A Jasper County jury found 26-year-old Michael D. Roney of Altoona, guilty of the September 2017 vehicular homicide of Colfax resident Jeremy C. O’Connor on Wednesday.
Roney was convicted on two counts of vehicular homicide, a case resulting from the death of the 27-year-old O’Connor. Roney was subsequently arrested inside Jasper County Courthouse by a Jasper County Sheriff deputy at about 3:45 p.m. with 15 other onlookers and District Court Judge Richard Clogg.
Roney subsequently arrested inside Jasper County Courthouse by a Jasper County Sheriff deputy at about 3:45 p.m. with 15 other onlookers and District Court Judge Richard Clogg.
Roney’s sentencing date is set for 9:30 a.m. April 2, said Clogg.
Tuesday featured testimony from the defendant, while the afternoon entered into jury instructions from Judge Clogg and the attorneys making their closing arguments. Assistant Jasper County Attorney Kelly Bennett argued in his closing statement the evidence overwhelmingly showed Roney’s guilt, from Roney blowing a 0.205 to the surveillance of Roney and O’Connor drinking at Thirsty Turtle, to drinking at the victim’s house beforehand.
“Nobody is suggesting that the defendant intentionally caused the death of Jeremy O’Connor. In fact, if he had intentionally caused the death of Jeremy O’Connor, we would be talking about a much different trial,” Bennett said. “He intentionally went down to the bar. The defendant intentionally drank a shot. The defendant intentionally consumed beer ... The defendant, instead of going home, intentionally got behind the wheel of a vehicle.
“In making all those conscious choices, those intentional acts put himself in a situation where he missed that turn and led to the death of Jeremy O’Connor,” Bennett added.
In the counter argument by Roney’s defense attorney Richard Phelps, the focus was on what investigators didn’t know: what happened inside the vehicle during the crash. Phelps also pointed to prior quotes from Roney that no one was in the car with him.
“He was adamant that there was nobody in the car. He mentioned that several times and he repeated it at the hospital,” Phelps said. “He very easily could’ve taken (a truck) and taken Jeremy back to his house and left him there and go to Altoona, even though he was (driving) in the wrong direction. He had never been to Colfax before and he got on Highway 117 instead of (F48, old Highway 6).”
Bennett countered by pointing out it was irrelevant as to whether or not Roney knew O’Connor was in the vehicle, and that the state of Iowa was not required to prove that. After wrapping up the closing arguments, the jury went into deliberation from 2:12 to 3:40 p.m.
Monday’s proceedings included Bennett playing the entire surveillance video of Roney’s time at the Thirsty Turtle bar in Colfax with O’Connor. While Iowa State Trooper Matthew Papin was on the stand, he was asked by Bennett to point out each time Roney could be seen inside the bar taking a drink of an alcoholic beverage, as well as any potential behavior that indicated possible intoxication or fatigue.
The surveillance video was played until Roney and O’Connor were seen exiting the bar at about 1:47 a.m. Papin’s testimony continued through the end of the day Monday.
Although they were seen drinking at the bar, documentation from the Iowa Alcohol and Beverage Division does show a complaint against Thirsty Turtle for allegedly over-serving Roney in this case was dismissed.
After testifying about Roney and O’Connor’s time at the bar, the topic of discussion shifted to the vehicle marks left in the ditch, specifically, off to the side of West 108th Street North. Using a toy car, a diagram of the road, pictures of tire tracks and a stop sign, Papin described what he was able to determine from the crime scene. Using the toy car, the officer showed the ways the vehicle, driven by Roney, flipped upside down while airborne as part of the crash.
“As it comes down on the driver’s side, then it goes into a roll,” Papin said. “It makes initial contact, makes the initial gouge, makes another contact here (to the ground), and in a roll, (the car) loses the trunk lid and other debris.
“The car clears corn stalks and lands on the driver’s side,” Papin added.
Monday afternoon concluded with Papin testifying to the descriptions of Roney’s damaged vehicle on the front and driver’s side.
The Newton Daily News previously reported O’Connor was killed after he was ejected from a vehicle in a rollover accident at the intersection of Highway 117 and West 108th Street North near Indian Creek south of Mingo.
The Iowa State Patrol reported O’Connor was pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators said the vehicle was traveling northbound on Highway 117 around 2:52 a.m. when it went off the pavement and struck the gravel road at West 108th Street North, causing it to overturn multiple times.
The vehicle came to rest on the driver’s side in a nearby cornfield.
Contact Orrin Shawl at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or firstname.lastname@example.org