The bond for an Oelwein man accused of killing a Fayette farmer was set late Sunday at $500,000, the Fayette County Sheriff said.

Jeff Allen Sawvel, 22, was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Gehlen Quandt, 70, Saturday, said Sheriff Virgil Smith. Sawvel is in the Fayette County Jail awaiting his next court appearance.

An autopsy was scheduled for this morning in Des Moines on Quandt, who neighbors said was a mild-mannered, pleasant man.

Long-time neighbor Dwight Maurer said it was nothing for Quandt to be out checking his cows at 10 p.m.

"He wouldn't hurt nobody," Maurer said. "I don't even think he owned a gun. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Sawvel and four others -- two males and two females from the Oelwein area -- were driving near Quandt's farm at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday when their car overturned into a ditch, Smith said. They walked to Quandt's farm, less than a mile away, for help.

"There was no indication they were going to steal his truck," Smith said. "Words ensued and everything escalated. It started from nothing."

Quandt, who lived by himself, was shot by Sawvel, Smith said. Sawvel and his companions then took Quandt's truck. Some members of the group -- which ranged in age from 22 to 25 years old -- were related to Sawvel.

The driver lost control of Quandt's truck about a mile from Quandt's farm because of icy conditions and the group jumped out. They then split up.

Two went to a nearby farmhouse, called the police and led them to Quandt's body. One walked to Arlington and got a ride back to Oelwein and two others got a ride back to Oelwein with a farmer, Smith said. Sawvel was arrested at his home.

The four individuals not charged were questioned individually for about 12 hours and then released, Smith said. No charges are pending against them.

The handgun allegedly used to shoot Quandt was recovered in a nearby wooded area, Smith said. It is unknown who owned the gun.

Sawvel was sentenced to five years in prison in 1994 on burglary and forgery charges in Buchanan County, the Buchanan County Clerk of Court said. He was charged with third-degree burglary, fourth-degree theft and forgery that year, but the theft charge was dropped.

One year earlier, he was charged with third-degree burglary and fourth-degree theft. The theft charge was dropped then as well.

Sawvel is on probation on two burglary charges and one forgery charge, said Mike Havenstrite, director of the First Judicial District Department of Correctional Services in Waterloo.

Havenstrite said according to DCS records, Sawvel was admitted to the Iowa Medical & Classification Center at Oakdale on April 27, 1994. He was released on probation, under DCS supervision, on Aug. 18 of that year -- not an uncommon occurrence for a property crime, Havenstrite said.

Sawvel subesquently violated his probation and was sent in June 1997 to the Riverview Release Center in Newton, where he underwent an "intensive, cognitive" program for probation violators, Havenstrite said. He was released from Newton in August and placed back on probation.

Smith said Sawvel had a record of minor traffic violations in Fayette County.

He faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

The fact Sawvel got out before he served his full time in jail for the burglary and forgery charges frustrates Roma Quandt, Gehlen Quandt's sister-in-law.

"Criminals are sometimes treated better than law-abiding citizens," she said.

She said her brother-in-law was one of eight siblings. Quandt, who owned nearly 400 acres, lived with his mother until she died a few years ago. He never married.

"He was well-known in the area," Roma Quandt said. "His neighbors would see him out and stop to talk."

Quandt raised cattle, soybeans, corn and hay.

"He just loved his animals," she said.

It has been at least 20 years since Fayette County has seen a murder, Smith said.

"We have a nice rural area up here, really," he said. "But something like this is bound to happen."

Services for Quandt are pending at Becker-Milnes Funeral Home in Fayette.

Courier Staff Writer Matthew Wilde and Courier Correspondent Joe Kasel contributed to this report.

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