Judge DeDra Schroeder will read her verdict in the murder trial of a rural Fairbank man at 8:30 a.m., Monday, Jan. 11.
Daniel Gail Niebuhr, 60, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his son, Brock Niebuhr, on March 22, 2019, at Daniel Niebuhr's home.
Schroeder will conduct the reading over the online meeting platform Zoom. Because this was a bench trial, no jury is involved.
The charge is a Class A felony punishable by a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole.
Niebuhr's defense attorneys, Chad and Jenifer Frese of Marshalltown, did not deny that he shot his son, who was sitting on a sofa watching basketball on TV. They are seeking a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict, labeling the killing as a "psychotic event."
Prior to the killing, Niebuhr had been diagnosed and prescribed 'anti-psychotic and mood-stabilizing medication." He had also been committed for 10 days in February at Allen Medical Center. At some point after being discharged, he stopped taking medication and was off it the day of the killing.
Bremer County Attorney Kasey Earl Wadding argues 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.
"A person is 'sane' if, at the time he committed the criminal act, he had sufficient mental capacity to know and understand the nature and quality of the act … and had sufficient mental capacity and reason to distinguish right from wrong as to the particular act," Wadding wrote in his rebuttal of the defense's closing argument.
Wadding noted in his closing summation that, among other things, Niebuhr had the wherewithal to choose the type of handgun to use and to test it before quietly approaching his unsuspecting son and shooting him the the back of the head. Afterwards, he loaded rifles and lined them up on the porch on the road side of his home "believing his life was going to be taken to pay for what he had done," Waddington wrote.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the closing arguments were submitted in writing to Schroeder in December.