Often, people commit crime after crime and swing in and out of jail before they are ever sent to prison.
Following Sunday night’s hatchet attack in Ottumwa, many Courier readers asked why someone with a criminal history including robbery, burglary and several assault charges is not in jail.
“That’s the way the criminal justice system seems to work in today’s society,” said Ottumwa Police Chief Jim Clark. “People have to commit multiple crimes before they’re actually sent to prison or they have to actually seriously injure a person before they’re sent to prison.”
Clark said law enforcement is told it’s because there is not enough room in the prisons due to overcrowding, so “they have to be very selective in who they send to prison.”
Clark said he “absolutely” sees the same people getting arrested again and again.
“Not only is it the same people, but it seems to be generation after generation, also,” he said.
But there’s nothing that could have been done to prevent Sunday night’s hatchet attack, Clark said.
“The only thing that might have been able to be done is if people got prison sentences earlier, therefore it might be a deterrent to that person doing more serious crimes later, or possibly a deterrent for someone else who sees that person went to prison.”
Logically, if a person is sitting in prison for a crime they committed, “they don’t have the ability to commit more crimes in society,” Clark said.
One reader commented on the Courier’s Facebook page regarding the suspect charged with attempted murder following Sunday’s hatchet attack.
“Maybe if our justice system would’ve kept him in jail on his other charges instead of apparently always dropping them those people would’ve never gotten [attacked]...” said Bill Sly, of Oskaloosa.
Victims’ names released
Three Ottumwans were found suffering from hatchet wounds at 219 N. Marion St. Sunday night: Mark Teater, 41; Matthew Simmons, 22; and Jason Hayes, 35.
Charles Julian Jason Zwer, 26, has been charged with attempted murder.
“We’re still in the process of trying to identify a possible fourth victim,” said Sgt. Steve Kovacs. “We’ve made contact with her, we just haven’t sat down and spoken with her yet, so we don’t know if she’s a fourth victim or a witness.”
Kovacs said Teater, who was transported to University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, is in stable condition.
Simmons was treated at Ottumwa Regional Health Center, and Hayes refused medical treatment.
Zwer plead not guilty during his initial hearing. His preliminary hearing is set for 10 a.m. Monday. He is currently being held in Wapello County Jail on $250,000 cash-only bond.
In Zwer’s two most recent cases, he received suspended sentences after reaching plea bargains, one on a first-degree robbery charge, the other on a burglary charge.
Note: The name of Mark Teater, one of the people injured Sunday, has been corrected to show the proper spelling of his name.