Wendelsdorf drug case set for sentencing

Thursday, April 15, 2004

A key figure in the high-profile Shelby Duis murder trial in Buena Vista County in 2000 now could face up to five years in prison for an unrelated drug conviction, Dickinson County Attorney Rosalise Olson announced.

Jesse Wendelsdorf, 29, Spirit Lake, was one of three people arrested on the night of Nov. 25, after authorities searched the Judy Lynn Laue residence in Milford. Police say they found 1.2 grams of methamphetamine at the residence.

The search also yielded marijuana and drug paraphernalia including a metal smoking pipe, a scale, screens, snort tubes, foil and burnt foils, according to court documents. Wendelsdorf pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to deliver marijuana, possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Wendelsdorf is slated to be sentenced on April 26, pending the results of a presentence investigation. Judges use the report to determine a defendant's risk to society and a criminal act's impact on the victims.

Laue, 36, pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana and to a charge of keeping a dwelling for the purposes of possessing or selling a controlled substance. Her next court appearance has not been set. Charges also are pending against Isaac Shea Derner, 19, of Milford.

Wendelsdorf is a well-known name throughout Iowa because of a sexual abuse and first-degree murder acquittal on July 18, 2000, at the Buena Vista County Courthouse in Storm Lake.

Wendelsdorf was accused of playing the most active role in the death of Spirit Lake toddler Shelby Duis. Shelby's death on Jan. 4, 2000, sparked outcries from her community. Many local residents feel the Iowa Department of Human Services failed to help Shelby despite repeated and obvious signs that the toddler was being abused. The prosecutor in the case, Ned Bjornstad maintains that Wendelsdorf was behind much, if not all, of the abuse.

The outcry turned to outrage after neither of Shelby's adult care providers were convicted of murder. Judge Joseph Straub sentenced Shelby's mother, Heidi Watkins, to 50 years in prison on child endangerment charges.

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