Slain Mayor Remembered As ‘Dedicated’; Suspect Called ‘Oddball’
MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa (AP) _ Residents and officials of this southeastern Iowa town mourned their mayor, shot to death as he finished a council meeting, and Henry County officials proclaimed today ″Edd King Day.″
The council today selected council member James Carson as acting mayor for the community of 7,300. Mayor Edward M. King, 63, died and the two council members were wounded by a man authorities said was upset about a backed-up sewer.
″It’s one of Mount Pleasant’s worst tragedies in history,″ said Ernie Hayes, a businessman who was active with King in development efforts.
Ralph Orin Davis, 69, was arrested after Wednesday’s shootings. He was being held in lieu of $700,000 cash bond on a charge of first-degree murder in King’s death and attempted murder in the woundings of Joann E. Sankey, 39, and Ronald L. Dupree, 44.
Both remained hospitalized today. Ms. Sankey, mayor pro-tem, was in critical condition and Dupree was in serious but stable condition.
Roger Grunow, city public works director, said the death of King, who was in his 11th year as mayor, would seriously affect the city.
″His shoes will be tremendously hard to fill. The mayor was very dedicated to his job,″ Grunow said.
Keith Koch, manager of the Metromail mail distribution center where King worked, said employees were having a hard time dealing with the news of King’s death.
″I think it’s very sad. We’re all just trying to pull together,″ Koch said.
Residents said the mayor was instrumental in local economic development efforts and was credited with bringing a Wal-Mart regional distribution center and store to the city in 1985.
″Edd was a good man,″ said council member Larry Mihalevich. ″It’s going to take things a while to get back together.″
Sharon Ledger, a waitress at the Whistlestop Cafe, said shock over the shootings stifled conversation at the restaurant across the street from the town square.
″When I came in here this morning, we were full and it was absolutely dead quiet,″ Ms. Ledger said Thursday.
Authorities said the gunman walked into the council chambers as the meeting was ending, approached the council members and began firing a semi-automatic pistol. He then sat quietly and surrendered peacefully when police arrived.
Grunow said Davis had complained about the sewer backing up into his basement and was not happy with officials’ explanations of widespread sewer problems.
″It is not uncommon in the older part of town where he lived. A lot of the sewers are very old. His problem was not unique,″ Grunow said.
Davis, who spent 2 1/2 years as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, was recently forced to resign from the Disabled American Veterans chapter in Burlington, about 30 miles east of Mount Pleasant.
″He had blow-ups in the meetings,″ said DAV chapter commander Don Stout. ″He was getting to everybody. If (developments) didn’t suit him, he’d blow his stack. He was kind of radical.″
Dave Heaton, Davis’ neighbor, said the conflict had been building for some time.
″This isn’t a short-circuit case. He was a stewer. He’d just sit there and complain,″ Heaton said.
Another neighbor, Lowell ″Red″ Spicer, described Davis as ″a real oddball.″
″You know, he’d get drunk and shoot birds. He was mad because they’d eat his cherries,″ Spicer said.
While the council members met today in a five-minute, subdued session in temporary quarters across the street from City Hall, workmen scrubbed bloodstains from the carpet in the city council chambers where the three were shot.
Gregg Stark, executive director of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, said a four-member team from the National Organization for Victims’ Assistance in Washington, D.C., would arrive today to begin helping people deal with the grief and shock of the shootings.
King’s funeral was set for Sunday.