For the 11th time in about 18 months, the jury trial for a Fairbank man who is accused of killing his son has been rescheduled.
During a hearing on Thursday, Judge DeDra Schroeder has ordered another continuance for the first-degree murder trial for Daniel Niebuhr, 60, to Nov. 17. Several of the postponements were due to the suspension of jury trials due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the latest is so the defense can go over evidence revealed during discovery.
According to the trial information filed April 2, 2019, Niebuhr allegedly killed his son, Brock, 36, of Dike, in his Fairbank home on March 22. In a previously available charging document as well as a civil complaint by daughter-in-law Lauren Niebuhr in a wrongful-death suit, the elder Niebuhr allegedly shot Brock in the back of his neck.
Following the incident, a 911 call was made to the Buchanan County dispatch, which was forwarded to Bremer County, as Niebuhr’s address falls within Bremer County. The report was initially for a stabbing, and a March 26 autopsy on Brock Niebuhr ruled the death a homicide.
The wrongful-death trial filed by Lauren Niebuhr is set for Jan. 5, 2021.
In the motion to continue the murder trial, attorney Jennifer Frese of the Marshalltown firm Kaplan and Frese wrote that Bremer County Attorney Kasey Wading had informed her and co-counsel Chad Frese on Oct. 12 there was new evidence, which was provided to the defense the next day, of information that was extracted from a cell phone on Oct. 9, even though the Bremer County Sheriff’s Office had custody of it since the day of the shooting.
The motion further states that the cell phone data showed more than 82,000 files, with nearly 56,000 pages of just text messages.
“Said items shed light directly on Defendant’s state of mind at the time of Brock Niebuhr’s death,” Jennifer Frese wrote. “The items viewed thus far also bear directly on rebutting the State of Iowa’s allegations that Defendant acted with premeditation and malice afterthought.”
However, she said that the review of the texts is only “cursory” and requires a more detailed investigation by her and co-counsel.
In a resistance filing, Wading said that the defense hadn’t made a request for the raw phone data extraction despite the disclosure that it existed and hadn’t requested to view the physical evidence. Wading concluded that the Freses are “relying on the insanity defense.”
Schroeder filed no reasoning for granting the continuance, just the granting of the motion to delay the jury trial to 9 a.m. Nov. 17 with a pretrial conference set for 10:30 a.m. Nov. 2 in the Bremer County Courthouse.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Niebuhr would be subject to a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.