Judge Joel Barrows Monday denied Drew Mangler a new trial after a hearing Monday in Scott County Court. Mangler was convicted in February of the second-degree murder of James Remakel of Bellevue.
Mangler’s lawyers argued that new evidence surfaced the day after the verdict, when salon owner Jessalyn Fondell said she had heard people talking about an alternate suspect pacing near Remakel’s home two days before the victim’s body was found.
Remakel was found on Christmas Day, 2016. He had been stabbed 32 times.
Heather Merrick and Tina Trenkamp said that they had seen the person while walking on Dec. 23, 2016.
Trenkamp had been subpoenaed regarding Remakel’s shopping at Lampe’s True Value, but she was not called to testify during the trial. Trenkamp believed that she had reported the pacing person to law enforcement, though she did not mention it in a Dec. 28, 2016 interview with police.
For a new trial, Mangler’s attorneys needed to convince judge Barrows that the new evidence was discovered after the verdict, that it wasn’t simply missed by the defense earlier and that it “probably” would have changed the trial’s result.
Prosecutors said the “alternate suspect” was walking on the “block” where Remakel lives. A restaurant and other homes are also on the block. “Evidence of this particular sighting could easily have been obtained by the defense by talking to their own subpoenaed witness,” wrote Andrew Prosser of the Iowa State Attorney General’s Office. “Evidence of many similar sightings could easily have been obtained simply by speaking to nearly any resident of Bellevue.”
Defense attorney Derek Jones argued that Mangler did not receive a fair trial because defense attorneys were not told that Trenkamp mentioned seeing the “alternate suspect” near Remakel’s house when she spoke with Bellevue police officer Josh Kilburg shortly before the trial.
Evidence against Mangler included Remakel’s blood on Mangler’s shoes and shoeprints matching Mangler’s at the scene of the crime. Mangler had burst unwanted and unannounced into a different home earlier that night in Bellevue.
Mangler’s defense argued that officers failed to investigate alternate suspects and that the “small amount of blood” on Mangler’s shoe was inconsistent with the crime. They also argued that there was no evidence of anything taken from Remakel’s home and that the prosecution therefore lacked a motive for murder.
This article has been updated to clarify that Trenkamp did not speak directly to Fondell about the pacing person, as originally reported in defense documents.