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October 15, 2016: From the updated report, “NFPI” – New preventative tool to protect Source Water Quality from CAFO and Anhydrous Ammonia Nitrogen fertilizers:
Within the United States, the State of Iowa is now testing at the highest levels of all states in Nitrogen fertilizer contamination of its Source Waters. Other states have identified continuing year over year increases as well. Obviously this a huge health concern for drinking water quality/safety as well as several other significant issues linked to it such as “the dead zones” downstream of the Mississippi River. Every day the issue of fertilizer contaminated Source Water is expanding and gaining greater awareness in the United States. While much work has been done to stem this tide, it is not enough. This is a call to action.
President Barack Obama’s office responded Sept. 7, 2016, to the current design and usage of RUSLE2 (Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation 2) and how it does not track fertilizer loss.
Adam Lack was killed in July 2008 shortly after submitting a request for mandated changes to RUSLE2. Lack wanted to expand the software program to incorporate additional inputs and calculations to adequately support the USDA/NRCS evaluation of CAFO and/or Anhydrous Ammonia Nitrogen fertilizer application upon specific farm plots.
Could his software algorithms finally be realized and extended to include new laws that would save thousands of lives and protect Iowa’s “Source Water Quality?”
Adam Lack died trying to protect Iowa’s drinking water. Learn more about what needs to be done to “make safe” the nation’s worst drinking water.
There are 26 pictures documenting the time and repeated efforts it took to finally render Adam Michael Lack lifeless on Sunday, July 13, 2008.
The events leading up to the 33-year-old Brown University graduate’s death are well documented despite efforts to conceal them, including but not limited to the following:
In another ironic twist, Dr. Haganman cites the “Hour of Death” on Adam’s death certificate as 0650 on July 13, 2008. This 6:50 a.m. time of death directly contradicts the doctor’s own words about the ‘Approximate Interval Between Onset and Death’ as Immediate, particularly since the accident took place sometime between 11:40 p.m. and 11:55 p.m. the previous evening, July 12. Additionally, photos snapped by a state patrol officer the following day – in broad daylight – show Lack still very much alive.
Note by writer Jody Ewing: As of January 19, 2017, the number of names on file in Adam Lack’s death – from immediate family to neighbors and witnesses and county officials and firemen and judges and physicians and others, some committed to justice, others committed to “just us” in profiteering from this specific ongoing pollution plume – is 157.
More than a half-million people live downstream in the Cedar River Watershed.
Veronica Lack had put in a new leach field that day despite a broken and swollen leg, and lay down on her sofa to put up her foot. ‘Late Night with David Letterman’ had just begun when she recognized the sound of her son Adam’s pickup slowing down. She knew the sound of that motor, and couldn’t wait to talk with him; he’d just been promoted at POET Biorefining where he worked as an ethanol plant operations supervisor.
She leaned over on the end table to look outside toward the driveway, and that’s when she saw a man’s figure, running away from the house and then jumping into the passenger side of the Chevy Impala. Adam hadn’t even fully pulled into the driveway, but she saw his pickup under the yard light as he turned around and began chasing the Impala down the road.
They were used to being harassed and seeing the silent vehicles — mostly the Impala — stalking them from the driveway in the dark, and this wasn’t the first time Adam had chased them away.
Twice before, they’d sneaked up to the house and cut Adam’s brake lines. During other occasions they’d inflicted thousands of dollars worth of damage on the Lack family’s three vehicles.
All the Lacks wanted was to see the Clean Water Act and Iowa’s 16 drainage laws enforced and to stop the Point Source Pollution Plume that had killed their animals, severely damaged their health and claimed too many of their neighbors’ cancer-ridden lives.
Both Veronica and her husband, Gary Lack, had endured years of different types of cancers, gone through rounds of chemo and radiation treatments, only for another cancer to manifest and set in motion more rounds of treatments at the Mayo Clinic.
Gary already had outlived doctors’ expectations, but the polluters weren’t about to wait for him to eventually pass; if the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) could turn a blind eye and deaf ear to all the illegally planned and drained flood channels, why couldn’t the Lacks? All their children were grown and gone, but they still needed Gary out of the way so they’d only have to deal with Veronica. After all, everybody in Mitchell County knew women had no business running farms and concerning themselves with water samples and things like Nitrate and Anhydrous Ammonia.
