MAQUOKETA, Iowa — Jurors on Wednesday found a Dubuque man guilty of second-degree murder for killing a Bellevue resident.
The 12 jurors returned the verdict against Drew A. Mangler, 24, after about eight and a half hours of deliberation at the Jackson County Courthouse in Maquoketa. They found that he killed James Remakel, 59, on Dec. 19, 2016, at his Bellevue home. His body was found on Christmas Day.
Mangler’s trial started on Feb. 4. The conviction came on a lesser, included charge after Mangler originally was charged with first-degree murder. A conviction on the first-degree charge triggers an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole, while second-degree murder carries a 50-year prison term, with eligibility for parole after 35 years.
Mangler’s sentencing hearing is set for March 22.
“It hurts,” said Kathy Remakel-Paki, Remakel’s niece, of jurors finding Mangler guilty of a lesser count. “It’s not what we went for. It’s not what we wanted. But there’s a killer off the streets.”
During the trial, a medical expert testified that Remakel bled to death after he received 32 slash and stab wounds.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Andrew Prosser said Mangler forced his way into Remakel’s home and killed him for money and drugs.
Prosser said authorities were suspicious of Mangler within days of the killing, though Mangler was not arrested until May 2018.
He said Mangler was with friends in Bellevue on the day of the murder and disappeared for a long period of time. When Mangler returned, he had a large amount of money and some prescription drugs.
Earlier on that day, Mangler was asking friends to borrow money because he was broke, but the next day, the man spent $160 on a snowboard and gambled at a Dubuque casino.
Prosser said Mangler, who used to work for Remakel, knew that the man kept a lot of cash at his house and was disabled.
Authorities received a warrant to search Mangler’s Dubuque home in April. They found a shoe with Remakel’s blood on it, and the pair of shoes was consistent with footwear impressions at the crime scene.
Defense attorney Derek Jones argued in closing statements that investigators failed to properly investigate two other potential suspects, including a man who claimed on Facebook that he killed Remakel.
Jones also noted that LouAnn Scheckel, then of Bellevue Pharmacy, made a delivery to Remakel’s home on Dec. 20, 2016 — the day after police said the man was killed — and saw no indications that a crime had occurred. That cast doubt on when Remakel was killed, Jones said.
Jurors started their deliberations Tuesday afternoon, but after failing to reach a verdict by 4:30 p.m., they returned at 9 a.m. Wednesday. They returned a verdict at about 2 p.m.
“Justice was done,” said Assistant County Attorney Amanda Lassance, who assisted Prosser on the case.
Jones did not respond to an email seeking comment on the verdict.
Family seeks closure
Jeff Remakel, a nephew of James Remakel, also said he would have liked to have seen Mangler convicted of first-degree murder.
“We’re glad to have closure on it and glad it’s justice finally being served,” he said.
Jeff Remakel and his sister Kathy Remakel-Paki said the 17 months spent waiting for an arrest in their uncle’s death, as well as the uncertainty of the court process, was very difficult.
Remakel-Paki said Mangler ripped their family apart with his actions. She said her uncle was killed in the house where he and her father, Rick Remakel, were raised.
“That’s my hometown. That’s the house my dad grew up in,” she said. “(Mangler) came into my family’s safe space and rocked our world.”