In a community corrections fa cility. Cook, who was arrested in 1988, could have been sentenced to 30 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in June of conspiring to distribute cocaine from 1985 to 1987 and one count of distributing the substance. He entered into a plea bargain in 1988 and followed terms of the agreement by buying from other Black Hawk County drug dealers and testifying against them. In another case: Prosecutors want Gary Massey, 45, of Rock Island, 111., sentenced to lire in prison after he pleaded guilty to a drug charge in federal court here. Federal guidelines call for Massey to be sentenced to at least 10 years in prison without parole because of the large quantity of methamphetamine connected to him in Cedar Rapids, tne government contends. Prosecutors say he should go to prison for life, based on records seized in the case that they say indi cate Massey and his co-conspirators planned to manufacture more than 100 pounds of the substance. U of I team targeting cystic fibrosis takes first step with the approval By CHARLES BULLARD Or The Rxgihtrr's Iowa City Bureau Iowa City, la. Medical researchers at the University of Iowa won approval from a federal panel Friday to use experimental gene therapy on humans to treat cystic fibrosis, the most common lethal hereditary disease among Caucasians. Gene therapy inserting healthy genes into diseased cells has been done In laboratories and in animals. The next step human experimentation still must be authorized by Bernadine Healy, director of the Na tional Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But Healy and the FDA are expec ted to follow the recommendation of the federal panel, the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee of the Na-' tional Institutes of Health. The University of Iowa research team which includes scientists from Genzyme Corp. of Framing-ham, Mass., and Tufts University of Medford, Mass. is one of three teams given permission by the federal panel to do human experimentation. Other Diseases, Too Dr. Michael Welsh, who heads the U of I team, said Friday's approval is the first step toward gene therapy on humans. If the experimental technique proves effective in treating cystic fibrosis, it could be used to combat other hereditary diseases as well. "Although our study will not be of therapeutic value to the first group of patients, we are very excited and optimistic that from this first step toward gene therapy, we will obtain crucial data about the effectiveness of this method and its safety," said Welsh. "These results should be of benefit to future patients." Cystic fibrosis strikes about 30,000 children and young adults a year. Thick mucus builds up in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, creating a breeding ground for chronic bacterial infections. The thick mucus and the constant infections weaken the lung tissue, and most cystic fibrosis patients die before they reach the age of 30. Altered Cold Virus Cystic fibrosis patients lack a gene called the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator. The gene directs cells in the lung to produce a protein that regulates the flow of chloride molecules. The re sulting salt imbalance leads to the dangerous buildup of mucus in the lungs. Welsh and his team will attempt to use a genetically altered cold virus adenovirus to carry the missing gene to the lung cells of cystic fibrosis patients. First the adenovirus is altered to remove the portions that reproduce and cause colds. Then a normal version of the missing gene is inserted into the altered virus. It then becomes the delivery vehicle for the missing gene. The other two research teams will squirt the adenovirus into the lungs of adult cystic fibrosis patients who volunteer for the trials. Welsh's team will put the adenovirus only into patients' noses to reduce the risk of the virus itself causing unforeseen lung infections. "Testing the virus in patients' noses Instead of their lungs should reduce the risk of serious problems developing," said Welsh. "Also, the lining of the nose is very similar to the inside of the lung and much more accessible." Although the adenovirus has been genetically altered to prevent it from reproducing and giving volunteers a cold, researchers are not sure what the actual result will be, so Welsh's team is taking a more conservative approach. Although Welsh and other scientists are optimistic about gene therapy, a cure for cystic fibrosis is not imminent. Even if the clinical trials prove gene therapy has merit, commercial availability is several years away, at the earliest. The Gosch Case Phone call is seen as extortion Students protest firing of loyal sportswriter The Rkgimteh's Iowa News Service Webster City, la. Some 30 to 40 Webster City High School stu dents Friday picketed a newspaper office to protest the firing of a sportswriter from the paper. Students spent up to an hour out side the downtown office of the Webster City Freeman Journal. Some coaches also reportedly joined the protest. Sportswriter Dick Fridley, who had been with the paper for 16 years, was fired Wednesday. Pub lisher Todd Keute recently sent a fax to the athletic directors of the three school districts in Hamilton County announcing that Fridley no longer worked for the Freeman Journal. Keute