A Dubuque man accused of fatally stabbing his girlfriend last year has been found guilty of second-degree murder.

Fontae C. Buelow, 25, stood quietly and showed little emotion as District Court Judge Monica Zrinyi Wittig read the jury’s verdict. The decision came after nearly 12 hours of deliberations that stretched over two days.

He also was convicted of possessing cocaine.

Buelow initially was charged with first-degree murder in the March 31 stabbing death of Samantha J. Link, 21, of Peosta, Iowa. Second-degree murder is a lesser-included charge.

Throughout the investigation and trial, Buelow has claimed that Link stabbed herself after assaulting him.

More than 60 people packed the courtroom, with several law enforcement officers stationed around the room. Before the decision was read, Zrinyi Wittig urged the crowd to remain calm, no matter the verdict.

“I understand this is very emotional,” she said.

Zrinyi Wittig told Buelow his sentencing hearing would be set for a later date. The charge is punishable by 50 years in prison, and it would be 35 years before he is eligible for parole.

Attorneys for Buelow and prosecutors declined to comment after the hearing. Link’s family and friends quickly exited the courtroom after the verdict.

Attempts to reach Link’s parents after the hearing were not immediately successful.

Buelow’s trial stretched over seven days of testimony at the Dubuque County Courthouse. Law enforcement officials, pathologists, crime lab experts and witnesses all took the stand, describing the night leading up to Link’s death and the immediate aftermath.

Law enforcement personnel described their response to the scene, which they immediately suspected to be a homicide.

Officers arrived at 870 Kane St. at about 2:20 a.m. March 31 and found Link lying in the kitchen. She was pronounced dead at 2:32 a.m.

In her closing statements, Assistant Dubuque County Attorney Brigit Barnes said many parts of Buelow’s claim that Link killed herself don’t add up. One is that he consistently told officers Link stabbed herself once and fell over.

“One thing you can be asking yourself is, how is it that Fontae Buelow got on the stand and he can’t tell us how one stab wound to the stomach turned into three in her chest?” Barnes told jurors Thursday. “That does not make sense.”

Barnes also pointed out that a bloody chef’s knife was found about 10 feet away from Link’s body, and Buelow had blood spatter on his shirt, even though he told police he only touched Link to try to find a pulse.

She also said his demeanor while talking to police was not that of a concerned boyfriend.

Buelow’s attorney Sue Hess told jurors that a defense pathologist believed the evidence showed Link killed herself. Dr. Brad Randall noted that cuts on Link’s hands — described as defensive wounds by a medical examiner — actually are more consistent with wounds she’d sustain stabbing herself.

Hess said neither Buelow’s DNA nor his fingerprints were found on the bloody knife.

“(Link’s) death was not caused by our client, and the state did not prove that it was,” Hess told jurors Thursday.

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