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State v. Moffitt

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 11, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DAVID JOSEPH MOFFITT, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, David L. Christensen (motion to suppress) and Richard G. Blane II (trial), Judges.

         Defendant appeals his convictions for first-degree murder and first-degree burglary. AFFIRMED.

          J. Keith Rigg, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Darrell Mullins, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Heard by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ. Blane, S.J., takes no part.

          BOWER, Judge.

         David Moffitt appeals his convictions for first-degree murder and first-degree burglary. We find the district court properly denied Moffitt's motion to suppress, based on his claim the applications for search warrants for his home, including computers and cell phone, were not supported by probable cause. We affirm Moffitt's convictions.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         Moffitt was charged with murder in the first degree, in violation of Iowa Code section 707.2 (2013) and burglary in the first degree, in violation of section 713.3. The State alleged Moffitt broke into the home of Justin Michael on May 8, 2014, and fatally shot him.

         The State applied for a warrant to search Moffitt's home. The following information was included in an affidavit attached to the search warrant application. Michael was fatally shot in the head at his home in Grimes shortly before 3:30 a.m. on May 8, 2014. Michael's mother, Marie Michael, who had been visiting, stated a subject wearing all dark clothing came into her room and shone a "red laser" type light on her. The subject left her room and seconds later she heard gunshots. Officers found .9mm TulAmmo shell casings at the scene.

         Angela VerHuel, who was the victim's fiancé, stated she previously had a sexual relationship with Moffitt from March to June 2013. She ended the relationship with Moffitt when she began her relationship with Michael. VerHuel stated "Moffitt was very angry and upset and sent her a few vulgar texts but nothing threatening. One of those texts indicated he was not ready to let her go." In August 2013, VerHuel learned Moffitt was working in the same department at Wells Fargo as Michael. She later learned Moffitt was let go from his employment.

         At about 4:00 a.m., an off-duty Boone police officer observed a car in the ditch by Highway 141 near Granger and stopped to render assistance. A person, who identified himself as Dave, stated he needed a ride. Dave was not wearing a shirt when the officer stopped; Dave first put on a black shirt, then took it off and put on a white shirt. Dave placed the black shirt in a black case and put the case in the trunk of his vehicle. The officer called dispatch, then left. A Polk County deputy arrived shortly thereafter. The deputy determined Dave was David Moffitt, the vehicle was registered to him, and he resided in Pleasant Hill. At that time, Moffitt was wearing all white clothes and particles from weeds were clinging to his clothing. Moffitt stated he left his cell phone at home. The deputy issued several citations and assisted Moffitt to call a cab to take him home. Moffitt took a cab to Pleasant Hill.

         Officers searched the area near where Moffitt's car was located. They found a box containing new earmuffs of a type used by those shooting firearms; an Amazon Kindle, which had "Grimes" typed in the search bar; a receipt dated March 14, 2014, in the name of Wegener;[1] and two magazines containing .9 mm TulAmmo ammunition. A search of Moffitt's vehicle did not reveal the black shirt or the black case he put the shirt into.

         A judge granted the search warrant application. The State executed the search warrant for Moffitt's home and several items were seized. A second search warrant was obtained for a different location. The State sought a third search warrant, stating it had not seized the computers or cell phones at Moffitt's residence. This application was approved as well. During the execution of the third search warrant, officers observed a red storage tub without a lid, which they believed contained items related to the crime. A fourth search warrant application sought to search Moffitt's home for these items, which included a ...


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