Friday, March 28, 2008



(Mar. 28, NYC) We have seen our share of what this delusional president likes to declare as “defining moments” since our invasion of Iraq in 2003. This week saw one milestone that was perhaps more defining than many of the others similarly caste: the death toll for US troops crested 4000. What did that particular moment define, George W.?

Indeed, we have had more than enough of these events so arrogantly proclaimed as significant by an administration that is as inept and hapless today as they were in January 2001. We have seen an invasion, statues topple, looting, riots, the capture, trial and execution of Sadaam Hussein. Each of these was declared “defining”. We have witnessed elections, the formation of a government, the writing of a constitution and the protracted, and disintegration of Iraq. We’ve watched virtual civil war, the lethality of insurgents who never really were “dead-enders”, as they were called and we have watched our friends and neighbors come home maimed, scarred and minus limbs. What definitions can we extract from these moments, George?

After declaring “Mission Accomplished” with the battle of Baghdad complete, this imbecile in the White House has touted milestone after milestone, benchmark upon benchmark as pivotal moments in this tragedy. The costs in lives and national treasure escalate daily; the ramifications and repercussions will be felt for decades to come. What are these facts a definition of?

Today our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters find themselves in some of the heaviest combat in years. Air strikes and American troops have been called into Basra and Baghdad at the behest of the Iraqi Army. Powerful Shi’ite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr has apparently taken off the gloves of cease fire. It is his powerful, well organized Mahdi Army shooting at our troops today. The ineffective head of the Iraqi government, Nouri al-Malaki keeps pushing back his alleged deadline to al-Sadr. Maliki is about as closely aligned with sanity and reality as George W. Bush.

Even today, our impervious, fortified oasis of security amid chaos, our “Green Zone” took on mortar and missile attacks resulting in the death of an Iraqi vice president. Defining? It all does appear to be defining; it looks like the definition of a nightmarish, endless struggle we never should have begun in the first place.

The Brooding Cynyx © 2008 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Reality Intrudes, Astonishes Locals

(Mar. 27, Iowa City, IA) Lives and deaths become reduced to events for those not directly affected; only members of the family of the deceased feel the loss acutely and experience it chronically. This is especially true of unnatural death, murder in particular. When the event is composed of the elements that are contained within this particular one: scandal, multiple murder, husband killing wife, father killing four children then this deranged man committing suicide on the Interstate, it is becomes an event of even greater weight and scope.

When Steve Sueppel, the former Vice President and Controller for the Hills Bank, murdered his wife and four children last Monday, then killed himself in a fiery crash on Interstate 80 just miles from the scene of his crime, this was an event, locally, of substantial proportions. True, such a sad, gruesome tragedy involving innocent children, would be an event anywhere across the land, it was of particular shock value in this Midwestern city that likes to think they live above the fray, that such horror only transpires in the dark alleys and squalid apartments of the “inner city”.

Sueppel was facing numerous counts in federal court related to the embezzlement of over $500,000 from the Hills Bank as well as money laundering charges. Apparently the public disgrace and humiliation for this son of a prominent Iowa City attorney was the catalystic impetus that pushed him over the edge into homicidal psychosis. Perhaps, over time, as law enforcement authorities release more details of his suicide note and several phone messages left to other family members and friends, a clearer picture will emerge of this man’s last hours on earth: hours, no doubt, where he was drowning in some acute psychopathology. But, who really cares? His shame and cowardice manifest as he beat his wife and children to death with a baseball bat.

Days after madness incarnate brought incomprehensible death to this affluent development on the eastern edge of Iowa City, the sun shines, the sky is blue and lawns are showing the first hints that Spring is not far away. Yellow crime scene tape swaying in the breeze around 629 Barrington Road stands out like a steaming heap of manure on a wedding cake. The neighbors already seem somewhat weary from the attention and activity that has interrupted their lives since Monday. Despite this, none are reluctant to speak; actually, they come across as somewhat eager to give their impressions and opinions about the Sueppel’s, both their lives and deaths.

These are pleasant people, people who, to all outward appearances, are accustomed to living comfortably. Many are professionals, some associated with either the University of Iowa or the U of I Hospitals and Clinics. They drive nice vehicles with a decided preference for over-sized SUV’s that are “off-road” capable but will never be “off-road”.

