May 7, 2013

Fort Dodge

Kirk Levin showed no emotion in his white button-down shirt and black slacks on Thursday when a judge read the jury's swift decision for his murder and kidnapping trial.

Guilty of first-degree murder.

Guilty of third-degree kidnapping.

He faces life in prison at a sentencing hearing set for July 12.

Levin, 21, of Early, kept his head and eyes low. It continued his general lack of emotion during the two-day trial in which prosecutors accused him of cutting his mother, Marilyn Schmitt, 88 times with a knife, strangling her with a belt and smashing the back of her head with a large glass bottle filled with coins in the early-morning hours of Jan. 3 in her rural Early bedroom.

Investigators found Schmitt, 45, in her blood-soaked pajamas, face-down on the floor with a broken neck.

Levin had been released from an eastern Iowa prison two days before from a 2010 felony burglary conviction. Schmitt's mother and ex-husband said Schmitt was excited to have Levin living with her. She was renovating the house to accommodate him, bought him a cellphone and lined up a possible job, they said.

"Thirty-six hours later, she was dead," Matt Levin, the man's father, wrote in an email to the Daily Times Herald this week. "He tortured and murdered her because that's who he is. He feels contempt for those who like him. He has always targeted those who have been nice to him. All he learned to do was how to camouflage himself better."

Prosecutors and Levin's defense attorney gave their closing remarks Thursday morning before the jury of seven men and five women started its deliberation about 11:45 a.m.

"You'll convict him of murder," Levin's attorney Charles Kenville concluded in the closing moments of this week's trial. "It'll be murder in the second degree."

The lesser murder charge is punishable by up to 50 years in prison, which could enable Levin to be free on parole after about 24 years.

Kenville argued that prosecutors did not prove that Levin planned to kill his mother.

Dr. Jonathan Thompson, the associate state medical examiner who did the autopsy on Schmitt's body, said that dozens of the cuts she suffered were shallow slashes.

"I call these types of injuries 'taunting injuries,'" he said.

Levin then allegedly washed the knife blade in the kitchen sink and washed himself in a bathroom.

"This guy's thinking," Prosecutor Douglas Hammerand said. "There's nothing wrong with his state of mind."

Levin then drove Schmitt's car to Storm Lake and duped an acquaintance, Jessica Vega, 21, to give him a ride back to Schmitt's house, where he allegedly tied her up and kidnapped the woman.

Vega testified this week that she negotiated the terms of her kidnapping with Levin when she promised not to fight back. Kenville contended that Levin did not kidnap Vega because he listened to her instructions.

"She says, 'Put me in the trunk;' she says, 'Take me out of the trunk,'" Kenville said.

Jurors returned the guilty verdicts in about two hours. Several jurors declined to discuss the verdicts with the Times Herald afterward. Kenville also declined to comment.

Schmitt's family was "happy with the verdict," a courts employee said. But family members declined to comment further.