Indeed, it took two tries to get family patriarch Gary Lack — a father of six grown college-educated children — out of the way. But, they’d succeeded in January 2004, when Gary Lack succumbed to poisoning by a Haloperidol overdose after the Kayexalate powder hadn’t worked.
Timing suddenly became everything.
After Gary’s death, Veronica and her son Adam dressed him in his favorite Hawkeye sweats for his children and grandchildren. Two young men arrived with plans to take Gary to the Champion-Bucheit Funeral home in Osage, where Gary’s other family members, once back in Iowa, could stop by to say goodbye to the 58-year-old father, grandfather, and avid Hawkeye fan. Veronica wanted the kids to see him looking like his normal self.
Some time after leaving the Lack’s home and while on route to the Champion-Bucheit Funeral home, the two young funeral home employees received a call over the radio. Dr. Paul Royer, a Mercy Hospice doctor who’d never once met or seen Gary Lack — dead or alive — had called the mortuary with specific instructions: Take Lack’s body, immediately, to Mason City for cremation.
The two confused employees diverted their route and headed to Mason City. They knew no coroner or medical examiner had examined Mr. Lack after his death, let alone pronounced him dead or made any decision concerning an autopsy.
Not one single doctor examined Gary Lack after his death, and Mitchell County officials made sure none had time to step in and ask questions, let alone have the option of requesting an autopsy.
Neither Veronica Lack nor any of her children had signed any documents or given anyone permission to cremate Gary Lack, yet the cremation took place almost immediately without Mr. Lack ever being officially pronounced dead. Veronica was given no advance notice of the cremation and never even allowed to request her husband’s wedding ring before it burned along with his body.
Veronica watched her son Adam’s pickup trail down the road after the latest silent-night harassment. Would it ever stop? They’d gone through this far too many times, but she knew he’d be right back.
She fell asleep on the sofa waiting for him to return.
The Impala led Adam up to an unfamiliar area north of Highway 9 on a blacktop road with no shoulders and an “S” curve. Adam’s truck — which showed no “braking” marks on the pavement, didn’t make the second curve; the Impala sat parked in the middle of the roadway, and Adam took the ditch rather than hitting the other vehicle.
Though his pickup rolled, he’d been wearing his seatbelt and the airbag deployed. He survived the rollover intact, but found his feet pinned beneath the dashboard. He removed the keys from the ignition and waited for help.
The first 911 call to report Adam’s accident came in just minutes before midnight, but no medical personnel arrived.
Those who did respond to what they called a “single vehicle accident” — county officials and firemen against whom Lack had testified in court just one year earlier — began to grow faster than the number of EPA reports Lack’s family had filed in the preceding years.
Seven hours passed with no ambulance or other emergency medical services personnel in sight.
Lack’s non-life-threatening injuries wouldn’t matter at all; he’d be dead within a few more hours.
According to Veronica Lack, the deaths of her son Adam and husband Gary were related to a cover-up — an ongoing pollution plume from Mitchell County’s illegally planned drainage system — designed to drain Wetlands down sinkholes.
In May 2005, Adam Lack’s environmental science paper, “The Effects of Poorly Educated Individuals Attempting to Drain Tracts of Land With No Outlet: A real-world environmental science issue in Southwestern Mitchell County, Iowa,” earned him an “A++” grade from University of Iowa Professor Frank Weirich.
Three years later, Adam, like his father before him, became another Mitchell County statistic. Download Adam’s paper in PDF format.
Farm animals died on a regular basis. Rural homeowners kept getting sick. Many died. Intimidation kept many folks — but not the Lacks — quiet about the stench, the sinkholes, the illnesses.
Bullying methods stepped up for the remaining Lacks. After all, Adam — a former high school valedictorian who’d received an academic scholarship to Brown University in Rhode Island where he’d earned his business economics degree — had stayed put in Iowa after his father’s death and seemed intent on protecting his mother and the Lack family’s farm.
The Impala, along with a pickup truck owned by Brad Johnson, began parking in their driveway in the night. Whenever the Lacks spotted them and turned off the lights in their home, the harassers would quickly take off. If Adam or Veronica went outside to confront the stalker(s), the driver would spin out, shooting rocks at the homeowners and the house.
