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Riverside Man Charged with Murder Following Shooting Death

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RIVERSIDE, Iowa - A long-time former firefighter and Johnson County emergency coordinator is accused of shooting his longtime partner as she mowed the lawn outside their home near Riverside Sunday evening.

Thomas Hansen, 70, is accused of shooting Sharon Gerot, 54, while she was mowing the lawn Sunday evening.

Police were called to the couple's Riverside home around 4 p.m. on a report of shots being fired. Neighbor Mary Malmberg said her husband heard a single gun shot, then went to the window to see Gerot slumped over next to the riding lawn mower in her backyard at 1355 Deer Run Drive. Police records show that a semi-automatic handgun was used in the shooting.

"He said I heard a shot, and it looks like someone is down over there," said Malmberg.

Glenn Malmberg said he initially thought Gerot may have shot herself, but later saw Hansen approach her with his head down to turn off the lawn mower. Malmberg said Hansen was not carrying a weapon, and it did not appear that he was trying to cover anything up or get away from the property.

Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek confirmed Monday that Hansen was the former director of the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency, but didn't know when he retired. Hansen was recognized for helping to "save lives" through his handling of the 2006 tornado in Iowa City.

Hansen also spent 27 years with the Iowa City Fire Department, rising to battalion chief before retiring in 1996, records show.

Malmberg described Hansen as a quiet man, who didn't cause problems in the neighborhood.

"I never would have expected this out of him of all people," she said. "He's very quiet, and I never really heard him raise his voice."

Washington County Attorney Larry Brock said the couple was not married but did live together at the Riverside home. Neighbors said they spent a lot of time traveling together in their RV.

Former Riverside Mayor Bill Poch said Gerot served as City Clerk during the early 2000s.

Neighbors said Gerot was the mother to three daughters, two currently live in Wisconsin, and a third that was killed in a car crash in 2004. They said she regularly maintained a roadside memorial for her daughter along Highway 218 just outside of Riverside.

Hansen made an initial appearance in Washington County District Court Monday morning and was ordered held on $2 million cash-only bond. Public Defender John Robertson was appointed to the case and Hansen was ordered to relinquish firearms.

"He got upset at one point, but otherwise he seemed to deal with it fairly well," Brock said of Hansen's demeanor during the hearing in front of District Court Judge Lucy Gamon.

Investigators spent Monday at the scene of Sunday evening shooting and could be seen working near the lawn mower and using a metal detector to collect additional evidence from the scene.

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