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Pendleton requests change of venue

Murder trial may be moved to eastern Iowa

Joshua Pendleton

The defense for Joshua Pendleton, the man accused of killing the Rev. Al Henderson in October, motioned on Monday for a change of venue in the first-degree murder case headed to trial.

Pendleton was charged after Fort Dodge police say he killed Henderson, 64, in an Oct. 2 confrontation outside of St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Defense attorneys and state attorneys — who did not resist the motion — have agreed on Scott County’s District Court in Davenport, as the venue for the high-profile Webster County case.

Iowa criminal procedure rules allow for a change of venue when “such degree of prejudice exists … that there is substantial likelihood a fair and impartial trial cannot be preserved.”

The last Webster County first-degree murder trial, in which Tanner King was convicted in the 2018 murders of El Dominic and Marion Rhodes, was moved to Story County after finding an impartial jury pool proved a futile effort, with many potential jurors familiar with the extensive Messenger coverage of the case, Tanner King’s previous criminal convictions or the long list of witnesses entangled in the case.

But the issue of jury tampering in that case, presiding District Court Judge Kurt Stoebe said, was “probably the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Pendleton, charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery, was found competent to stand trial in June after being sent to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (Oakdale) in Coralville for several months, where he received evaluations and treatment.

In January, attorneys for the Fort Dodge man noted they had significant issues preparing for trial with the defendant, who had a documented history of untreated schizophrenia. Now awaiting trial at the Webster County Jail, further proceedings may not happen until at least September.

The Iowa Supreme Court, with an initial moratorium on criminal jury trials until July, extended its precautionary order until September due to looming COVID-19 concerns. A murder trial would require keeping a large number of potential jurors in a room for an extended period of time to conduct jury selection.

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