IOWA CITY — A former Muscatine man who spent more than a decade in prison for a brutal 1990 attack that paralyzed the mother of his two children learned Thursday that a prosecutor has charged him with murder after her recent death and, if convicted, he could go back to prison for life.
Hiram Serrano Sr. forced his way into Theresa Jackson’s Muscatine home on Nov. 14, 1990, slashed her throat and stomped on her neck, leaving her a quadriplegic, Muscatine County Attorney Alan R. Ostergren said. The couple had recently broken up.
A jury convicted Serrano of attempted murder and willful injury in 1991, and he was sentenced to a prison term of up to 35 years. Serrano was released from prison on parole in 2004 after serving about 13 years, Ostergren said. Jackson died on Oct. 5 at age 43, and Serrano was arrested Thursday in Iowa City on a warrant charging him with first-degree murder.
Ostergren said his office took another look at the case after becoming aware of Jackson’s death. He said an autopsy found that she died of hydrocephalus, or a buildup of fluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling. The medical examiner ruled the death was a homicide because the condition stemmed from injuries to the neck and spinal cord that Jackson suffered in the 1990 attack.
Serrano, 48, made a court appearance Thursday in Muscatine and was ordered jailed on a $500,000 bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled March 4. The charge carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole; Iowa does not have the death penalty.
Ostergren said that prior case law makes it “quite clear” that in situations like this, a defendant can be charged again in the same attack. He said the murder offense was not completed until Jackson died, and so the charge does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on double jeopardy, or prosecuting someone twice for a single offense.
“Obviously, it’s an unusual set of circumstances,” Ostergren said. “It is unusual to have a situation where the victim dies almost 22 years later, from the original injuries, after the person has already been convicted of some crime associated with it.”
He said his research turned up one prior case in Iowa where a person was convicted of child abuse and then charged with murder after the child died years later.
A judge appointed the public defender’s office in Davenport to represent Serrano. The supervisor of that office didn’t immediately return a phone message Thursday afternoon.
Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agents and Muscatine Police officers arrested Serrano without incident while he was running an errand at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Ostergren said. It is the same hospital where Jackson died months ago.