Until they learned the secret life of the banker turned thief and embezzler next door, the Sueppel’s were them. Now, they look back in vain attempts to interpret a conversation or interaction as a “sign” of some sort as if, via memory they will ascertain a profound truth they missed. This is human nature yet it plays out in an odd, seemingly painful way on the faces of these Iowans who really exude an aura of Midwestern superiority.

“This sort of thing shouldn’t happen here”, says a neighborhood resident. This sentiment is heard repeatedly and each time it sounds as ignorant as the last. It begs the question, the question none here can answer, “Well, where is it supposed to happen?” As if there are specific locations around the country where murder most wicked and foul are destined to occur. They cut the conversation short after fumbling for an answer to that question. There own thoughts expressed by their words sound self-incriminating. It is as though they have revealed an embarrassing truth, a secret, but a truth nonetheless. A private truth they would not want known to others.

The lawns will grow greener and the makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, flowers and notes will either be disassembled at some appropriate time or it will be washed and blown away with the April showers soon to come. The yellow strips of crime scene tape will not survive the rains and powerful winds that are common across the Plains. What will remain within the homes and residents of this community are questions. Some will find themselves daydreaming, staring out the kitchen window as they idly wash dishes wondering, “What secrets lurk in my home, in my family?” They will question who they know and what they really know about them as they will about themselves.

Copyright © The Brooding Cynyx 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008


Crime, Cocaine and Death Tied To Bank With a History

(Mar. 24, Hills, IA) Nestled amid sprawling corn a bean fields, the city of Hills, Iowa does not even have a traffic light. A mere 8 miles from the downtown section of Iowa City, this bedroom community of under 700 has known its share of scandal and intrigue. The latest sordid tale to emanate from this unremarkable hamlet took on an even more tragic pall earlier today.

Hills, Iowa is the home of the Hills Bank and Trust, the seventh largest bank in the state. With their home office on this plain and simple, if not somewhat barren Main Street, the Hills Bank brings approximately 200 employees into this quiet town daily. This institution with a long, somewhat colorful, if not shady history, was recently rocked by scandal when a Vice President, Steven Sueppel was indicted on a host of federal charges related to allegations of theft, embezzlement, money laundering and drug purchases. His family of 5; his wife Sheryl and their four children were discovered dead this morning after the Iowa City Police dispatcher received and anonymous call from a cell phone stating that the police needed to get to that home immediately.

Arriving officers found the house, at 629 Barrington Road unlocked and made the grizzly discoveries upon their initial search of the premises. According to neighbors wishing to remain anonymous, Mr. and Mrs. Sueppel and their four children attended church services yesterday morning. Prior to the charges filed against Mr. Sueppel, the family was well known and liked in the neighborhood and the community. His indictment last month and the details which have slowly emerged subsequent to his release on bond have truly shocked this community which seems to see itself as somewhat immune to such events.

Local and state law enforcement agencies immediately began a search fro Mr. Sueppel. They had established that the family minivan, a Toyota Siena was missing as was Mr. Sueppel. Just hours later what may be the missing van was found ablaze after crashing into a sign stanchion approximately 9 miles from the Sueppel home on Interstate 80. It remains unclear if the van or any human remains have been identified thus far in this fast moving investigation. According to one Iowa DCI official speaking anonymously, the crashed van “was totally engulfed in a raging inferno. It has been burned beyond recognition and, it follows that anyone inside that van would also be unidentifiable at this time.”

The Hills Bank and trust has a somewhat storied history and many in this town and the surrounding area, say it is also a “shady” history. Established in 1904, the Hills Bank has seen impressive growth over the past 20 years. The story of some of that growth is difficult to decipher as it is clouded in rumor, innuendo and local myth as much as in scant and somewhat suspicious facts. According to sources familiar with the bank and some of its “major players” over the years, the Hills Bank was initially unable to grow due to its location and Iowa law. Sources say that Iowa law stipulated that a bank could only expand and open another branch in a town or community with which it shared a contiguous border. Since the City of Hills is remote, isolated in a sense, the only way for it to attain a contiguous border was to annex a three mile railroad spur that would then physically and legally connect it to Iowa City. Once this annexation was complete, the Hills Bank began its remarkable story of growth, expansion and success.

