from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Scott D.
defendant appeals his conviction for murder in the first
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, (until withdrawal) and
Robert P. Ranschau, Assistant Appellate Defender, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
County jury found Abraham Roberts guilty of first-degree
murder in the shooting death of his live-in girlfriend, Agnes
Yarlee. On appeal, Roberts challenges the State's proof
he acted with malice aforethought and that the shooting was
willful, premeditated, and carried out with a specific intent
to kill. Because the State presented ample evidence
supporting these elements, we affirm the jury's verdict.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
jury heard testimony Roberts shot Yarlee five times as she
sat on the couch in the apartment they shared with their
infant daughter, Yarlee's three older children, and other
family members. Their five-month-old was sitting in a bouncy
chair at her mother's feet when Roberts repeatedly fired
the nine-millimeter Smith & Wesson handgun. No bullets
hit the baby, but they struck Yarlee in the knee, chest, and
skull. The head wound was fatal.
the shooting, Roberts complained the apartment was a mess.
Yarlee purportedly responded, "my kids ain't here to
clean the house." Then Roberts, Yarlee, and Yarlee's
seventy-nine-year-old mother argued so loudly Yarlee's
three children could hear their raised voices outside the
apartment building. During the argument, Roberts shoved the
elderly woman to the ground as he moved to the bedroom to
grab his gun. Scared to go inside, eleven-year-old C.Y.
recalled standing at the open apartment door with her eight-
and nine-year-old brothers behind her. C.Y. saw Roberts tap
his leg before he lifted the gun and shot her mother. C.Y.
told the jury her mother didn't have time to react:
"He didn't give her a chance. He just went boom,
boom, boom, boom, boom." C.Y. then ushered her
grandmother from the house and called 911.
left the apartment before the police arrived. Responding
officers discovered Yarlee's body on the couch in a large
pool of blood. After searching the apartment the next day,
officers found the handgun under dirty clothes in the laundry
hamper. Authorities eventually arrested Roberts in
International Falls, Minnesota, near the Canadian border.
State charged Roberts with murder in the first degree, in
violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1 and 707.2(1) (2017). A
jury heard the case in January 2018. Yarlee's mother and
daughter both offered eyewitness testimony. They testified
Roberts was angry, and the grandmother remembered Roberts
telling Yarlee, "I will kill you," before he pulled
the State's case in chief, defense counsel moved for
judgment of acquittal on the charges of murder in the first
and second degree and asked the district court to submit the
case to the jury only on the lesser-included offenses of
voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. The court overruled
took the stand in his own defense. He testified to drinking
more than half a bottle of gin the day of the shooting. He
acknowledged arguing with Yarlee at the apartment but alleged
she was the aggressor, they wrestled over the gun, and
"it automatically went off." According to his
testimony, after the first shot, he didn't remember
anything until the next morning. He told the jury after
waking up at a hotel, he ...