DECORAH — A Winneshiek County jury deliberated for about 2 ½ hours before finding Jacob Seelinger guilty of second-degree murder in connection with the death of David Hansen last summer.
Seelinger, 18, of Decorah, was on trial for first-degree murder. He, along with Dalton Adam, 19, also of Decorah, were charged with first-degree murder in connection with Hansen’s death.
The men were accused of beating Hansen on July 12, 2018. Hansen was knocked unconscious during the attack and never regained consciousness. He died from his injuries on Aug. 31.
Jurors were instructed Thursday morning that they could find Seelinger guilty of several lesser offenses, including second-degree murder, or not guilty. Judge Richard Stochl of New Hampton read about 40 pages of instructions detailing the elements of each offense.
In his closing argument Thursday morning, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown told jurors not to be influenced by personal sympathies or the defendant’s age. He said Seelinger and his mother, Calista Seelinger, had made statements after the assault that were inconsistent with their statements made during the trial that began Monday in Decorah.
While Calista Seelinger testified her son had not beaten or kicked Hansen, her 911 call and a recording on a deputy’s body cam recorded her saying both her son and Adam were involved in the attack and that her son had even kicked her three times while she was trying to protect Hansen.
Calista Seelinger was living with Hansen at the time of the assault and also had a no-contact order against him as the result of a domestic incident. Jacob Seelinger had talked to Hansen about how he treated his mother about a week before the attack.
“Who has motive? It’s Jacob. Adam does not,” Brown told jurors.
“We know David Hansen had been not so nice to Calista, but regardless of what you think, he certainly did not deserve to be beaten to death. (Jacob Seelinger) had a conversation with Hansen not a week before. He was clearly angry and showed he had ill will toward him and a motive to hurt him or have someone else hurt him,” Brown said.
Jacob Seelinger, his mother, and Adam and were dropped off at Hansen’s residence late the night of July 12 after all three had been at the Winneshiek County Fair. Jacob Seelinger and Adam had been drinking and both took Xanax. They’d been involved in a couple of altercations at the fair before they left. Jacob Seelinger testified Wednesday that he was angry and anxious and upset over losing his wallet, hat, and sunglasses.
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Calisita Seelinger testified earlier in the week that the day of the attack Hansen had thrown her out of the house but she didn’t tell her son about their fight, although she said her entire family knew how Hansen treated her.
When they arrived at Hansen’s home, Calista Seelinger went inside to get Hansen to ask him to try to calm her son down. When Hansen came outside, Jacob Seelinger said Hansen threatened him and Adam responded with an “angry, shouting remark.” Hansen hit Adam, according to Jacob Seelinger, and Adam hit Hansen, causing him to fall back onto the pavement, losing consciousness.
In her 911 call, Calista Seelinger said Adam and her son were trying to kill Hansen and kicking his head in. In a body cam recording of his arrest, Jacob Seelinger repeatedly yelled, “He (Hansen) beat my mom. He beat my mom.”
Defense attorney James Metcalf argued Thursday that Adam, in an “evil manner,” beat Hansen to death. He said Adam will be on trial this fall, and this was Jacob Seelinger’s trial.
He blamed the inconsistencies with Calista Seelinger’s statements on her use of meth and alcohol “almost non-stop” for a year.
Metcalf told jurors that Jacob Seelinger’s life was at stake.
“That’s why we’re here. I ask you to be very, very careful,” he said.
“David Hansen’s life was taken. Don’t lose sight of that,” Brown said in his final remarks to the jury.
A pre-sentence investigation, expected to take about six weeks, will be conducted while Jacob Seelinger remains in the Winneshiek County Jail. Judge Stochl said the age of the defendant, who was 17 at the time of the crime, would be taken into account.