from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, John D.
Chapman appeals his convictions following a jury trial for
two counts of first-degree murder and one count of reckless
use of fire. AFFIRMED.
Zachary S. Hindman of Mayne, Arneson, Hindman, Hisey &
Daane, Sioux City, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sheryl Soich, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.
DANILSON, Chief Judge.
Chapman appeals his convictions following a jury trial for
two counts of first-degree murder, in violation of Iowa Code
section 707.2 (2013), in the deaths of Marvin Huelsing and
Alice Huisenga, and one count of reckless use of fire, in
violation of section 712.5. Chapman contends his trial
counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to object
to faulty jury instructions. Chapman also asserts the verdict
is not supported by substantial evidence or, in the
alternative, is contrary to the weight of the evidence.
Because we find trial counsel did not render ineffective
assistance, there is substantial evidence supporting
Chapman's convictions, and the verdict is not contrary to
the weight of the evidence, we affirm.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
facts as presented at trial reflect that in the early morning
hours of March 10, 2014, Michael Schenk, Jayden Chapman, and
Erika Dains met, used methamphetamine, and rode in
Schenk's blue extended-cab truck to a farm belonging to
Marvin Huelsing with the intent to steal scrap metal. Dains
testified that while they were driving around the farm
property collecting various items, including steel posts, the
truck got stuck in the mud. Efforts to pull the truck out of
the mud were unsuccessful, and it was beginning to become
light outside. Chapman testified he noticed the cows coming
toward the grain feeders and realized someone could be coming
to feed them soon. Chapman testified he told Schenk "the
cows are heading towards their feed bunk. They're going
to need to eat soon. And I asked him, what if people come.
And then that's when-that's when he made the comment
that if people come, we'll kill them."
and Schenk walked up towards the area of the property where a
mobile home was located to try to find something to help
extract the truck from the mud. Chapman testified he and
Schenk also searched the mobile home. Schenk located a .22
rifle, and Chapman located .12 gauge and .22 shells. Chapman
and Schenk were still inside the mobile home when they heard
a vehicle approaching. Schenk, armed with the gun, and
Chapman, armed with a knife, hid in the trailer. Chapman
testified he heard a man, Huelsing, state loudly that he was
going to call the sheriff, and Chapman and Schenk rushed out
of the mobile home toward the man and woman outside while
displaying the knife and gun. The man was Marvin Huelsing,
who owned the farm, and the woman was Alice Huisenga, who was
a long-time friend and farming partner of Huelsing. Huisenga
would accompany Huelsing to the farm several times a week to
help Huelsing on the farm or have coffee in the mobile home.
testified Schenk was yelling and ordered Huelsing and
Huisenga to throw their phones. Chapman testified,
that's when I remembered that-what he said earlier and
how he was acting around these people. And I remember his
comment that [if] people come, we'll kill them. And so I
told Michael, I said, Michael, we don't have to do what
you said earlier. . . . No one has to get hurt. We can leave.
Schenk ordered Huelsing and Huisenga to go inside the mobile
home. Upon hearing a click and believing Huelsing had locked
the door to the mobile home, Schenk fired at Huelsing and
shot him in the chest. Chapman and Schenk then entered the
mobile home. Chapman testified Schenk handed Chapman the gun
and ordered him to shoot Huisenga. Chapman pointed the gun at
Huisenga and pulled the trigger. He then threw the gun back
to Schenk and ran out of the mobile home. Huelsing struggled
against Schenk and the gun while the two were exiting the
mobile home. Schenk broke away with the gun, and Huelsing ran
in the direction of Chapman. Chapman pushed Huelsing, and
Huelsing fell to the ground. According to Chapman, Schenk
then shot Huelsing again in the chest area and in the
who had remained with Schenk's truck, testified she heard
a man yell, "I'm going to call the sheriff"
followed by the sound of a gunshot. Dains testified she saw
Chapman drive a "little truck"-later identified as
belonging to Huelsing-around the side of the mobile home,
stop, and get out. Dains then saw Schenk approach the small
truck and put a "long" gun in the cab. Schenk then
ran down to where Dains was located. Dains testified Schenk
was crying and stated, "I had to shoot him. I had no
choice." Chapman then drove the small truck to Dains and
Schenk. Chapman told Dains, "I had to take control
because [Schenk] couldn't go through with it." Dains
noticed a purse in the small truck.
Chapman, and Dains then rode in the small truck back towards
the area of the property near the mobile home to again try to
find something to help get Schenk's truck out of the mud.
Dains saw a man lying on the ground near the mobile home
"with blood bubbles coming out of his mouth."
