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County attorney's office gets help in prosecuting murder cases

County attorney's office gets help in prosecuting murder cases

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CLINTON, Iowa — With this week's murder arrests, Clinton County has four, and possibly five, pending murder trials.

Prosecutors in the Clinton County Attorney's Office will get some extra help from the Iowa Attorney General's Office.

Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf said although his staff and Clinton Police Department are able to do the extra work multiple cases require, help has been brought in for the Pamela Wiedner homicide investigation and other pending murder trials.

"The help is there, and we've got a lot of cases, and we're going to use it," Wolf said. "We still have to do a lot. Having another person to help out is nice."

Jim Kivi, an area prosecutor from the Iowa Attorney General's Office, has been working with Wolf's office. He works mostly on the most serious felonies and has 25 years experience in such cases, Wolf said.

Up first will be the Feb. 26 first-degree murder and robbery trial of James Curtis, 20, one of two Lost Nation brothers charged in the 1998 death of Don Davidson, a Clinton strip club manager. His brother, James Curtis, 29, is expected to go to trial on the same charges April 2.

Robert L. Jackson, 45, and George Prentiss III, 37, both of Clinton, face first-degree murder and burglary charges in Wiedner's death last week. Trial dates have not been set, but state law entitles them to a speedy trial within 90 days, unless they waive that right.

A fifth trial could be added to the schedule if Valerie Reeves, a Normal, Ill., native, wins her appeal for a new trial.

Reeves was sentenced in 1998 to 50 years on a second-degree murder conviction for killing Eugene Malone after meeting him in a Sabula tavern.

She appealed the conviction and the Iowa Court of Appeals granted her a new hearing for a request for a new trial March 2000. She was granted a motion for a new trial last year. That decision was appealed by the state and a word on whether a new trial will be set is expected in February.

Because part of Reeves' time on her right of speedy trial has been used up, the new trial would have to start within two weeks after the decision is made.

"We feel very confident that we'll be able to handle it," Wolf said.

Handling multiple murder cases is not new to Wolf. In his first year on the job, his office prosecuted three first-degree murder cases. The trials of Robert Robinson, Lisa Heavilin and Jamey Mills all ended in convictions, and at the same time county prosecutors were working with a grand jury on a fourth case, the 8-year-old first-degree murder case of Kenneth Orte, which ended in a conviction the following spring.

Police Chief Brian Guy said that having four murder cases going on at once is "unprecedented" in his 22 years with the department.

Some unsolved cases also are still being actively worked by the police department.

Last month police re-opened the 1976 suspicious death case of 20-year-old Steven Barrette, which initially was ruled accidental drowning. The body was exhumed in October so a new autopsy could be performed, showing some "focal areas of blunt force trauma" in addition to the drowning.

Guy said there have been no new developments in the Barrette case, although they have received several good tips since reopening the case.

"We really will work hard to bring all cases to justice," Guy said.


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