Iowa City Press-Citizen from Iowa City, Iowa on October 14, 2002 · Page 5
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Iowa City Press-Citizen from Iowa City, Iowa · Page 5

Iowa City, Iowa
Issue Date:
Monday, October 14, 2002
Page 5
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Monday, October 14, 2002 STATE Iowa City Press-Citizen 5A New Mexico woman killed in crash KNOXVILLE A New Mexico woman died in a two-car crash near Knoxville in south central Iowa Faith Stephens, 75, of Los Alamos, N.M., died when the car she was riding in collided with a car driven by Joel James, 16, on Iowa Highway 14, the Iowa State Patrol said. George Stepheivs, 79, also of Los Alamos, N.M, was in fair condition at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, said Linda Johns, house supervisor. James, of Knoxville, was not injured and was taken to his home, the Marion County Sheriffs Department said. The Iowa State Patrol said the car driven by George Stephens pulled from a stop sign at a county road into the path of James' car at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Former Enquirer editor dies at 63 STUART, Fla. Thomas Kuncl, a longtime journalist and former executive editor of the National Enquirer, has died. He was 63. Kuncl, whose journalism career spanned more than 40 years, died Thursday of heart failure. Kuncl was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. In addit ion to his work at the Enquirer, Kuncl also served as news editor of the Star & Globe magazine and senior editor of Woman's World magazine. He led the Enquirer coverage of Elvis Presley's funeral, which resulted in the tabloid's highest-selling issue ever. The cover photo in that issue was Presley laid out in his casket A native of Cedar Rapids, Kuncl's journalism career began at newspapers in the Midwest A service in his memory, was held Saturday in Stuart, where he lived the last four years of his life. Father, son facing charges NORA SPRINGS A father who ran into a police car with a minivan and encouraged his son to run over the Police Chief with a combine in this northern Iowa town is facing several charges related to the incident Virgil Dean Fett, 42, and his son, Billy Dean Fett, 23, were charged with assaulting a peace officer, criminal mischief and interference with official acts by the Cerro Gordo County Sheriffs Department Virgil and Billy Fett also have been charged with interference with official acts by the Nora Springs Police Department They were released Saturday from the Floyd County Jail on their promise to appear in court. A combine is a large machine used to harvest corn and soybeans. From wire reports Parents of son who died speak out Child was restrained at Gerard Treatment Center The Associated Press Tanner MASON CITY Taiuier Wilson's bedroom is the same as it was the last time he slept there. The stuffed animals are still on his bed. The Carolina Panthers pennant still is on the wall. A copy of "My Very First Bible" still is on top of the bookshelf. "It's the way it was the day he left us," said Karen Wilson, moth er of the 11-year-old boy who died at Gerard Treatment Center of Iowa on Feb. 9, 2001. "It was Tanner's room and it is Tanner's room," said Bob Wilson, the young ster's father. "Not a day goes by that I don't think of him. Some days are worse than others. Whatever Tanner was or wasn't, we loved him as much as any parent could love a child. In some ways more, because of his disability. People can speculate on how it must be to lose a child. They have no idea" Tanner, who suffered from Asperger's Autism, a condition that causes anxiety, died shortly after Gerard personnel had restrained him. Death was because of cardiopulmonary arrest, according to Cerro Gordo County Medical Examiner Dale Andres. A Gerard employee, Lori Meacham, was charged with child endangerment. The case was dismissed in August at the request of the prosecution. A civil suit brought by the Wilsons against Meacham and another employee, Jeremy Witt, as well as Gerard and its parent company, Nexus, was settled out of court earlier this week. The Wilsons are frank about their expectations. They had hoped the criminal trial would be held so that the truth about what happened on the day their son died would be revealed. They had the same hope for the civil trial. "It was never about money. Never," said Bob Wilson. "It was about who was responsible for Tanner's death. "Through the depositions we sat through, we think we know the how and why," he said, but declined to elaborate. "We just wanted someone to take responsibility. Tanner did not have to die that day. It was an unnecessary death. We just wish this would have played itself out in the trial," he said. Tanner was born Nov. 1, 1989, and was diagnosed