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Witness: ‘He looked old and frail’

Jury selected, witnesses take stand as Pendleton trial gets underway

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Dan Thompson, of Fort Dodge, is a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, and was dropping his daughter off for confirmation class on Oct. 2, 2019, moments after the Rev. Al Henderson was allegedly attacked by murder defendant Joshua Pendleton. On Tuesday, Thompson, left, testified about reaching Henderson’s lifeless body and searching for signs of breathing or a pulse before paramedics arrived and took over.

DAVENPORT — Testimony in the trial of the man accused of killing the Rev. Al Henderson at St. Paul Lutheran Church on Oct. 2, 2019, began Tuesday in Davenport, with the jury from Scott County hearing from nine witnesses on the first day in the courtroom.

Joshua Pendleton, 37, of Fort Dodge, is being tried on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery. The trial is being held at the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport after the judge in the case had the trial venue moved when defense attorneys raised concern about pre-trial news media coverage.

The trial got started on Monday morning at the RiverCenter in Davenport with jury selection. By 5 p.m., a jury was impaneled — 12 jurors and three alternates — and the rest of the trial was moved to the courthouse.

Iowa Assistant Attorney General Doug Hammerand revealed in his opening statement that Pendleton was seen in a security video carrying a rope about six feet long just prior to the crime and had been carrying it for “a few weeks.”

He also said Pendleton had been using accents while speaking for several months.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
FDPD Capt. Dennis Quinn testifies during the first day of Joshua Pendleton’s murder trial in Davenport on Tuesday. In his testimony, Quinn stated that the night of the alleged crime, he could see that Fort Dodge Police Detective Larry Hedlund was “visibly upset” about the death of the Rev. Al Henderson, but that he had no concerns about Hedlund’s involvement in the case.

In the defense’s opening statement, attorney Alessandra Marcucci highlighted that there was no history between her client and Henderson — they did not know each other.

Marcucci also briefly laid out the defense’s plan to pursue an insanity defense, saying that Pendleton — who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia — was acting agitated and paranoid in the 24 hours before the crime.

“He believed Mr. Henderson was a bad man and he needed to stop him,” Marcucci told the jury.

She noted that during Pendleton’s interaction with police after the crime, his speech went “in and out of accent,” but he never wavered from his delusion.

The first witnesses were the first two people to find Henderson after he was attacked.

Erika Kasperbauer, of Fort Dodge, and her son, Hunter, 13, were in the church with Henderson that evening, preparing for that night’s confirmation class. Hunter Kasperbauer was studying for a confirmation test in the church’s fellowship hall while Erika Kasperbauer was making copies of papers for the class. When Hunter Kasperbauer was finished with his work, he left the room in search of Henderson. Looking out a small window in a back door of the church, Hunter Kasperbauer spotted Henderson’s body laying on the sidewalk and ran to get his mom.

Erika Kasperbauer ran out the back door to Henderson’s body. She said his face was “black and blue,” he had some marks on his forehead, there was blood coming from under his head and he was laying on his side.

“I considered Pastor Henderson as a tall, tough guy, and he looked old and frail,” Erika Kasperbauer said.

She also noted that Henderson regularly carried a handgun and it was on the side he was laying on.

Prior to discovering Henderson’s body, the Kasperbauers had heard Henderson’s voice loudly say, “What are you doing here? You don’t belong here,” but the two thought it had been the pastor joking with someone.

The jury also heard from Robyn Kratz, a teacher at St. Paul Lutheran School, who was leaving work around the time of the attack and had noticed Pendleton walking east on the sidewalk.

“He was mumbling to himself in a very angry tone,” she said. “I did say hello and it was just a (grunt sound). I could tell he wasn’t happy.”

It wasn’t until seeing Pendleton’s face on the news the next morning that Kratz knew who she had seen.

Jason Lumsden, alarm and security manager for Iowa Fire Control, testified that he arrived at the church that evening after being called in by law enforcement as he is the person who had installed the church’s security camera system and was able to access the video footage around the time of the attack.

Lumsden played the video onsite for the officers, who took notes and cell phone photos of the screen. He also put the video file on a thumbdrive and gave it to officers.

In responding to questioning from the prosecution, Lumsden affirmed that it is “impossible” to alter or tamper with the security video recordings.

The jury also heard from first responders who were on the scene that night in October 2019.

Sheanelle Rose, a paramedic with the Fort Dodge Fire Department, said that her unit dispatched to St. Paul at 5:46 p.m. that day. When they arrived, they found Henderson laying on the cement, “pale in color,” unresponsive and with no pulse. Emergency medical personnel attempted CPR before relocating the patient into the ambulance because it was raining and cold and for privacy, as more people began to gather at the church. Rose testified that despite exhaustive resuscitation efforts, the first responders were unable to obtain any vital signs and declared Henderson dead at 6:07 p.m.

Rose said when she arrived on the scene, she did not immediately recognize Henderson as the patient. She knew Henderson from his work as the Fire Department’s chaplain.

“I was focused on the job,” she said.

It wasn’t until later as more first responders arrived and others recognized Henderson that Rose realized who she was working on.

The first law enforcement officer on the scene was Fort Dodge Police Department Capt. Dennis Quinn, who was then a lieutenant. Quinn knew Henderson, as Henderson was also the chaplain for the Police Department.

Quinn testified that after he realized the victim was Henderson, he didn’t do anything other than his job, talking to witnesses and protecting the scene for investigators to do their work. He also testified that, to his knowledge, there are no local Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agents, adding that the closest is likely an hour away.

After officers on the scene were able to identify Pendleton from the security footage, several officers then went to Pendleton’s apartment, which was approximately two blocks east of the church. One of the officers at Pendleton’s apartment was Detective Larry Hedlund, who’s reported to have had a close relationship with Henderson.

Quinn testified that he could see that Hedlund was “visibly upset,” but he had no concerns about Hedlund’s involvement in the case.

FDPD Sgt. Evan Thompson, who was the lead investigator on the case, closed out the day of testimony on Tuesday.

He described the scene at the church as “hectic.”

“There was a lot of law enforcement there — both on duty and those who had been called off duty and were wearing plain clothing,” Thompson said.

Thompson also testified about a discrepancy on the security video footage from the church, noting that the time listed in the timestamp is approximately 14 minutes behind the actual time, so footage showing the time of 5:24 p.m. was actually taken at 5:38 p.m.

The last thing the jury heard before adjourning for the day was a five-minute video clip from Sgt. Zach Stanley’s body camera recording when officers first interacted with Pendleton outside the suspect’s apartment.

“That’s a bad man down there,” Pendleton can be heard saying, referring to the victim.

The trial will continue today with further testimony from Thompson, as well as testimony from FDPD patrolman Matt Webb and Iowa State Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Michelle Catellier.

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