The victimization hadn’t stopped there, either.
When Adam’s truck, Veronica’s Blazer and the family’s Trailblazer were vandalized — broken windshields, cut brake lines and numerous other damages — the Lacks had gone to Sheriff Curt Younker to file charges related to the vandalisms, but he’d told them he couldn’t do anything unless they provided a license plate number as proof of who’d vandalized their vehicles. Doing so proved nearly impossible, as the offenders shrouded the plates.
Adam tried time and again to get the stalkers’ license plate numbers, but found them always covered. Shortly before his death, he’d told his mother that the next time he found someone watching their home from the driveway, he’d go after them and make sure he got the license plate number.
In July 2008, he died trying.
On Saturday, July 12, neither he nor his mother could read the Chevy Impala’s plate number because the driver once again had veiled it with a cover.
Adam took the bait, and set out to catch up with the Impala’s driver in hopes of catching the back plate number with his headlights.
Eight hours after his pickup rolled at the S-curve, Adam remained inside his vehicle, his ankles still trapped beneath the dash.
There would be no ambulance, no jaws of life to rescue him.
In a scathing July 2014 Des Moines Register multi-part investigative report with accompanying videos, Register writer Clark Kauffman addressed how broken emergency response systems endangered Iowans’ lives.
Under Iowa law, Kauffman reported, the state cannot disclose response-time data for individual ambulance services. And, data made public by the Bureau of EMS can be misleading, he said, because under the law, the bureau can only disclose countywide averages “for the 48 counties that have at least five EMS agencies.”
A Des Moines Register interactive map showed just some of the average response times, with many counties having response times of 10 minutes or longer. None reached anywhere near eight to 11 hours.
Sometime after 7 a.m. July 13, 2008, St. Ansgar Fire and Rescue personnel strung chains across the ditch to Adam’s truck, and, according to 26 time-stamped photos taken at the crime scene, began to repeatedly lift Adam’s truck and then drop it back down on him. One of the first drops crushed Adam’s right arm. Another broke his femur (the bone between the hip and knee). Palas Graham continued to snap photos as the ongoing lifting and dropping mashed Adam’s trapped ankles and then smashed his already dislocated left arm.
Those present at the scene and captured in the documented photos included Deputy Hintz, Judge Bryan McKinley and County Coroner Dr. Haganman.
Nearly 10 hours after Adam found himself entrapped, the chain lifted and dropped his nearly crushed truck once again. This time, the drop immediately dislocated Adam’s neck at the C-2 and C-3 vertebra, killing him instantly.
Veronica lay sleeping on the sofa when Deputy Hintz knocked on her door Sunday at 9:30 a.m. Standing in the home’s kitchen, Hintz looked at all the Lack family photos surrounding him. He asked Veronica where all her children were.
Ben and his family were in Brazil, Veronica said. Heidi and Will were in Iowa City, and Tony and Tanya in Texas. Hintz told Veronica Adam was dead, and that she should call one of her kids to be with her.
“It wasn’t the mean one,” Hintz said, shaking his head. “It was just a big mistake.” He looked down at his boots and shook his head again, repeating, “A big mistake.”
What was a big mistake, Veronica wanted to know. That Adam was dead? Hintz wouldn’t answer, and when Veronica asked if he was going to investigate, she said he replied, “No.” (See MS Word document, Adam’s Voice.)
Veronica passed out and collapsed. Hintz returned to his vehicle and drove away.
In a comment to Iowa Cold Cases dated July 19, 2014, Veronica Lack said Dr. Haganman — one of several men shown at the scene in Graham’s photos — wrote on her son’s death certificate that Adam had died at 0650, or about 7 hours after Graham said the accident occurred.
The photos and radio reports told a different story. Seven hours after Adam’s truck rolled, Veronica Lack said, her son’s neck wasn’t yet dislocated and he hadn’t yet received the other injuries. Additionally, his blood — according to the time stamped photos — wasn’t yet sprayed all over the cab of his truck.
Veronica had been shown enlarged copies of the photos by County Attorney Mark Walk after she refused to sign off on the one-third share of the Mildred/Harold Lack farm Veronica had inherited from her husband, Gary.
