Franklin gets 15 years for Sapp’s death, drug charges
A Newton man who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the Nov. 12, 2011 death of Mingo teen Shasta Sapp was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday in Jasper County District Court.
Judge Randall Hefner ruled Wyatt A. Franklin, 20, will serve a maximum of 5 years in prison for the crime of involuntary manslaughter (a class D felony). The court also revoked the probation Franklin was serving during the time of Sapp’s death. He received a deferred judgment in September 2011 on controlled substance violations. Franklin has been ordered to serve maximum 10- and five-year sentences concurrently for the drug convictions. They will run consecutively with his sentence for involuntary manslaughter. The judge’s sentence mirrored the recommendation given by the state and Jasper County Attorney Mike Jacobsen.
Sapp, 19, was found unresponsive at 866 W. 120th St. S. in Colfax during the afternoon of Nov. 12, 2011, and later pronounced dead at Skiff Medical Center. Witnesses told authorities that Sapp, Franklin and friends were attending a party at the residence the night prior to her death, and party attendees left her unattended after she passed out. A toxicology report released Dec. 21, 2011 as part of the autopsy performed by the state medical examiner’s office revealed an oxymorphone overdose as the official cause of Sapp’s death.
A second man linked to the case, then 21-year-old Jason Bissell of Colfax, is accused of providing Sapp with alcohol at the party and has been charged with supplying alcohol to a minor. Court records indicate that he is scheduled to see trial on Aug. 13.
After the initial investigation, Jasper County Sheriff Mike Balmer said toxicology reports showed Sapp did not have alcohol in her system when screened by medical examiners, and the charges against Bissell were based on eyewitness accounts that Sapp had been drinking prior to her death. The department believed the alcohol in her system metabolized prior to the autopsy.
A copy of the state medical examiner’s report obtained by the Newton Daily News shows the victim’s body had elevated levels of oxymorphone, as well as, caffeine and naloxone. Tests for alcohol were negative, although the examiner wrote “earlier, the decedent (Sapp) had reportedly been drinking alcohol and self-administering pills.” Sapp’s parents, Linda and Randall Sapp have contested the witnesses’ allegations that Shata Sapp was drinking and willingly taking the narcotics.
The medical examiner noted during the autopsy that Sapp’s lower lip had two lacerations, and several phrases had been written on her body with green marker including “Property of Wyatt” on her right buttock.
Franklin received court-ordered substance abuse treatment at a Mt. Pleasant facility as a condition of his $35,000 bond, and he was released from the Jasper County Jail on Jan. 12. Online court records show that he received further substance abuse counseling at Capstone Behavioral Healthcare Inc. in Newton since returning from Mt. Pleasant.
Franklin originally entered a plea of not guilty to the involuntary manslaughter charge on Jan. 9.
The court has ordered Franklin to pay $150,000 in restitution to the victim’s parents, Linda and Randall Sapp, for damages and expenses incurred as a result of their daughter’s death. He is also ordered to pay the Sapp family and additional $3,204.35 related medical and ambulance expense.
The victim’s parents, grandparents and brother were in the court room Monday as Franklin’s sentence was handed down. Judge Hefner gave Franklin a chance to address the court and the defendant quietly apologized for his actions which led to the teen’s death.
“I never meant for any of this to happen,” Fanklin told the court. “That girl didn’t deserve that at all, by any means ... If I could trade places with her I would, you know? I lose sleep sometimes when I still see her face ... I’d like to apologize to her family.”
Fanklin’s lawyer Sean Spellman informed Judge Hefner moments before the sentence was issued that his client would like to be granted a continuance for Monday’s hearing after recently learning his father was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The judge denied Franklin’s request.
Franklin was detained in the Jasper County Jail Monday night and today will be transported to the Iowa Department of Corrections’ Oakdale processing center for evaluation before a permanent prison placement is confirmed.
He will be eligible for parole after one third of his time in both sentences are served. Franklin has been given 30 days to appear the district court’s sentence, and his bail upon appeal has been set at $100,000.
Mike Mendenhall can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.