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State of Iowa v. Bryan Michael Fix

April 10, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Gary D. McKenrick, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tabor, J.

Bryan Fix challenges the district court's entry of judgment and imposition of sentence on both involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment resulting in death as a violation of the one-homicide rule. REVERSED AND REMANDED FOR RESENTENCING.

Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

Iowa case law observes a one-death, one-homicide rule-prohibiting a trial court from entering judgments and imposing sentences for multiple homicide offenses if the defendant was convicted for killing only one person. Our supreme court's two applications of the rule have followed jury verdicts. See State v. Wissing, 528 N.W.2d 561, 567 (Iowa 1995); State v. Gilroy, 199 N.W.2d 63, 68 (Iowa 1972). The question in this case is whether by accepting a plea agreement that called for consecutive sentences to be imposed on two homicide offenses for one death, Bryan Fix waived the protection of the one-homicide rule.

Finding Fix did not relinquish his right to invoke the one-homicide rule by entering his guilty pleas, we annul and set aside the judgment and sentence entered upon his conviction for involuntary manslaughter.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

On November 18, 2009, Stephanie Kloppenborg left her three children in the overnight care of her boyfriend Bryan Fix. Fix was the biological father of her two older children, but not the father of C.K., who was born in September 2009. Kloppenborg fed C.K., changed his diaper, and then left for work at 8:30 p.m. When she returned home the next morning, Fix met her on the stairs, telling her there was something wrong with the baby. C.K. was limp and gasping for air.

Doctors at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics diagnosed C.K. with a large, hyperacute subdural hematoma, diffuse multilayered retinal bleeds, and eight rib fractures. The doctors opined the head injury occurred immediately before the infant became symptomatic, the morning of November 19, 2009.

The doctors believed three of the eight rib fractures were inflicted two to three weeks earlier. C.K. died after being removed from life support on November 25, 2009. An autopsy showed the cause of death to be complications from head injuries sustained on November 19.

On December 9, 2009, the State prepared a three-count trial information charging Fix with murder in the first degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1, 707.2(2), and 707.2(5) (2009); child endangerment resulting in death, in violation of section 726.6(4); and child endangerment, multiple acts, in violation of section 726.6A.

Eight months later, the State and Fix entered a written memorandum of plea agreement, outlining the following charging concessions: count one was amended from first-degree murder, a class "A" felony, to involuntary manslaughter, a class "D" felony, which carried a five-year sentence; count two remained child endangerment resulting in death, a class "B" felony, which carried a fifty-year penalty; and count three was amended from multiple acts of child endangerment, a class "B" felony, to child endangerment resulting in serious injury, a class "C" felony, which carried a ten-year sentence. The parties agreed "the sentences are to run consecutively, for a total of 65 years." The court's concurrence with the agreement was a condition of the acceptance of the plea. The county attorney, the defendant, and defense counsel all signed the agreement.

The court held a plea hearing on August 4, 2010. Fix personally acknowledged his understanding of the plea agreement, including the recommendation for consecutive sentences. Fix entered pleas of guilty to all three offenses, admitting that he "forcibly handled the child in a manner that resulted in the child receiving a subdural hematoma that resulted in the child's death." Fix also acknowledged engaging in "physical action toward the child that resulted in the child sustaining fractures to the child's ribs."

The district court signed a calendar entry on the same day, accepting the guilty pleas and indicating it would "embody in the judgment and sentence the disposition provided for in the Plea Agreement or another disposition more favorable to the Defendant than that provided for in the Plea Agreement."

At the September 2, 2010 sentencing hearing, the defense counsel told the court that "the plea agreement is pretty clear as to what the parties' position was with regard to sentencing." Fix told the sentencing court he had nothing to say. The court noted the plea agreement called for consecutive sentences and both the State and the defendant agreed to that result. Based on the plea ...

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