Hernandez-Ventura sentenced to three life terms for October murders

Carlos Marlo Hernandez-Ventura was found guilty of three counts of first degree murder on March 21, for murdering three from Perry: Lourdes Flor De Leake, 34, Melany Elizabeth Barraza, 14, and Juan Jimenez, 78. The crime occurred at the residence of 802 Sixth Street in Perry.

The trial stretched out to a span of eight days starting March 13.

The scene was a “House of Horrors,” according to Dallas County Attorney, Sean Wieser, who represented the State of Iowa during the trial. Wieser was joined by Dallas County Attorney Erica Clark.

The team representing Hernandez-Ventura included Defense Attorneys Jill Eimermann and Michael Adams.

The Defense argued Hernandez-Ventura was told to kill the three by Daniel Leake, the father to Lourdes Leak’s children. Allegedly, if Hernandez-Ventura had not done so, his family in both Virginia and El Salvador would be in danger.

Previous Perry Police Department Officer, Lourdes Clay was the first responder to the crime scene back on Oct. 29, 2016.

Clay, a Spanish translator at the time, was visited by Perry resident, Alma Valtazar, who informed Clay of a body at the house. Prior to the visit, Valtazar was approached by her daughter’s father, Onofre Gomez, who also lived at the 802 Sixth St. residence. Gomez had walked into the residence and saw the body of Melany at the entrance.

It was revealed during the trial that Hernandez-Ventura murdered each person as they were facing away from him. The weapon, a dull machete.

Hernandez-Ventura, who argued the crime was done in order to protect his family, was sentenced to three life terms. He is not eligible for parole.

Sixteen-year-old Sabrina Ray found deceased at Rays of Sunshine

Sixteen-year-old Sabrina Ray was found deceased at “Rays of Sunshine” daycare by the Perry Police Department on Friday, May 12. Ray’s autoposy ruled the cause of death as homicide and revealed that Ray weighed in at 56 pounds.

At the time, parents Marc and Misty operated the daycare and its services catered to many within the Perry community. The family had allegedly left for a 2-week annual family vacation to Disney prior to her passing.

Police Chief Eric Vaughn said an anonymous call made to the police station led to the discovery of Ray. At the scene, two minor females, ages 10 and 12, were removed from the residence.

Initially, parents Marc, 40, and Misty, 41, Ray were arrested on Thursday, May 18, followed by the additional arrests of Sabrina’s grandmother, Carla Raye Bousman, 62, Sabrina’s brother, Justin Dale Ray, 21, and Sabrina’s cousin, Josie Raye Bousman, 20.

All five were charged in the death of Sabrina.

Both Marc and Misty Ray share the following charges: First degree murder, one count of child endangerment resulting in death, a Class B felony, four counts of child endangerment resulting in serious injury, a Class C felony, and three counts of neglect or abandonment of a dependent person, a Class C felony.

In addition, Marc Ray, father to Sabrina, is charged with two counts of sexual abuse in the second degree and sexual abuse in the third degree.

Justin Dale Ray, son of the Rays, faces the following charges: one count of child endangerment resulting in a serious injury, a Class C felony, one count of child endangerment resulting in bodily injury, a Class D felony, and two counts of willful injury causing bodily, a Class D felony.

Carla Raye Bousman, Sabrina’s grandmother, was charged with three counts of aiding and first degree abetting kidnapping, Class A felonies, one count of aiding and abetting child endangerment resulting in death, a Class B felony, and one count of obstructing prosecution or defense, an aggravated misdemeanor.

Josie Raye Bousman, niece of the Rays, was charged with three counts of aiding and abetting kidnapping first degree, Class A felonies, one count of aiding and abetting child endangerment resulting in death, a Class B felony.

Ray’s parents, Marc and Misty, her grandmother, Carla Bousman, and sibling, Justin Ray, are scheduled for a jury trial at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2018.

Josie Bousman has agreed to testify for the State of Iowa which results in a separate court date of March 26, 2018 at 9:30 a.m.

Mayor Jay Pattee announces retirement from City of Perry

In a late-August City Council meeting, Mayor Jay Pattee announced he would not be running again for the Mayor position during the November election.

“What I’ve learned early on is that the main things that make a Mayor strong is to have a voice and an opinion, make sure the people know it, make sure you get the information out, and build a consensus on important issues,” Pattee said during the August meeting.

Following the announcement, at-large member, John Andorf announced his campaign running for the Mayor during the Sept. 6 meeting, leaving his seat open.

In November, Andorf was elected Mayor, followed by the addition of newcomer Vicki Klein to fill the At-Large seat.

Mayor Jay Pattee held a retirement open house directly before his final City Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 18.

During the meeting, Pattee paid tribute to all projects and accomplished completed during his time working with the City of Perry.

