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A district court judge found a Fairbank man not guilty by reason of insanity for killing his son.

Judge DeDra Schroeder read the verdict during a hearing Monday held on Zoom. She stated that the prosecution, led by Bremer County Attorney Kasey Wadding, met his burden of proof for a first-degree murder conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. However, she added that the defense attorneys, Chad and Jennifer Frese, had also proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Niebuhr was under a psychotic episode when he shot and killed his son, Brock, 36, of Dike.

As a condition of the ruling, Schroeder ordered Niebuhr to be transported the Iowa Medical and Classification Center to be later committed into the Iowa Mental Health Institute system for evaluation. A hearing will be held at a later date.

Niebuhr’s defense attorneys did not deny that he shot his son, who was sitting on a sofa watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on TV on March 22, 2019.

Prior to the killing, Niebuhr had been been committed for 10 days in February at Allen Medical Center. At some point after being discharged, he stopped taking his medication. Schroeder also referred to the defendant’s family history of mental issues.

Wadding argued that despite Niebuhr’s mental illness and odd behavior before the killing and after his arrest, the father willfully, deliberately and with premeditation killed his son.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the closing arguments were submitted in writing to Schroeder in December following a bench trial in November.

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