Van Helmert Trial Update

The defense began presenting its case Thursday afternoon (4/11) in Luke Van Hemert’s murder trial in Oskaloosa.  Van Hemert is charged with second degree murder in the death of William Penn University basketball player Marquis Todd.  The only defense witness to testify Thursday was Elijah Marcus, a friend of Van Hemert who was at the Van Hemert home when Todd was killed.  Marcus testified that on the night of the killing, a car he was riding in with Van Hemert and Jeffrey Beard was struck by a car driven by William Penn basketball player Michael Donaldson.  After that accident, according to Marcus, Donaldson left the scene of the accident, then returned at which time he (Marcus) broke Donaldson’s windshield with a tree branch.  Marcus went on to testify that Donaldson again left the scene, only to return with his teammates D’Angelo Allen and Todd.  At that time, an altercation broke out during the course of which, Todd was allegedly stabbed by Van Hemert.  Marcus testified that he didn’t see the stabbing because he was in a fight with Allen or Donaldson.  Marcus wound up with a swollen eye, a fat lip and a sore back.  But when questioned twice by law enforcement, Marcus never mentioned his back injury.  Nor did he say he had hit Donaldson’s car with the tree branch.  Marcus admitted to hitting the car during a deposition with defense attorneys last week.  Marcus also said he did not call police and admitted he had compared notes on the incident with Van Hemert’s father.

Earlier today, the prosecution rested its case.  In Thursday morning’s (4/11) testimony, prosecutors played an interview between Van Hemert and Iowa DCI special agent Don Schnitker following Todd’s death.  Van Hemert said during a confrontation between himself, his father and friend Elijah Marcus against Todd and two other William Penn basketball players, Van Hemert had been pushed down and was scared.  Prior to the confrontation, vehicles driven by Van Hemert and one of Todd’s friends had been involved in a minor accident.
Later,Dr. Dennis Klein from the State Medical Examiners Office testified that Todd died from a stab wound to the chest and his death was at the hands of another person. Klein added there were no injuries to his hands or other signs Todd had been in a fight.


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