Peter Van Metre

WATERLOO --- Peter Van Metre, a longtime district court judge from Waterloo, died Wednesday at the age of 78.

Van Metre died of natural causes at the Western Home Communities in Cedar Falls, but maintained his Waterloo home.

Van Metre was a district court judge for more than 40 years, and most recently held the status of senior judge.

He may be best known as the judge who presided over the James Michael "T-Bone" Taylor double murder trial in 1981 in Council Bluffs. Taylor was accused of killing Waterloo police officers Michael Hoing and Wayne Rice in the front yard of a Waterloo home after they had been dispatched there on a report of loud music.

Taylor fled authorities for five days before being captured in a bean field near La Porte City. Van Metre sentenced Taylor to two life terms in prison.

Van Metre also is the judge who sentenced John Wayne Gacy to 10 years in prison for a 1968 sodomy charge out of Waterloo, the maximum sentence available on the charge. Gacy, who had lived in Waterloo, was paroled after 18 months by the Iowa Parole Board. He went on to became a building contractor in Des Plaines, Ill., where he later became a notorious mass murderer. Gacy has since been executed.

"I can't claim great wisdom or anything, but somehow I just didn't think this guy should have been turned loose," Van Metre recalled much later on his reasoning for sentencing Gacy to prison. "He had already shown the signs... he could have gone ahead and did what he did in Chicago."

From: The Courier - Waterloo, Iowa. November, 3, 2005

WATERLOO --- The man who presided over the trial of a notorious cop killer and sent a John Wayne Gacy to prison is being remembered today.

Judge Peter Van Metre passed away Wednesday at Western Home Communities in Cedar Falls at age 78.

"He left a legacy of a hard-working judge ... He was smart and a hard worker," said Judge Joe Keefe, 79, who knew Van Metre since they were both in law school.

Van Metre received his undergraduate degree from Trinity College and earned his law degree from the University of Iowa.

He was appointed a district court judge in March 1959 at the age of 33 by then-Gov. Herschel Loveless. He filled the slot left when his father, Judge Horace Van Metre, died about two weeks earlier.

At the time, he was one of Iowa's youngest district court judges.

He later retired and became a senior judge and eventually stepped down in 2001. In his retirement, he did mediation work.

Van Metre is probably best known for overseeing the trial of James Michael "T-Bone" Taylor, who was convicted of killing Waterloo officers Michael Hoing and Wayne Rice in 1981.

He also sentenced John Wayne Gacy to prison on sodomy charges in a Waterloo case. After prison, Gacy moved to Illinois and became an infamous serial killer.

Locally, those who worked with Van Metre in court remember him for other things.

In the 1970s, he was the judge that instituted the practice of having court administration officials schedule hearings and trials in Black Hawk County, said former court administrator Karen Hibben-Levi.

At the time, judges scheduled the proceedings in a series of three-ring binders. Occasionally, a judge would forget to make an entry for an upcoming event, the date would get double booked, and the parties for two cases would show up in the courtroom expecting to be heard.

After one such incident, Van Metre handed over the binder to Hibben-Levi.

"He said 'you're taking this over and you're keeping it straight,'" she said.

Jerry Olson, who kept track of every word said in Van Metre's court as his court reporter, remembers the judge as a good man to work under. He liked to be assigned to courts in the Decorah area in the fall months because of beautiful foliage there.

"Pete was a great guy. He really enjoyed people and was fun to work with," Olson said.

When Olson was having trouble selling his Iowa Falls home to move closer to Waterloo, the judge and his wife let Olson live with them.

Memorial services will be 1:30 p.m. Monday at Trinity Episcopal Parish. Visitation is at Locke Funeral Home from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday

From: The Courier - Waterloo, Iowa. November, 4, 2005

Honorable PETER VAN METRE, 78, died Wednesday, November 2 at the Western Home Community in Cedar Falls.

He was born on December 28, 1926 in West Palm Beach, Florida to Horace and Maybeth (Mack) Van Metre and married Jeanette "Jan" Thede Nass on June 29, 1974, in Waterloo.

Peter attended Iowa State Teacher's College and then graduated from Trinity College, with a Bachelor degree, and University of Iowa with a Juris Doctorate degree in 1953. He served in the U.S. Army during WW II .

Peter was appointed to the bench to succeed his father in 1959. He served as a District Court Judge from 1959 to 1991 and as a Senior District Court Judge from 1991 until 2001. He had also taught Law classes at UNI.

He is survived by his wife, Jeanette "Jan" Van Metre, Waterloo, IA; sons , Joseph Mack (Susan) Van Metre, Clermont, FL, Peter Chapman (Barbara Mahler) Van Metre, Austin, TX; step-son, Jeffrey Nass, Dysart, IA; three grandchildren, Laura, Emily and Sam Van Metre.

Peter was preceded in death by his parents and son, Charles Ricker Van Metre.

Memorial services are at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Trinity Episcopal Parish with inurnment in the Memorial Park Cemetery. Visitation is from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Locke Funeral Home.

Memorials may be directed to the Trinity Episcopal Parish.

From: The Des Moines Register, Iowa - November 6, 2005.

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