with Asperger's autism at treatment centers in Austin, Minn., and in Iowa City during 1997. "He wasn't on cue like he should have been with other kids his age," Karen said. "He had a hard time socializing with kids," his father said. "He related better to adults than he did to childrea He wanted a lot of one-on-one attention, which is not possible in schools or daycare. "He was a smart little guy in many respects. He had an uncanny ability to tell time at an early age. And he wouldn't just look at a clock and tell you it's 6:20. He'd say it's 40 minutes to 7. "One of the traits of Aspergers is that people who have it have a tendency to fixate on a particular subject. For Tanner, one of his fixations was trains. We were always getting magazines and videos on trains. He memorized the numbers on trains. He could even talk to you about boiling rods on steam engines." But Tanner's autism made him crave individual attention. "And he knew how to manipulate the system to try to get the attention," Bob Wilson said. "We weren't able to keep him in daycare because of the way he was acting. Karen and I knew exactly what he was doing. He would act up because he thought he would either get to go to another daycare or to come home. We were his safety zone, but with us both working, it wasn't possible to be with him all of the time. So he tried to manipulate the system. "When he was home, there was nothing we could do about his anxiety except to try different medications and to constantly reassure him. When the anxiety came, he would seek attention," said his father. Asked if Tanner ever injured his mother or father, Bob Wilson said: "To be blunt, yes. It was mostly biting and scratching." He said he and Tanner's mother turned to Gerard because, "frankly, we ran out of people who would keep him." Tanner went into day treatment at Gerard for two years. He began living there in August of 1999. 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"We tried to give him whatever he needed." Within 24 hours of going to live at Gerard, Tanner suffered a broken leg. Gerard personnel said he kicked a walL He went home to begin his recovery. His parents readmitted him to Gerard in October. Asked why they readmitted him considering the injury he incurred the first day he was there, Bob Wilson said: "We had questions. They had answers. We took them at their word." Actually, he said, the broken leg gave Tanner exactly what he wanted the individual attention he could get in his "safety zone" home. On Dec. 12, 1999, Tanner suffered another broken leg at Gerard. He had been using a walker to help him recover from the first injury. Someone tripped on it and fell on Tanner, causing the second injury. "All of this would be bad enough for anybody, but it was pretty traumatic for Tanner," his father said. Eventually, Tanner settled into a routine at Gerard and his parents, who live about three miles from the campus, began to see progress. "We thought Gerard would be a more structured setting for him and it was," Karen Wilson said. "He had some great role models there. Bob Wilson said: "We saw some great changes in Tanner. He started showing some respect. He showed ability to use his thought processes. He seemed to be more appreciative of Karen and myself. And we attribute a lot of that to Gerard." And then came Feb. 9, 2001. "Something happened that day," Tanner's father said. "The system broke down that day. Someone dropped the ball. Our son died. All we have asked since the day it happened was to know how and why. All we wanted was for someone to take responsibility-'' "We were baffled," Karen Wilson said. "We thought we had Tanner in the best possible place and we did." Shortly before he died, Tanner had been bugging his parents about letting him get his ear pierced. The Wilsons told him no. After Tanner died, the Wilsons asked the funeral directors to pierce his ear. He is buried with one of his mother's diamond earring in his ear. Karen Wilson has the other one. The Wilsons said their lives have changed in many ways since their son's death. "You can be bitter and this can just eat you up," said Karen. "I knew Tanner wouldn't want that so I've tried to move on. But it's difficult." Bob Wilson said, "It's just so consuming. It got so that neither Karen nor I wanted to talk about it and since it was the only thing on our minds, we didn't talk much. I definitely value every day of my life more and Karen's life more and our life together. "We advocate for Gerard," Karen said. "We are eternally grateful for Gerard. We don't want to shut it down. We just want it to improve." Asked if she had found it in her heart to forgive, she paused, swallowed hard and said: "I'm working on it. 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