recently assumed the posi tion of publisher at the paper and could not be reached for comment. Fridley also was unavailable for comment. "I have absolutely no idea why they fired him," said Gary Konen, athletic director at the Webster City school. "Dick's always been loyal to the coaches, to the athletes and to the teams. I think it's unfortunate." Minnesota man charged in attack on his mother TiieRki hster's Iowa News Service Akron, la. Wendell Ivan Gran-storm, 64, of Carlos, Minn., has been charged with first-degree kidnapping, willful injury and extortion in an attack last week on his mother in Akron. The Plymouth County Sheriffs Department said Granstorm was arrested in Douglas County, Minn., and was to be returned to Iowa to face the charges. The department said that Edith Granstorm reported Monday that her son beat her early last Saturday while he was staying at her home. Further details of the attack weren't available Friday. A man calling from San Francisco identified himself as a missing West Des Moines newspaper carrier. By FRANK SANTIAGO Register Staff Writer A mysterious call from a man in San Francisco who identified himself as missing newspaper carrier Johnny Gosch may have been an extortion attempt, a source close to the investigation said Friday. Paul Sparrow, senior producer for "America's Most Wanted" in Wash ington, D.C., who worked with agents to track the caller, said the FBI had been unable to find him, but the search continues. "The person is probably not Johnny Gosch, the FBI thinks, but possibly an extortionist," said Spar row. Accurate Recounting An FBI spokesman In San Francis co declined to comment, but confirmed that several calls had been made to the West Des Moines home of Gosch's parents. The agent said Noreen Gosch's recounting of the details was accurate. Noreen Gosch, the abducted boy's mother, said the caller hung up with out talking. She said the calls were traced to the phone booth by an AT&T operator Monday evening. A passer-by in San Francisco, whom Gosch identified as a Kelly McFeddan, answered the phone. McFeddan said the phone booth had been occupied by another man who was sitting on a nearby bench. Responding to the operator s in structions, McFeddan went to the man on the bench. He returned to the ' phone to say the man had identified himself as Johnny Gosch and said he was from Iowa. Agents Closed In McFeddan was told to hang up and call Noreen Gosch. McFeddan called Gosch, who contacted the FBI. Agents closed in, but the mystery man disappeared. Rick Smith, FBI spokesman in San Francisco, said he wouldn't disclose details of the investigation. i-JPW W If : :., 4 " . - ZJ Johnny Gosch Missing "Our primary concern is with the victim and with the victim's family. We don't want to raise any false hopes, but with a lead like this, we are pursuing it to the fullest extent possible." Smith said, "We pursue all leads but it doesn't mean we're any closer to finding her son." Sparrow said the calls were made from a booth at a bus station. He said the FBI believed McFeddan, whom he described as a homeless person, was telling the truth. "America's Most Wanted," a crime-stoppers show that appears Fridays on the Fox Network, has been feeding the FBI leads. The in formation was obtained after a Nov, 20 broadcast detailing the abduc tions of Gosch, 12, in 1982 and Des Moines newspaper carrier Eugene Martin, 13, in 1984. 5,000 Calls Sparrow estimated that operators answered more than 5,000 calls, the greatest response to any show in the program's five-year history. The program pleaded fqr information about the abductions. Also received was a 14-page letter written by an individual who claimed he had known Paul Bonacci He said he could verify some of Bon- acci's version of the kidnapping. The writer, who said he wanted to help in the investigation, claimed to have been with Gosch for two years. Bonacci, a former Nebraska prison inmate, was interviewed on the program and told of his involvement in Gosch s abduction. He identified three others who he said participat ed. Authorities do not consider Bonacci credible. Sparrow said the letter was signed "Jimmy" but there was no other identification and no return address. He said the program planned during a broadcast to make an appeal to the writer to identify himself. Recycling program in Cedar Falls honored Cedar Falls, la. (AP) A recycl ing program in Cedar Falls will be publicized in a national publication because a state government organi zation admires its waste management. The Council of State Governments, headquartered in Lexington, Ky., has chosen the By-Product and Waste Search Service for publication in its national report of innovative state programs. The service is managed by the Iowa Waste Reduction Center at the University of Northern Iowa. It helps companies save money by finding businesses to recycle materials that otherwise would be put in landfills or disposed of at their expense. The service is one of eight programs included In the national report. It will be honored today at an awards ceremony in Des Moines. Man pleads guilty of robbing bank Tut. Rh wtoi's k w. News Servhs Marshalltown, la. A 50-year-old man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Thursday of robbing a Marshalltown bank last week. Jack Lee Eakins of Marshalltown faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He is being held without bond pending his Feb. 12 sentencing. New bar president urges reform for criminal courts By FRANK SANTIAGO Register Staff Writer Groaning under the weight of drug-related cases, the nation's criminal justice system needs major repair work, the president-elect of the American Bar Association says. R. William Ide, an Atlanta lawyer in Des Moines for the Council of State Governments conference, said the system cannot bolster itself without outside help. "We've got to get lawyers and community leaders to provide leadership to redesign the criminal justice system. It's antiquated. It was set up at one time to do one thing and now the drug phenomenon is overwhelming it" In several states, civil cases have been pushed aside so courts can concentrate on a surge in criminal cases, Ide said in an interview. "We need to be working on coalitions. Most of the public has delegat ed the crime problem to the policeman and to the courts. Criminal justice has been used as the silver bullet to solve the drug crisis and it isn't working," he said. Ide said new thinking "operat ing the system like a business" is needed to prevent a collapse. One possible solution: a drug court simi lar to Miami's, which handles first-time offenders and takes work off the regular courts. "These are non-violent people who can get drug counseling and be trained to go to work. It s innova tive," he said. Ide, a municipal bond lawyer who will become ABA president in August, said spending on drug en forcement should be reallocated. Of every $1, 70 cents goes to interdic tion. The remaining 30 cents is spent for education, treatment and prevention, he said. Is legalizing drugs a solution? "That's not where the mood of the country is right now," he said. Ide said reform should extend to civil matters. "We're concerned that justice on the civil side is too slow and too expensive and that there is not access for everyone. We want to see if we can move settlements up, get the deal done earlier and get out of the system quicker," he said. On the battered image of lawyers, Ide said, "The reason may be that in litigation somebody loses 50 percent of the time. If doctors lost 50 percent of the time they operated, they'd be worse off. "We represent unpopular causes. We've got to make ourselves as user friendly as possible. We have to do a lot better job of explaining ourselves to the public so they can appreciate the dilemma we're in. We're not happy wit h to wyrr jokes," he said . First-Degree Murder Trial Doctor: Boone infant who died was a victim of 'vicious' abuse A doctor says computerized images indicate the baby-boy was shaken violently. By CYNTHIA HUBERT Register Staff Writer Boone, la. A Boone infant who died after suffering a brain injury in July was the victim of "vicious, violent" abuse, a medical expert testified in court Friday. Matthew Piatt, 7 months old, died of head injuries that occurred on a day that he was being cared for by his stepfather, Ronnie Ball, authorities said. Ball, 34, has been charged with first-degree murder in the baby's death. Dr. Christopher Ellerbroek, a Des Moines pediatric radiologist and an expert in diagnosing abuse injuries, said Friday that computerized images of Matthew's head indicate that he was shaken violently. Reviewing the images in court, Ellerbroek noted a collection of blood between the two main sections of the boy's brain. He said such clotting in dicates "a very specific type of injury" "It is seen only in children who have been abused," he said. "This child was viciously shaken. It was extremely violent, far beyond what any normal caretaker would do." Ball has admitted to shaking Matthew, but said he did it only once, in an attempt to revive the boy after he suffered a seizure while under his care. He looked away Friday afternoon as Ellerbroek stood in front of the defense table and interpreted the computerized brain images, which resemble X-rays, under questioning by Boone County Attorney Steve Oeth. Matthew died July 26 of injuries that authorities said were consistent with "shaken baby syndrome." The syndrome, which causes the brain to tear and swell, occurs when a young child is shaken extremely hard or slammed against a solid object. X-rays indicate that as long as two weeks before the head injury occurred, Matthew suffered a fractured forearm and an apparent leg fracture, Ellerbroek said. Under questioning by Oeth, the doctor said he suspected that those injuries also were inflicted deliberately. The type of injury that the boy suffered to his leg is rare in children, Ellerbroek said. "It does not occur in the course of normal care of a child. It's a vicious, violent action." Matthew's mother, Susan Ball, who was away from home when the baby was hurt, testified this week that she believes that her husband js incapable of such violence. She continues to see and communicate with Ronnie Ball, authorities said. The trial is to continue Monday in Boone County District Court. Testimony is expected to conclude Wednesday. A jury of seven men and seven women, including two alternates, is hearing the case. New scratch game The Iowa lottery is offering a new scratch game, called Bank It! to capitalize on the basketball season. 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