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Suspect cleared of murder charge, convicted of conspiracy

Daniel B. Harden was found not guilty of first-degree murder, not guilty of use of a firearm to commit a felony and guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery on Monday in Adams County Court.

Jurors reached a verdict shortly after 1 p.m. The jury had deliberated about an hour on Friday, then separated over the weekend before resuming at 9 a.m. on Monday.

Adams County Judge Terri Harder ordered a pre-sentencing investigation report and scheduled sentencing for Jan. 21 at 1:30 p.m.

Prosecutors say the 23-year-old Harden was among a group who conspired to rob 19-year-old Jose “Joey” Hansen in the early morning hours on Sept. 11, 2017. Harden, Deante Mullen and Deonte Hayes allegedly agreed to participate, but Hayes became ill from excess drugs and alcohol and stayed behind. Mullen and Harden allegedly drove to meet Hansen in a white Chevy Tahoe owned by Mullen’s girlfriend at the time, Katherine Creigh.

Mullen testified during the trial that he had set up the deal with Hansen, planning to rob him. Mullen owned the gun used and was the driver of the vehicle. But his claimed Harden pointed the gun and Hansen and pulled the trigger as Hansen ran from the vehicle.

But defense attorney Clarence Mock pointed out that Mullen cut a deal with prosecutors to offer testimony and pointed the finger at Harden to avoid the possibility of spending life in prison himself. Prosecutors made a similar deal with Creigh, who has been charged as an accessory to the crime. He said the deals give them motivation to implicate Harden in their testimony.

Harden testified that sometime between midnight and 1 a.m., Hayes had gotten sick and threw up and he decided to walk home. He estimated it took about 30 minutes to walk home and his roommate, Errich Holston, had to let him inside the house. Harden said that he noted a time of 2:15 a.m. when he logged into his game console to play games while chatting with Holston.

Harden was at his residence before 3:04 a.m., which is the time he logged into Facebook at his residence, as supported by electronic records.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Adams County Judge Terri Harder speaks after the verdict is read in the case of Daniel Harden Monday at the Adams County Courthouse.

Following the verdict’s announcement, Mock said the verdict indicated the jury’s rejection of the main focus of the case, which was whether Harden was the man who shot Hansen. While they are grateful the jury rejected the accusation that would have put Harden in prison for the rest of his life, Mock said they are also a bit discouraged by the guilty verdict in the conspiracy charge.

“These were some of the most attentive and interested jurors,” he said. “This was not a group that came to their conclusion lightly and without some analysis of the evidence. We’re grateful the jury would look at all those considerations.”

First-degree murder is a Class 1A felony punishable by life in prison. Use of a firearm to commit a felony is a Class 1C felony punishable by five to 50 years in prison. Conspiracy to commit robbery is a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison.


CCC experimenting with innovative manufacturing process

Central Community College’s Hastings campus is on the front lines with a possible new tool for the manufacturing process.

The drafting and design program is experimenting with a metal 3D printer to better understand what it can do and how it can be used in the manufacturing industry.

“This is an upcoming technology, and it’s going to get bigger and bigger,”said Gene Friesen, a drafting instructor at CCC.

The metal 3D printer produces objects by heating up powdered metal mixed with a binding agent — an ingredient that gives the object its initial support. The heated mixture then is applied in layers to make a 3-dimensional structure, similar to a standard plastic 3D printer.

However, after the object is printed, it is brittle and soft. So the object goes into the debinder, a machine that removes the binding agent, then the furnace. The furnace sinters — solidifies powdered metal without melting — and gives the object strength. The process causes the object to shrink from when it is first printed to its final form.

CCC has been experimenting with mostly stainless steel for the printing material, but the printer can also use tool steel or copper. Friesen said a finished product made from stainless steel retains about 99% the strength of normal steel.

Plastic 3D printers are not new, with the first printers made in the late 1980s and becoming more popular in recent years. A process called selective laser sintering was considered as an alternative for 3D printing metal and involves heating powdered metal in a container with a laser.

However, the SLS process isn’t suitable for some locations because the powder can get into the air and be harmful, Friesen said. The metal 3D printer at CCC is safe to use in an office.

Right now, the drafting program at CCC still is experimenting what can be done with the 3D metal printer and how it could be used in the manufacturing process. The program currently is looking at making jigs and fixtures with the machine. There are also some experiments for making injection molding casts.

