A Maquoketa man pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide and demanded a speedy jury trial.
Andy Lee Ahrens, 21, of Maquoketa, is charged with homicide by vehicle, operating under the influence. The class B felony is defined as unintentionally causing the death of another by operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of controlled substances, according to Iowa Code.
Ahrens did not appear in court. Hammer Law Firm P.L.C., which is defending Ahrens, entered the not-guilty plea on his behalf.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office will prosecute the case because Jackson County Attorney Sara Davenport requested that she be recused.
“The county attorney … is unable to prosecute this case due to a conflict of interest,” according to court documents filed by Iowa Assistant Attorney General Jeremy Peterson.
Ahrens’ preliminary hearing on Thursday was cancelled. His arraignment is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. Oct. 18 at the Jackson County Courthouse. During the arraignment, the defendant is officially informed of the charges and asked to enter a plea.
The homicide by vehicle charge stems from an accident at 12:23 p.m. Oct. 7, 2018, about four miles south of Bellevue on Highway 52.
Ahrens and a passenger, Alex Robert Behr, 20, of Sabula, were traveling north on Highway 52 when the Jeep Cherokee Ahrens was driving left the road “for reasons unknown,” according to the accident report. The vehicle struck a tree head-on and started burning.
Behr was partially ejected through the front windshield and died at the scene.
At the accident scene, Ahrens admitted to law enforcement that he lost control of the vehicle, went into the ditch, and was drinking before driving, according to the search warrant.
According to the search warrant, Ahrens consented to a breath test at 12:46 p.m. Oct. 7; that sample tested at 0.249.
That day, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department obtained a search warrant to get a sample of Ahrens’ blood. The sample was sent to the Department of Criminal Investigation crime lab in Ankeny for testing. The toxicology reports showed Ahrens’ blood alcohol content was 0.213 at the time of the accident and that he had amphetamines in his system.
District Court Judge Mark D. Cleve on Aug. 30 issued a warrant for Ahrens’ arrest. Ahrens turned himself in Sept. 19. He was released after posting $10,000 cash or bond.
Under Iowa law, people who plead guilty or are found guilty of a class B felony could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison, may have their license revoked for six years, may have to satisfactorily complete a drinking drivers course, and may have to submit to a substance abuse evaluation and subsequent treatment or rehabilitation services.
Ahrens has not responded to attempts to contact him for comment.