As she’d stared numbly at the photos and realized just how long they’d tortured her son before killing him, Walk gave her a malevolent reminder.
“You know you have five other children,” he said.
Gary and Veronica Lack raised six children, most of whom went on to graduate with advanced degrees from Harvard, Brown, and University of Iowa. The family fought hard against upstream polluters and contractors who routinely victimized and caused great harm to downstream farms like the one the Lacks owned.
Still, they found themselves no match for the sheer number of those involved in the county’s illegal drainage system.
Anhydrous ammonia, atrazine, and lead poured into their fields and their home’s drinking water while they poured tens of thousands of dollars into chlorinating wells and plumbing systems for their home and the animals, paid veterinarian bills and installed a whole house reverse osmosis filter system.
Pigs on the family farm had started getting sick by the mid-’90s, and by 1998 had developed tremendous masses and tumors. Worried about their safety for human consumption and still unable to stop upstream polluters, the Lacks quit raising pigs.
That same year, Gary also began developing hormone feeding tumors. Despite numerous trips to the Mayo Clinic, the tumors spread to his colon and liver. He was killed in January 2004 after a Hospice nurse (associated with other Mitchell County officials) overdosed him with an unprescribed medication she’d stolen from a recently deceased patient under her care.
The investigation into the Hospice nurse’s actions produced a 25-page list of citations; five more individuals died under her care before officials even completed their investigation.
After Gary Lack’s death Veronica also suffered many disorders from the poisonous water, but sheer grit and determination to hold those accountable gave her strength to keep pressing forward.
In 2005, Veronica once again placed a call to the Iowa DNR, asking them to test surface water flowing into the family farm from the west. The grass in the National Wetland was burned out by the rotten decomposing cattle flesh and bones that got into the Lack family’s aquifer via the sinkholes in the National Wetland.
She said that on August 5, 2005, DNR agent Dale Adams came out to the Lack farm, got his sample jars, and walked with her down into the National Wetland at the Lack’s west property line fence. Upon seeing the cattle hair and smelling the water flowing in, Lack said Adams told her, “You don’t want to take this test. You will get your neighbors in trouble.”
Veronica insisted she wanted the test done because it had burned her grass out in the Wetland, and she needed to keep the area “grassed” to stay in compliance with EPA regulations. Mr. Adams, Lack said, refused to do the test — nor would he provide the bottles to her so she could collect the samples. He put the test kit back into his trunk.
After he left, Mrs. Lack called the University of Iowa Hygienic Lab, who provided detailed instructions on how to collect separate surface water samples to send in for testing drinking water.
The test results came back, marked URGENT.
According to the reports, the drinking water levels included the following:
More and more animals kept dying while downstream farmers and their families got sicker.
In 2013, Veronica Lack sent a 39-page document — “Adam’s Voice” — to Iowa media outlets and a number of university experts. Painful as it was to write, she spared no details … naming names of local landowners, county and state officials … providing exact dates and times of verbal threats and intimidation methods used against the family … and boldly documented the facts surrounding her son Adam’s photographed, prolonged torture and eventual death.
On Oct. 28, 2012, the Des Moines Register’s Perry Beeman published an exposé about how the runoff from Iowa farms was becoming a growing concern in the Gulf of Mexico. According to a U.S. Geological survey, Iowa is one of nine states that combine to deliver over 75 percent of all nitrogen and phosphorous to the Gulf’s “Dead Zone.” Of the 75%, over 11% comes from Iowa, making it and Illinois the country’s two largest polluters.
Among the Register’s findings:
Some of Iowa’s neighboring states — Minnesota and Wisconsin among them — limit how much nitrogen or phosphorus can enter waterways. Iowa’s political leaders, farm organizations and many individual farmers have opposed similar restrictions.
On July 1, 2013, the Register published a Page One article addressing the multiple problems Iowa’s downstream farmers continue to face.
Adam Lack’s obituary — widely published — began with what family members had been led to believe in the initial days following his death: that he’d been killed in a “single vehicle auto accident” in rural Mitchell County. Only later would they learn the truth about the bold move upstream polluters made in taking time to photograph a homicide in progress; they wanted her property but didn’t want to pay for its value, and the photos served as a grisly reminder that she indeed still had five other children.
