from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, John D.
Freese appeals two convictions of first-degree murder and the
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Robert P. Ranschau,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Darrel Mullins, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
Freese appeals two convictions of first-degree murder
stemming from the deaths of his parents, Kevin and Donna
Freese, and the sentences imposed. He challenges the
sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions and
contends the district court erred in ordering him to pay a
law-enforcement-initiative surcharge on each of the counts.
Background Facts and Proceedings
the evidence presented at trial, a reasonable jury could make
the following factual findings. In October 2016, Sean was
living with his parents in Davenport. On October 4, Sean and
his girlfriend, Ellyott, hung out at the Freese residence.
Kevin and Donna were present in the home at this time.
Ellyott testified the atmosphere in the home was generally
positive on this date, but there were underlying issues
concerning Sean's schooling and his parents' desire
that he move out. At approximately 11:22 p.m., Sean and
Ellyott left the residence and got into Sean's vehicle,
which was parked in the street in front of the Freese
residence,  for the purpose of transporting Ellyott
home. They departed shortly thereafter. After stopping at a
fast food restaurant, Sean dropped Ellyott off at home around
11:57 p.m., Donna text messaged Sean and told him "to
get home." At 12:03 a.m. on October 5, Donna texted,
"Doors r locked." The surveillance footage shows
Sean returned home seconds before 12:07 a.m. Less than a
minute later, Sean texted Donna, "Im here." Donna
responded, "You're late." Sean responded,
"Yea I know. I have school work to do. Unlock the door
plz." Donna responded, "U r getting up in the
morning and doing good school work." Over the next
several minutes, Donna and Sean argued via text message about
Sean's schedule, Donna taking issue with Sean
"staying . . . up all night and sleeping 'til
noon," and Sean retorting that getting up early makes
him upset and "not wanting to do anything." Donna
advised Sean, "If u want to live here u r going to keep
normal hours. I'm tired of being sleep deprived so u can
do what u want when u want" and "U need to learn to
do what's asked of u not just what u want to do."
surveillance camera footage shows that at roughly 3:40 a.m.,
Seanapproached his vehicle from the direction
of the home, opened the back hatch of the vehicle, removed a
long dark object from the vehicle, and proceeded back to the
house with it. Sean's best friend testified at trial that
Sean often kept his AR-15-type rifle secured in a case in his
approximately 3:55 a.m., one of the Freeses' neighbors
was awoken by what she thought were gunshots coming from the
direction of the Freese residence, which is located directly
behind her home. At this time, Sean's vehicle was still
parked in front of the Freese residence. The neighbor looked
out her bedroom window which faces the back of the Freese
residence and noticed most of the lights in the Freese home
were illuminated. The neighbor monitored th Freese residence
for several minutes and observed someone calmly moving about
surveillance footage shows that at roughly 4:07 a.m., Sean
returned to his vehicle, placed something in its rear, and
then got in the vehicle and drove away. Sean returned to the
Freese home about a minute later and parked in the driveway;
he departed from the residence in his vehicle again at 4:13
a.m. Sean returned to the home at 4:16 a.m., parked his
vehicle in front of the home, exited the vehicle and
proceeded in the direction of the Freese residence. At 4:18
a.m., Sean returned to the vehicle and drove away. At 4:26
a.m., Sean, alone and in his vehicle, visited a nearby fast
food restaurant's drive through. Sean returned to the
Freese residence at 4:41 a.m. At this time, Sean began to
approach the home, but then returned to the vehicle, opened
the back hatch, removed a long item, and proceeded to the
residence with it.
approximately 4:46 a.m., Sean called 911. He reported he
recently left his house to go for a drive and stop by a fast
food restaurant, pursuant to which he was gone from his home
for about an hour and a half. When he returned home, he found
his gun lying on the floor, noticed the back door partially
open, and then went upstairs and found both of his parents
shot and not breathing. Sean noted he was not concerned that
an assailant was in the home.
were promptly dispatched to the residence. Upon arrival at
4:53 a.m., officers discovered Sean sitting on the front
steps of the home, crying. Sean advised the first officer on
scene that his parents were located in an upstairs bedroom.
Officers entered the home, and observed an AR-15-style
semiautomatic rifle lying on the floor near the stairs
leading to the second level of the home. The firearm belonged
to Sean. Located near the rifle was a black rifle case,
laying open, which contained an empty rifle magazine.
Officers proceeded to the master bedroom and discovered Donna
lying on the bed and Kevin lying face down on the floor, both
having sustained multiple gunshot wounds. Subsequent
autopsies identified Kevin and Donna's cause of death as
multiple gunshot wounds and revealed Kevin sustained three or
gunshot wounds and Donna sustained five. The bedroom was
riddled with shell casings. Sean was transported to the local
police station for questioning and was interviewed by a
detective later that morning. At the conclusion of the
interview, the detective advised Sean to consider himself
p.m., Sean called a close friend from jail. During this call,
Sean advised, "We got in a huge argument and I snapped,
that was it." Sean explained the argument was
"about them and their rules and everything they're
putting me through," noting "they were treating
[him] poorly last night," and he "just couldn't
take it." Sean also explained to his friend that he was
originally going to take his own life, but then decided to go
get his gun, shoot his parents, and then shoot himself, but
only "half of that worked out." Sean called his
friend again on October 6 at 8:42 a.m. During this call, Sean
repeated that he "just snapped."
State charged Sean with two counts of first-degree murder.
The matter proceeded to a jury trial. At the close of the
State's case-in-chief, Sean moved for judgment of
acquittal as to both counts, arguing the evidence was
insufficient to show he acted with malice aforethought,
deliberately, premeditatedly, or with the specific intent to
kill. The court denied ...