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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Early searches for answers in assault and shooting case

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

More and more questions emerge following the death of a 20-year-old Early man last Thursday.

Dustin Wehde, of Early, died of multiple gunshot wounds after he and another man reportedly entered an Early home Thursday night and assaulted Tracey Roberts, who was home with her three children. Some are suggesting that the young victim was a hero trying to stop a crime, while the husband of the woman who reported the attack feels very differently.

Family and friends packed the United Methodist Church yesterday for the funeral service for Wehde. While they seek comfort, the Sac County Sheriff's Office and the Early Police Department continue to search for a second intruder who reportedly fled on foot following last week's incident.

On Monday afternoon the Sac County Sheriff's Office and other law enforcement agencies continued to work in the Early area following leads. They said they had no further information to give since Friday, including final autopsy results and any possible charges.

The Roberts family is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the unidentified intruder, who is described as a white male, 25 to 35 years of age, and 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall with a slender build and dark, wavy hair.

"My wife has both physical and emotional scars from this situation," husband Michael told the Pilot-Tribune on Monday. While she was treated and released from the hospital after the incident, she has raw marks around her throat from attempted strangulation, and still has problems swallowing, her husband said.

Also, on flyers advertising the reward, the Roberts family listed people they wanted to thank following the incident, including the Wehde family "for their friendship over two years," and the law enforcement personnel who 50 hours or more without sleep to try to solve the case. They also thanked the Early community and the their neighbors for their support.

Rumors have circulated in the days following the incident, and on Saturday, in a bizarre twist, Roberts' husband Michael, who was away on a business trip at the time, said Wehde was a family friend.

"I'd taken him under my wing to help him out," Michael Roberts said in an Associated Press article.

Roberts said on Saturday he believes the other man was behind the attack in this northwest Iowa town of 649 and should be charged with attempted murder.

Wehde "was under the influence of the other person... the boss," said Roberts.

Tracey Roberts was choked with a nylon stocking, Michael Roberts said. She managed to fend off the attack with the help of their oldest son, who was armed with a baseball bat.

"My 11-year-old was protecting the two younger children and wouldn't let them in" their room, Roberts said.

The reward flyer states that the unidentified intruder said to the children something to the effect of "when we finish with your mom, you're next."

Tracey Roberts had severe bruises from the attempts to strangle her, her husband said Saturday. She passed out twice but was able to regain consciousness and remove a pistol from a small bedside safe, he said.

Tracey Roberts was treated and released from Loring Hospital in Sac City. The children reportedly were uninjured.

Bruce Wehde said his nephew, Dustin, "was a super friend" to the Roberts family. "They would go to church together. They'd been to paintball-shooting competitions," said Wehde, who lives two houses away from the Roberts' home.

Neighbors say they and other townsfolk are more careful now to lock their doors after the attack.

"It has been very shocking. I know it happens all the time, but this is a small town and somebody you know," said Ardola Huisenga.

She and her husband, Everett, were watching television when they saw the flashing lights of emergency vehicles come down the street.

"It's a pretty quiet town, so something like that really shakes people up," she said.

Kenlee Schomaker and his wife, Jane, both members of the fire department's emergency medical unit, were called to their neighbor's house shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday.

The couple also knew Dustin Wehde and his family.

"There was a lot of blood and spent shell casings," Kenlee Schomaker said. "I have no idea what (Tracey Roberts) went through. She had to go through hell to be scared like that."

Bruce Wehde wonders if his nephew was tragically in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I think he walked in on something going on in the house. I think Dustin was coming to the rescue," Wehde said. In the darkness and confusion, "he ended up getting shot for mistaken reasons."

The case remains under investigation by the Early Police Department, the Sac County Sheriff's Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

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