Luke VanHemert, 24, stands trial in Mahaska County, Iowa for the death of Marquis Todd, 22. He could spend up to 50 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.
The case stems from a fight on March 1, 2018, according to an affidavit obtained by Law&Crime. Police in the city of Oskaloosa said that there was a minor car crash in front of VanHermert’s home. This involved a silver vehicle. It left, and returned to the scene three times before the homicide, the defense said. The victim and two others got into an altercation with VanHermert and two other people, cops said.
The defendant stabbed Todd, who was pronounced dead at the Mahaska Health Partnership emergency room.
VanHemert’s legal team said he did it in self-defense.
“The incident that led to this charge was an act of self-defense, which occurred on the defendant’s property, after the alleged victim left the scene of the first confrontation and later returned,” said a motion obtained by The Des Moines Register.
According to the defense opening statement, Todd wasn’t a passenger in the silver vehicle during the crash. The driver allegedly picked up Todd and another friend so they could confront VanHemert.
They previously tried and failed to nix the prosecution under Iowa’s “Stand Your Ground” law. A judge ruled that unlike Florida’ version of the statute, Iowa’s did not establish the ability to obtain a pretrial hearing to determine immunity from charges.
Todd was a college student, and played basketball at William Penn University. His death left his coaches and teammates reeling.
William Penn University basketball player Marquis Todd was a 6-foot-9-inch tall center on the court. He always had a big smile and an even bigger heart: https://t.co/nPtqM18wQN pic.twitter.com/fKAdCk4Rrm
— KCCI News (@KCCINews) March 4, 2018
“Never would a kid die on my watch–and it happened,” Todd’s coach John Henry told KCCI in an emotional interview.
Note: Edited to reflect that according to the opening, Todd wasn’t a passenger of the silver vehicle during the crash.
[Mugshot via Mahaska County Sheriff’s Office]