Some of the whispered accounts of that annexation have long been a source of anger and resentment directed mainly at members serving on the bank’s Board during those years. The details of the annexation were, to all outward appearances, legal and proper yet many locals were convinced there was more than a small measure of collusion, corruption and other nefarious activities that allowed the annexation to transpire. One local farmer whose family opposed the annexation of the rail spur when it first became public knowledge, speaking under the condition of anonymity commented, “That whole deal stunk. My dad knew it, I knew it, lots a folks here abouts knew it. Them Stutsman’s had a lot to do with it and everyone knows how shady that bunch is.”

The Stutsman’s are a local family with long ties to The City of Hills, the Hills Bank and what is commonly known as the Hills Rail Line. They own and operate a large agricultural services and trucking company located in Hills. The current President of Eldon C. Stutsman, Inc., the company’s name sake's eldest son, Ronald E. Stutsman, is also a member of the Hills Bank Board. Stutsman, Inc. partnered with The City of Hills in 2005 and was awarded a federal grant to pay for repairs to the Hills Rail Line. This recent fact only served to re-enforce the belief of many area residents that without the financial backing and clout of the Stutsman’s, the Hills Bank would never have been able to have the rail line annexation approved. “You want a story, you look into that whole thing”, said another area farmer. Virtually everyone spoken to insisted on anonymity each expressing concern that the Stutsman’s and others, could “cause trouble” for them if they spoke for attribution.

In December 1985, then serving President of the Hills Bank, John Hughes, was shot to death in his Main Street office by a local disgruntled customer, a farmer deeply in debt to the Hills Bank whose family farm was about to be foreclosed by the bank. Local rumor has it that the farmer, Dale Burr, had also mentioned plans to shoot Ron Stutsman. Burr killed himself later in the day after having shot his wife and neighbor in addition to John Hughes.

It was the rampage of Dale Burr and his murder of John Hughes that began the undercurrents of rumor and innuendo about the Hills Bank that persist to this day. “John Hughes was a good man but he got into bed with some awful folks. I’m ain’t sayin’ he deserved to be shot but, it kinda always made me wonder", commented a farmer from the neighboring community of Lone Tree.

Reporting for TBC, Farley Marsden in Hills, Iowa.
Copyright © 2008 TBC All Rights Reserved


Embezzler Missing, Van Destroyed In Fiery Crash

(Mar. 24, Iowa City, IA) Iowa City police received an anonymous phone call at approximately 6:30 CDT this morning instructing them to go to a residence on the east side of this university town. The first officers on the scene at 629 Barrington Road discovered the house to be unlocked. The bodies of a woman and four children were found within the residence. The family mini van and the apparent husband and father of those slain within, Steve Sueppel, were both missing. Sueppel, a 42 year old vice president of a local bank was indicted on numerous federal charges last month including embezzlement, money laundering and various drug charges.

While local and state authorities began searching for the Sueppel minivan and Mr. Sueppel, a van matching the description of the Sueppel's was involved in a single vehicle accident on Interstate 80 approximately 9 miles from the Sueppel home. Law enforcement officials were reluctant to positively identify the wrecked van because its crash sparked a very volatile fire that burned the vehicle and any potential human remains beyond on-scene identification. Until such positive matches are made, the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations will neither confirm nor deny Mr. Sueppel was the van’s driver.

Steve Sueppel was a Vice President at the Hills Bank and Trust, a local financial institution, for the last 7 years. In February, he allegedly confessed to embezzling over $500,000 over the course of his employment at the bank. He also allegedly confessed to using some of the pilfered funds to purchase cocaine. Mr. Sueppel was also the son of a prominent local attorney, one of the partners at Meardon, Sueppel and Downer in Iowa City.

Scant details have been released thus far by law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation. For the time being, neighbors and friends are expressing disbelief.

EDITORIAL NOTE: The Brooding Cynyx have several correspondents located in the Iowa City area who will be providing exclusive, detailed reports in the up coming hours.

Copyright © 2008 TBC All Rights Reserved