Russell denied new trial
Judge: Evidence of guilt in case was 'overwhelming'
A Fort Dodge man convicted of first-degree murder has been denied a new trial by a district court judge.
Mark Russell, 31, was convicted of first-degree murder in February for the Jan. 20, 2020, killing of 45-year-old Angela McLeod at a residence in Fort Dodge. He was set to be sentenced on Monday, but last week filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the jury’s verdict is contrary to the evidence in the case that the defense believes shows Russell acted in self-defense.
Instead, on Monday a hearing was held for the parties to argue their positions.
“Our arguments are in the motion, that the verdict is contrary to the law and the evidence as the evidence would support a not guilty verdict based on self defense,” said Wendy Samuelson, one of Russell’s attorneys. “Or in the alternative, that the evidence would support the verdict for voluntary manslaughter.”
Assistant Webster County Attorney Brad McIntyre disagreed, arguing that the state provided “overwhelming evidence” in support of the guilty verdict.
By Monday afternoon, Webster County District Court Judge Angela Doyle issued her ruling, denying Russell’s motion for a new trial.
Doyle noted the conflicting evidence of the self-defense claim presented at trial.
At trial, McLeod’s daughter, Melissa McKinley, testified that McLeod and Russell had been arguing on the morning of Jan. 20, 2020, and that at some point, McLeod picked up a golf club and cocked it back behind her head as if to swing it at Russell. However, she testified, she didn’t ever see McLeod actually swing the club at Russell.
The defendant’s actions and later statements to law enforcement helped provide “overwhelming” evidence of his guilt, Doyle wrote.
“[Russell] said he hit McLeod three times on the head while she was on the floor, stating he ‘cracked her, boom, right on the head, boom, teach her a couple…'” Doyle wrote, referring to statements Russell had made to former Fort Dodge Police Detective Evan Thompson. “Defendant also told Detective Thompson that while he and McLeod were arguing, for about five minutes, defendant was thinking ‘I’m about to kill this girl’ and ‘I’m just about to choke her out.'”
Dr. Dennis Klein, the state medical examiner, had also testified during the trial that McLeod died of blunt force injuries of the head, and he estimated there had been at least seven different individual blows or impacts to the victim’s head.
In Doyle’s 13-page ruling, she also rescheduled Russell’s sentencing hearing for April 3.