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Former Iowa City insurance agent convicted in 1979 murder plot dies in prison

Robert Kern, 69, died of natural causes due to skin cancer

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FORT MADISON — A former Iowa City insurance agent serving a life sentence for his role in a 1979 murder plot has died, according to the Department of Corrections.

Robert L. Kern, 69, died Saturday of natural causes due to malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer. He had been assigned to Iowa State Penitentiary’s medical care unit. Kern had been serving a life sentence out of Cedar County for first-degree murder. His sentence began in 1979.

Kern, an insurance agent, was convicted of his role in the 1979 execution-style killing of West Branch man Ady Jensen, who was 39 at the time. Authorities said Kern conspired with his ex-wife Judy White and Jensen’s wife, Jeanne, to split a $50,000 life insurance policy taken out on Ady Jensen by his wife. Kern sold the police to Jeanne Jensen without her husband’s knowledge.

Judy White was convicted of first-degree murder and also given a life sentence. Jeanne Jensen cooperated with the prosecution and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a forcible felony and served less than five years.

An Illinois man accused of shooting Ady Jensen, Andrew Ogelvie, was acquitted in a separate trial in Scott County.

Kern applied for commutation in 2002 and 2013. After his 2002 application, the Iowa Board of Parole found that Kern hadn’t accepted responsibility for the crime and showed no remorse, prompting then-Gov. Tom Vilsack to deny the application. His application was again denied in 2013 by Gov. Terry Branstad.

Gazette reporter Trish Mehaffey contributed to this report.

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