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State v. Stechcon

Court of Appeal of Iowa

November 6, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHAD ALAN STECHCON, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Benton County, Douglas S. Russell, Judge.

Defendant appeals from judgment and sentences entered upon his convictions of burglary in the first degree, domestic abuse assault while using or displaying a dangerous weapon, and false imprisonment.

Alfred E. Willett and Keith J. Larson of Elderkin & Pirnie, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Darrel Mullins, Assistant Attorney General, David C. Thompson, County Attorney, and Emily Nydle, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Danilson and Tabor, JJ.

DANILSON, J.

Chad Stechcon appeals from the judgment and sentences entered upon his convictions of burglary in the first degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 713.1 and 713.3 (2011); domestic abuse assault while using or displaying a dangerous weapon, in violation of section 708.2A(1) and (2)(c); and false imprisonment in violation of section 701.7. On appeal, he asserts there is insufficient evidence to support each of the convictions. He also maintains the court erred in denying his motion for new trial and motion in arrest of judgment, as the verdicts are contrary to the weight of the evidence. After considering the trial record, we conclude there is sufficient evidence to support the guilty verdicts. Furthermore, we find the district court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Stechcon's motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Stechcon was the common-law husband of Bridget Barr. From 2001 to June 1, 2011, they lived together at her home in Van Horn, Iowa. Barr owned the residence, but Stechcon contributed to the maintenance and residential expenses during the period he lived there. In June 2011, Barr and a friend moved Stechcon's belongings to the living room of the house. She later hired people to move the items to the garage so Stechcon could retrieve them. Also in the garage were two vehicles in need of repair that Stechcon owned. Some winter coats and boots of Stechcon's were left in the basement of the home.

After Stechcon moved out on June 1, Barr allowed him to work on the vehicles in the garage on various occasions. One night, Barr invited him to have supper with her in the home. On Father's Day, he and his children visited in the living room before going out to eat dinner.

At trial, Barr testified that at some point before July 15, 2011, she refused Stechcon's request to move back into the residence and told him she did not want him on her property at all. She also changed the locks on the two doors for which he had keys.

Near midnight on July 15, 2011, Stechcon entered Barr's residence without her knowledge. Barr realized Stechcon was in the residence when she came around a corner and encountered him. She testified Stechcon was wearing rubber gloves and dark clothing. She also testified that he grabbed her arms and dragged her down the hallway to her bedroom. It is undisputed that once they reached the bedroom, Barr retrieved her cell phone and attempted to use it to call for help, but Stechcon knocked it out of her hands. It is also undisputed that Stechcon punched her in the stomach during the altercation. Stechcon then attempted to bind Barr with zip ties he had brought with him. However, Barr struggled against him, and Stechcon was unsuccessful. She testified he then choked her and hit her head against the wall.

Barr had taken a butcher knife up to her room at some point earlier in the night, purportedly because she was afraid of Stechcon. She testified he noticed it, grabbed it, and stabbed both the floor and the wall next to her head, stating, "This will be the last day you are going to live." She also testified he held the knife to her neck, cutting her.

Barr testified she had a "safety plan." She planned to act like she wanted to get back together with Stechcon until he calmed down and she felt safe enough to escape. Barr testified she crawled into Stechcon's lap and apologized to him, saying they would attend counseling and "make it work." He then put the knife down and stopped hitting her.

Barr and Stechcon then attempted to go to sleep but were unable to because Barr's stomach was upset. They went for a walk around Van Horn, which lasted approximately forty-five minutes.

Once they returned to Barr's residence, the two slept in Barr's room. Barr woke up around 6:30 a.m. When she awoke, Stechcon woke too. She told him she going downstairs to let her dogs out. She then went downstairs, let the dogs out, read the paper, and gathered the recycling until she heard Stechcon snoring. Once she heard him snoring, ...


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