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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Update: Judge refuses to dismiss murder charges in Dykstra trial
Johnson County attorneys prosecuting Brian Dykstra in the 2005 death of his 21-month-old son rested their case Friday afternoon, and Dykstra's defense attorney immediately asked the judge to find his client not guilty of second-degree murder.
“We have nothing here but mystery,” defense attorney Leon Spies told Judge Patrick Grady. “It cannot be said that the fatal injuries were inflicted out of malice, as opposed to by accident.”
Assistant District Attorney Anne Lahey disagreed and said that numerous doctors testified that Isaac Dykstra had to have suffered the injuries that took his life on Aug. 13, 2005 – the day his dad called 911 and he was rushed to the hospital.
Dykstra told police that his son fell down two stairs days earlier, and he didn't explain what happened Aug. 13 that preceded Isaac's hospitalization.
“There were devastating internal injuries in Isaac's head caused by a malicious act such as shaking, slamming or a combination of both,” Lahey said.
Grady declined to make an immediate ruling in the case, finding that there is evidence that Dykstra killed his son “with malice and forethought” due to the nature of his injuries.
“A rational juror could conclude that the injuries occurred while he was in the sole care of the defendant,” Grady said. “And the injuries show malice, and that there was a fixed purpose to do harm.”
The 14 jurors hearing Dykstra's second-degree murder trial, which started Monday, got to hear details about the events preceding Isaac's death from Dykstra himself for the first time Friday.
In a videotaped interview that Dyktra gave police on Aug. 13, 2005, Dykstra said his son awoke around the same time he always does that day but was yawning all morning.
“You never think of these things until now,” Dykstra told an Iowa City investigator in the recorded interview that was played Friday for the jury.
Dykstra told the detective that Isaac had fallen down two steps three days earlier and hit his head. He said the child suffered a bruise on his cheek and on his ear and a bump on his head that turned “mushy” over the next few days.
He said Isaac was a bit fussier after the fall, but he was mostly himself, according to the taped interview. Dykstra told the investigator that on the morning of Aug. 13, his son was just sitting in the hallway, feeling his head and watching TV.
“Normally he was all playing, and he was just sitting there,” Dykstra said. “He just wasn't his normal self.”
Dykstra said he was in the kitchen washing dishes a few hours later when he heard Isaac cry, according to the interview. Dykstra said he found his son lying on the ground, crying “like he bumped his head again.”
Dykstra said Isaac appeared to be struggling to breathe, and at one point he “did a little bit of CPR,” according to the interview. Because the child was laboring to breathe, Dykstra said he called 911 but hung up.
“He seemed to be coming out of it,” Dykstra said.
When a 911 operator called back, Dykstra said someone should probably come help.
“I thought, ‘You know what, I don't trust myself,'” he said in the interview. “I want someone here.”
Isaac was pronounced brain dead on Aug. 14 after suffering a hematoma, hemorrhaging, retinal bleeding and brain swelling. Investigators immediately considered the death suspicious, but they didn't arrest Dykstra until three years later in August 2008.
He has appeared all week with a small group of family members and friends supporting him. He has dressed in suits every day and shown little emotion.
His defense is expected to begin Monday.