OSKALOOSA — It took a jury of nine women and three men less than three hours Monday to find an Oskaloosa man guilty of second-degree murder in the death of an Iowa college basketball player.
The verdict against Luke Ryan VanHemert, 24, wrapped up three days of testimony and two days of attorney statements and brought some closure to the community in the death of Marquis Todd, who was a William Penn University student and player for the school’s Statesmen basketball team.
VanHemert was taken out of the courtroom to his cell at Mahaska County Jail. He will remain there until sentencing later. Second-degree murder is punishable by up to 50 years in prison. Mahaska County Attorney Andrew Ritland, who prosecuted this case, said VanHemert will have to serve a minimum of 35 years.
The verdict came 410 days after Todd, 22, was slain about 11 p.m. on the front lawn of the VanHemert home on March 1, 2018. The stabbing followed a string of events that began after a car driven by Mikeal Donaldson sideswiped a car driven by VanHemert, testimony showed.
The events that followed led to a confrontation between three William Penn basketball players and three people living at the VanHemert residence. The parties did not know each other beforehand.
Claiming immunity from punishment under Iowa’s stand-your-ground law, VanHemert asserted he had stabbed Todd in self defense but threw the knife away in a construction site. The knife was never found.
Ritland said the key to earning a conviction laid in showing the defendant didn’t act in self-defense.
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“His contradictory statements at the scene and on the stand were really irreconcilable,” said Ritland in a news conference following the verdict. “The defendant, at every turn, was escalating the situation.
“Marquis did not have to die. There were options, but the defendant chose to use deadly force and will have to live with the consequences of his actions.”
A fuller version of the article from The New Sharon Sun/Mid-America Publishing first appeared in the Oskaloosa Herald.