The drafting program now is trying to answer questions that are relevant to the manufacturing industry, like what objects are possible, how efficient the process is, and the object’s quality.

“Everything is new and experimental,” Friesen said.

One-of-a-kind objects could also be easily manufactured, and more intricate parts could be made more rapidly, compared to alternative manufacturing methods, Friesen said. However, Friesen said, the group still wants to do more testing with the printer.

Friesen said that because the metal 3D printing process is similar to the plastic 3D process, manufacturers could make accurate plastic prototypes first.

The drafting program hopes to understand the technology and help businesses considering using a metal printer.

The objects are designed on software, then sent to a program that translates the digital version into instructions that the machines can understand. One of the nice things, Friesen said, is that the instructions are all on the cloud. Friesen said that makes their job easier because each machine in the process has the instructions for objects automatically and makes the process smoother. For example, the printer knows to print the object 20% bigger, so when the object is hardened, it comes out the desired size.

CCC got the equipment in March this year, but did not use it extensively until recently. The printer at CCC was made by Desktop Metal.

Friesen said as of March of this year, CCC was one of just a few schools in the United States with the the equipment. CCC is the only school in Nebraska with it.


Numbers continue to increase in Heartland Pet Connection’s 15th year

Having just completed its 15th year serving Hastings and surrounding communities, Heartland Pet Connection continues to see increases in the numbers of animals it sees.

Heartland Pet Connection shelter manager Jennie Theesen provided an annual report during the Hastings City Council work session Monday for the year fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

The city of Hastings contracts with Heartland Pet Connection.

According to the report Theesen presented, Heartland Pet Connection saw 639 animals from Hastings in the past year, up from 617 a year ago.

Of those 639 animals, 278 were cats. Of that number, 129 cats were adopted, 23 were reclaimed, and 142 were euthanized. Of the cats euthanized, 94 were feral cats and two were court-ordered bite cases.

Of 355 dogs, 55 were adopted, 272 were reclaimed, 13 were reclaimed bite cases, three were rescue cases, and 50 were euthanized. Of the 50 euthanized, eight were court-ordered bite cases.

The numbers from categories for different kinds of animals don’t add up because there are always animals that carry over from one year to the next that are still in the shelter’s care.

In evaluating euthanasia as a possibility, Theesen said all of the animals go through a temperament test and a health check.

There were also two rabbits that were adopted, one guinea pig adopted, one ferret adopted and two parakeets adopted.

Theesen said Heartland Pet Connection works to improve the lives of the animals that come to the shelter by providing quality medical care as well as ongoing training. Pets waiting to be adopted have no time limit, and animals stay until they are adopted.

Each animal receives a comprehensive veterinary exam, additional tests if needed, vaccinations, flea and tick treatment, is spayed or neutered, and is micro-chipped before it is available for adoption.

After cats have received their feline leukemia/FIV/heartworm test and dogs get their heartworm, they are placed on the proper prevention.

The Heartland Pet Connection offers microchip clinics throughout the year to encourage owners to have pets micro chipped. Offering this service at a reduced rate, allows more pets to be micro-chipped.

Pets that have been micro-chipped are more likely to be reunited with their owners. Heartland Pet Connection checks all incoming pets for microchips, which allows the shelter to reunite the animal with its family quickly.

The Heartland Pet Connection continues to work to educate the public about animal safety and the benefits of controlling the pet population through spay and neuter; provides tours and presentations when requested; and participates in Progressive Ag Safety day — Teaching students how to meet and greet animals, basic animal behaviors and the importance of vaccinations and controlling the pet population.

“We take great responsibility for what we do for Hastings as well as the animals in our community,” Theesen said. “The staff out there provides a lot of care, love and compassion for each one of the animals. We’re really proud of the facility and what we do for them. We look forward to continuing to serve the city.”

Animals also don’t leave the facility until they are vaccinated.

“I had the pleasure of working with Jennie and the Heartland Pet Connection for the five years I was city attorney,” City Administrator Dave Ptak said. “I thought we had a great working relationship. People get emotional about their animals, especially when they are bite cases and those types of things.”

He said all parties involved try to go the extra mile when working with the public in such cases.

Also during the meeting, the council heard from Chris Peterson, managing partner with PACE Sage Capital in Lincoln, about the possibility of the city enacting a PACE program.

The property assessed clean energy model is a mechanism for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements on private property.

Al Meyer, assistant manager of Hastings Utilities, provided the presentation “Hastings Utilities 101,” giving council members an update on HU operations and various projects.