“Adam’s Voice” is the 39-page narrative written by Veronica Lack in attempts to call national attention to point source polluting and a state agency that, despite deadly results, she says looks the other way.
In December 2012, Mitchell County Sheriff Curt Younker retired after spending five decades in law enforcement. In a Mason City Globe-Gazette article dated Dec. 21, 2012, Younker recalled the tumultuous ’60s and ’70s, which he cited as a very exciting time to be a young deputy. He remained undaunted by the dangers and tragic scenes he witnessed over the years.
“An older, wiser sheriff once told me, ‘Curt, the real danger in law enforcement does not come from knives, bullets or car wrecks — the real danger comes from seeing too many things that are not good for you to see,’ ” Younker told the Globe-Gazette. “I have found that to be true.”
Read Veronica Lack’s “NE Iowa Private Well Water Quality Warning” (Download in MS Word or PDF format) directed to public and private well owners or users of source water, flowing in aquifers downstream from southwest Mitchell County, Iowa’s Cedar (W) Township (the “Plume”).
Adam Michael Lack was born May 13, 1975, at Mason City, the son of Gary (deceased) and Veronica (Naumann) Lack. Adam spent his childhood in several towns in northern Iowa including Rockford, Cedar Falls, and Mason City before moving to Buffalo, Wyo. during his freshman year of high school.
He was a remarkably gifted wrestler, becoming an AAU national champion at the age of 9 and four-time high school state place winner in Wyoming.
He was valedictorian of his class at Buffalo High School, received an academic scholarship to Brown University and received his degree in business economics from Brown University in Providence, R.I. He had formerly owned and operated the Floyd Y restaurant in Floyd, and more recently operated the Eagle’s Nest bar in Nora Springs.
Until the time of his death he worked as an ethanol plant operations supervisor at POET Biorefining.
He enjoyed reading, writing and fishing in his spare time. Adam’s life was one of caring for others, including his mother, nieces and nephews. He was deeply thoughtful and protective of his loved ones. After his father’s death in 2004, Adam remained at home to help his mother with managing the family farm while pursuing his business ventures and working at the ethanol plant.
One of Adam’s best college friends, Ray Rocha, died on September 11, 2001 in the World Trade Center attacks. Another dear friend, Dimitri Gavriel, was later killed in action in Iraq after joining the Marine Corps. Regarding the friends he had lost, Adam wrote, “I wish I could fish with Dimitri once more, and do anything with Ray.”
Adam may best be described in his own writing. In relation to his love of family and friends, he’d written: “One of my favorite occasional occurrences is being awoken early by my giggling nieces, Gabriella and Erica. Time spent with friends, preferably laughing, is a priority for me.” In relation to his quest for answers: “I like thunderstorms and truth, because they answer to no one. Somewhere there’s always an equation I’m working on in my mind that haunts me; but I’ll always break it.”
He described his heroes as “all those who swim against the tide or care for the less fortunate.”
Survivors included his mother, Veronica Lack of Nora Springs; five siblings, Anthony Lack of Baytown, TX, Tanya (Shawn) Hamilton of Dallas, TX, Heidi (Robert) Thunhorst of Iowa City, Benjamin (Fernanda DeCollo) Lack of Des Moines, and William (Brandi Moon) Lack of Iowa City; and nieces and nephews, Gustav Thunhorst, Erica Lack, Gabriella Lack, and Catherina Lack.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents and his father, Gary Lack.
A funeral Mass was held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, July 18, 2008, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Charles City, Iowa, with Rev. Carl Ries officiating and inurnment scheduled for a later date.
Memorials were to be directed to the Lack Educational Fund of the Knights of Columbus, 1475 325th Street, Nora Springs, IA 50458.
If you have any information about Adam Lack’s 2008 unsolved homicide or his father Gary Lack’s 2004 homicide, please contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at the Washington, DC, office at (202) 278-2000, or fax related documents to (202) 278-2478. You may also email email@example.com or send information via the FBI Tips and Public Leads online form.
© 2005 – 2018
Iowa Cold Cases
All Rights Reserved
If you'd like to reprint a post or case summary, please contact us with the name of the requested post/article. Thank you in advance!