“I didn’t do much of anything but be Mayor,” Mayor Jay Pattee reminisced. “When I was elected Mayor, I thought to myself, ‘It’s really going to be no big deal to be Mayor of Perry, Iowa; I had grown up part of my life in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I thought Perry’s a much smaller town, what can be the big deal about being Mayor of Perry, Iowa.”

Some of the projects include, but are not limited to, the Big Bike project, the revitalization of Hotel Pattee, DMACC’s birth into the Perry community, Perry’s continued vision for solar energy, Perry’s Dog Park, Violet Hill cemetery improvements, welcoming Kum & Go, Casey’s and a Car Wash into town, as well as Perry’s downtown revitalization.

“Those are just a few of the many things that have happened over the last fifteen years,” Pattee concluded. “I’ve got to say, I said at the beginning when I became the Mayor of Perry I thought it was no big deal - it’s a big deal.”

During the final meeting of the year, Mayor Elect, John Andorf, At-Large Elect, Vicki Klein, and returner, 2nd Ward Elect, Dr. Randy McCaulley were all sworn into their positions, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

St. Patrick’s and Perry community rally for Eddie Diaz

Families of St. Patrick’s Catholic School were left stunned when they arrived at Back to School Night to discover Principal Eddie Diaz would not return.

“On Back to School night as parents walked in, we got a note from the Priest saying we no longer have a Principal,” said Cathie Sucher, St. Patrick’s parent.

Diaz was in the process of introducing a new Leader in Me program designed to build leaderships within the school district. Over the summer, Diaz introduced STEM learning camps which welcomed in children from outside of the school along with St. Patrick’s School students.

Following the announcement, St. Patrick’s families rallied together to start a petition, which made a debut at the community’s Public Safety Day held in the Hy-Vee parking lot.

“We’re not just asking for parents of St. Pats, we’re asking for anybody that knows Eddie and knows what a great worker and a great person he is,” Sucher said. “We are just trying to collect as many [signatures] as possible.”

The Saturday petition signing at Public Safety Day was met with an additional meet up the following day at Snap Fitness.

St. Patrick’s School later released a press release naming Mr. Doug Latham as an Interim Principal for the school.

A meeting including both the Diocese and concerned parents of St. Patrick’s School took place on Wednesday, Aug. 23, the first day back to school for St. Patrick’s students.

St. Patrick’s School parent Andrea Tunink was present during the meeting.

“The Diocese listened and we appreciate it,” said Andrea Tuninik, St. Patrick’s School parent.

A week later, on Aug. 28, Eddie Diaz was reinstated at the Principal of St. Patrick’s School.

Principal Eddie Diaz released a public statement regarding his return to St. Patrick’s Catholic School:

“I am privileged to live in such a supportive community and I am excited to continue working with a great staff, wonderful students and caring parents. I thank everyone for their support and hope to continue to be able to do what is best for students.”

“Born of Fire” and “The Iowa Girl” light up Willis Avenue

Perry has seen the addition of both “Born of Fire” and “The Iowa Girl” lighted streetscapes that rest on Willis Avenue. The project is halfway completed, with two more additions on their way.

In June, President of Art on the Prairie, Jenny Eklund, spoke to the Council about the upcoming projects.

Eklund was originally approached by City Administrator, Sven Peterson, who asked Eklund if she would like to take over the city’s streetscape project.

After agreeing, Eklund teamed up with Mary Rose Nichols and reached out to artist John Brommel. In addition, light guru Mike Lambert of KCL Engineering worked alongside Brommel in the project.

“To be able to get these two guys to come to Perry and do what they’re doing - I can’t get over anything because of that,” Eklund said during the June 19 meeting.

The four dove into specific components of the Perry community: “Born of Fire” pays tribute to the late Pete VanKirk; “The Iowa Girl” is in honor of Roberta Ahmanson, and the final two will recognize agriculture as well as the railroad.

“If you look at the evolution of Perry, Perry is here because of the railroad, we thought the first piece should be that type of art, and we’re asking community members, if they have any railroad items laying around that could be part of the sculpture,” Eklund described during the meeting.

“Another reason it’s here is because of agriculture and the farmland, so the second piece is going to be geared towards farming and agriculture.”

On Aug. 30, the public met “Born of Fire” during an outside reception on Willis Ave.

“Through the day, I felt the community coming together on it and I wanted everybody to be proud,” Eklund said about the reception.

The sculpture’s lighting was revealed, following by speeches from the VanKirk family to start off the event.

A few months later, during the start of Art on the Prairie, the “Iowa Girl” was revealed to the public.

Paying tribute to Roberta Ahmanson, the second of the four-part sculpture series completed by sculptor John Brommel is located on the corner of 3rd and Willis Blvd.

“She started a lot of good things here and she gave us some incentive to go forward, then we had to take the ball and run,” said Mayor Jay Pattee during the lighting ceremony. “As best as we can, we’ve tried to do that.”