The jury first heard Drew Mangler’s voice in an audio recording, almost drowned out by the blare of the television in his father’s Scales Mound, Ill., home. That’s where agents first interviewed Mangler, just a day into their investigation into the death of James Remakel.
At the time, Mangler wasn’t a suspect. Agents just wanted to learn more about the victim, and Mangler had helped Remakel with some household work.
More than two years later, Mangler is on trial for first-degree murder. The break in the case came last spring, when police got a search warrant for shoes with tread matching impressions left at the scene.
Sabrina Seehafer of the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation showed jury members the black U.S. Polo shoes on which she found a bloodstain with a DNA profile matching Remakel's.
The shoes were found in a box labeled "Drew's winter clothes," obtained by search warrant in April. The DNA had only a “one in 94 octillion” chance of coming from someone other than Remakel, Seehafer said.
Prosecutor Andrew Prosser of the Iowa State Attorney General’s office argued that Mangler killed Remakel out of “wrath” and “greed,” specifically for money and drugs. Mangler's attorneys haven't yet laid out their argument.
Prosser said that Remakel did not die immediately but "bled out" a painful death in his bedroom after being stabbed 32 times, possibly with a screwdriver.
Two of Mangler's friends testified Friday about what happened on the night of Dec. 19, 2016, when prosecutors say that Mangler attacked Remakel. Brady Hutchcroft and Raleigh Perkins were hanging out with Mangler that night. Many of the details are fuzzy, but they each testified that they drove to Maquoketa and back to Bellevue that night and that Mangler left at some point, rejoining them later.
Hutchcroft testified that he remembered few details about the trip to Maquoketa. He said that Mangler left his friends after the trip to Maquoketa but said he could be mistaken, under questioning from prosecutors.
Perkins also testified that he saw Mangler with a large wad of cash with him that night. Perkins spread his thumb and forefinger a couple inches wide to show the size of the stack of folded bills.
Prosecutors showed video of Hutchcroft and Mangler buying a snowboard at a pawn shop the next day, as well as playing roulette at the Diamond Jo casino in Dubuque. On surveillance video, the tongue of Mangler’s shoe is visible over his jeans.
In his first interview with police, Mangler said he met Remakel through a help ad he saw in the Bellevue newspaper. Remakel was disabled, with severe back problems.
Remakel paid Mangler $10 an hour in cash that he would bring from a back part of the house, because he’d been “burned” in the past, Mangler said.
In that Dec. 27, 2016, interview, agents bluntly asked if Mangler had been around the home or had anything to do with Remakel’s death, though he wasn’t a suspect at the time.
After investigators found a police report that placed Mangler in Bellevue on the night Remakel likely died, they interviewed him again, with greater interest. Prosecutors said they will play that tape this week.
The jury may never hear Mangler testify in person. One of a defendant’s rights is the right not to testify.
Bellevue police officer Brent Roling told jurors that Laverne Jackson called on the night of Dec. 19, 2016, to say that Mangler had burst into her home unwanted and unannounced. A few hours later, Roling talked to Mangler and his friends as they attempted to dig Perkins’ car out of a snowbank before their Maquoketa trip.
RTA driver Peter Connolly and insurance agent John Hoff each testified about contacts they attempted to make with Remakel shortly before Christmas, 2016. Remakel didn’t use water or his cell after Dec. 19, but his body wasn’t found until Christmas Day, when Dick Steines tried to take him two trays of Christmas dinner and a Corona.
Bellevue police officer Josh Kilburg was one of the officers who responded to the report that Remakel was deceased in his home. "I immediately noticed the overwhelming smell of death and decay," Kilburg said.
Seehafer testified about what she found when she arrived in Bellevue at about midnight on Christmas Day, 2016, as a member of the state's crime scene response team.
Prosecutors showed photos of the crime scene, including the bedroom in which Remakel's body lay.
Photos showed bloodstains on the floor and walls of the kitchen. In the bedroom, a dresser drawer had been forced open. Pill bottles and bank bags were found inside the drawer. Two jewelry boxes lay on the floor.
A shoeprint was clearly visible on the outside of the door, as if it had been kicked.
Richard Crivello is a Department of Criminal Investigation expert in fingerprinting, shoe impressions and tire tracks. He examined the shoes that led to Mangler's arrest.
Crevillo said that shoeprints left on the door, basement door, linoleum and wood of Remakel's home were of the same design and size as the shoes seized by search warrant. Other, similar shoes could have also made the prints, he said.
Many witnesses have yet to testify in the trial, which was scheduled to conclude Friday but will continue this week. It took two days to narrow the jury from 100 people to 12 plus two alternates. Court proceedings Thursday were cancelled due to icy roads.
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