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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa City murder suspect found not guilty
CEDAR RAPIDS - A 12-member jury has found Brian Dykstra not guilty of killing his 21-month-old son in 2005.
If convicted, Dykstra, 35, could have faced up to 50 years in prison.
After hearing the verdict, Dykstra started weeping and buried his face in the shoulder of his attorney Leon Spies. Many of his supporters also started sobbing when the verdict was read, including his former wife, Lisa DeWaard.
“This means we can finally grieve our son,” a teary-eyed Lisa DeWaard said after hearing the not guilty verdict in her ex-husband's trial. “It's been six very very long years.”
The 12 jurors – eight women and four men – chosen to deliberate Brian Dykstra's fate started their discussions about 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Dykstra was arrested in August 2008 – three years after Isaac died on Aug. 14, 2005, at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics with severe head injuries including brain swelling, brain and retinal hemorrhaging and a hematoma.
Dykstra called 911 on Aug. 13, 2005, and hung up, according to police and trial testimony. When an operator called back, Dykstra said his son had suffered a seizure and was struggling to breathe. When paramedics arrived, they found Isaac unconscious in the living room with severe bruising all over his body and significant head trauma.
Dykstra told doctors and investigators that Isaac had fallen down two stairs on Aug. 10 and that he believed the injuries progressed over the next few days. He said no traumatic event preceded his 911 call on Aug. 13, but rather he was washing dishes in the kitchen when he heard his son cry and then watched him pass out.
Several doctors who treated Isaac said the boy's injuries were so severe that they had to have occurred shortly before he was hospitalized and had to have involved blunt force trauma – like slamming or shaking.
But Dykstra testified that he would never hurt his child, and his former wife and several friends told jurors that he was a gentle and loving father.
Dykstra's defense attorney presented medical experts who said that, although rare, children have been known to die from short falls. The defense also hinted that Isaac, who was adopted just a few months earlier from an orphanage in Russia, might have had unknown medical issues that were not fully disclosed.
During closing arguments in Dystra's trial, Assistant Johnson County Attorney Anne Lahey told jurors that prosecutors didn't have to prove how Dykstra killed his son – whether he slammed him or shook him - they had to prove only that he inflicted the fatal injuries, and Lahey reminded jurors that several University of Iowa doctors said the severe injuries only could have occurred shortly before Isaac was hospitalized, when he was in the sole care of his father.
But Dykstra's defense attorney told jurors that even the Iowa Medical Examiner couldn't say for sure whether Isaac's death was a murder or accident. And, he said, any doubts had to be resolved in his client's favor.
“The evidence was clear that Brian was not the kind of man or father who would kill a child they worked so hard to have in their family,” Spies said after the verdict Thursday. “It was a nightmare compounded too long.”
After the verdict was read, Dykstra declined to comment.
“Oh my gosh,” he said under his breath.