Schenk approached the man and took his wallet, ID, and
cellphone. Dains testified Chapman and Schenk leaned over the
body whispering. Dains also saw Chapman and Schenk break two
cell phones belonging to Huelsing and Huisenga. Dains,
Schenk, and Chapman then drove the small truck back down near
Schenk's truck and were finally able to extract
Schenk's truck from the mud using chains.
testified Chapman then "said that, you know, we have to
get rid of the [small] truck-or get rid of it, like start it
on fire or something." To which Schenk responded,
"Yeah, I know." Dains testified she and Schenk then
again drove in Schenk's truck up to the area of the
property near the mobile home. Schenk went back down to the
small truck, where Chapman had remained. Chapman testified he
spray painted the knobs on a tractor to obliterate any
fingerprints while Schenk lit the small truck on fire. Dains
testified she did not see Chapman or Schenk set fire to the
truck, but she "heard the horn going off, and it
wouldn't stop going off."
testified Chapman and Schenk then came back up to
Schenk's truck. While Dains waited in Schenk's truck,
Schenk went into the mobile home. Chapman stood outside
Schenk's truck and yelled at Schenk "to hurry up,
hurry up. Come on, come on." After about five or ten
minutes, Schenk came out carrying gas cans and placed them in
the truck near Dains, along with the gun and other items
taken from Huelsing and Huisenga. After Schenk came out of
the mobile home, Dains saw flames coming from the structure.
Schenk, Chapman, and Dains then left the property. They
retrieved Dains' car, and she followed Schenk and Chapman
to Derek Olbertz's house.
testified he saw Schenk, Chapman, and Dains on the morning of
March 10, 2014, trying to unload items into his backyard and
he told them they could not leave the scrap metal there. He
testified Schenk, as well as the cab of Schenk's truck
where Chapman was sitting, smelled of gasoline. Dains
testified that while at Olbertz's house, Schenk and
Chapman moved items taken from the farm including the gun,
clothing items, and gas cans to her car. Dains then took
Chapman to the hotel where he was staying, and Chapman
unloaded the gun, clothing items, and gas cans.
was reported, and officers arrived at Huelsing's farm on
the afternoon of March 10, 2014. Officers found both the
small truck and the mobile home on fire. Officers also found
Huelsing's badly-burned body near the mobile home. After
the fire subsided, a body-later identified as
Huisenga's-was found inside the mobile home. The medical
examiner testified Huelsing sustained two gunshot wounds to
his chest, one to his back, and one to the back of his head.
The medical examiner stated Huisenga likely had sustained one
to four gunshot wounds based on evidence of internal
lacerations and skull fractures.
witness who drove by Huelsing's farm on the way to school
every day testified that on the morning of March 10, 2014,
she saw two "skinny" men standing near a blue
extended-cab truck on Huelsing's property.
March 12, 2014, Chapman and Schenk went to Dains' house.
Dains testified they were worried, said they were going to
Mexico, and told her not to tell police officers anything she
knew. While Chapman and Schenk were at her house, officers
arrived and arrested them.
interviewed by police officers, Chapman admitted his
involvement in the crimes but purposefully lied and did not
reveal the location of the gun or other incriminating items.
However, Schenk provided information leading the officers to
find the items left near the motel where Chapman was
residing, including a rifle and ammunition, clothing, and
items belonging to Huelsing and Huisenga. Huelsing's
blood was found on the rifle. The neckline and cuffs of a
black coat found with the items, along with a stain on the
left pocket of the coat, were found to contain Chapman's
DNA. Huelsing's DNA was extracted from a blood stain on
the underneath side of the left sleeve of the black coat.
Additionally, a pair of jeans found with the other items was
determined to have Schenk's DNA on the waistband.
Huelsing's DNA was extracted from a spot of blood found
on the back of one of the legs of those jeans. Gas cans were
also found inside Chapman's hotel room.
March 21, 2014, Chapman was charged by trial information with
two counts of first-degree murder and one count of
first-degree arson. Jury trial was held April 28, 29, and 30,
and May 1, 4, and 5, 2015. The jury returned guilty verdicts
on both counts of first-degree murder, and on one count of
reckless use of fire-a lesser-included offense of
second-degree arson. The jury verdict did not designate
whether Chapman was found guilty as the principal or as an
aider and abettor to each of the first-degree-murder
convictions. Chapman filed a motion for new trial and a
motion in arrest of judgment on May 22, 2015. The district
court denied the motions prior to the sentencing hearing held
June 5, 2015. Chapman was sentenced to incarceration for the
rest of his life without the possibility of parole on each
count of first-degree murder and incarceration for a period
of one year on the count of reckless use of fire.
Standard of Review.
review claims of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo.
State v. Clay, 824 N.W.2d 488, 494 (Iowa 2012).
Sufficiency-of-evidence claims are reviewed for correction of
errors at law. State v. Tyler, 873 N.W.2d 741, 746
(Iowa 2016). And "[w]e review a district court's
ruling as to whether a verdict was contrary to the weight of
the evidence for abuse of discretion." State v.
Thompson, 836 N.W.2d 470, 476 (Iowa 2013).
Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel-Jury
first asserts trial counsel was ineffective in failing to
object to improper jury instructions regarding Chapman's
guilt as an aider and abettor to the murders of Huelsing and
prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a
claimant must satisfy the Strickland [v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984)] test by showing
'(1) counsel failed to perform an essential duty; and (2)
prejudice resulted.'" Clay, 824 N.W.2d at
495 (quoting State v. Maxwell, 743 N.W.2d 185, 195
(Iowa 2008)). Both elements must be proved by a preponderance
of the evidence. State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 133
(Iowa 2006). "[B]oth elements do not always need to be
addressed. If the claim lacks prejudice, it can be decided on