NEVADA, Iowa — Cheryl Farrington will take some solace knowing that the man who shot and killed her daughter last year inside the Coral Ridge Mall will spend the rest of his days in prison.
“We will keep smiling the way Andrea did,” she said, who along with other family members and friends donned “Justice Has Been Served” T-shirts to talk with reporters. “She was bubbly and full of life and had an infectious smile and attitude. I have no doubt she is here today, looking down on us.”
After trial testimony that consumed a week and a half, jurors needed only about 90 minutes Monday to find Alexander Kozak, 23, guilty of first-degree murder in the June 12, 2015 shooting.
The former mall security guard shot Andrea Farrington, 20, three times in the back as she worked in the welcome center outside the Iowa Children’s Museum at the Coralville mall.
Testimony showed that even though the two exchanged hundreds of text messages, their relationship never turned physical. Nonetheless, Kozak’s defense asserted he suffered from mental disorders that caused him to snap when Farrington called that off and argued for conviction on a lesser count.
Cheryl Farrington was among the family members who broke down in the courtroom when the first-degree murder verdict was read. Across the aisle, Kozak’s mother Cyndy McComas, his sisters and his wife Kellie Kozak were also crying, knowing he faces life in prison.
For his part, Kozak didn’t have any visible reaction to the verdict. He looked straight into the eyes of a deputy who handcuffed him and led him from the room.
The jury got the case about 2:30 p.m. Monday. The verdict was read aloud about 4:05 p.m.
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Kozak will be sentenced June 6 in Johnson County District Court. A first-degree murder charge carries a punishment of life in prison without parole.
Talking with reporters after the verdict, Cheryl Farrington said she wanted to thank the Johnson County Attorney’s Office, law enforcement investigators, victim advocates and the people of Story County, where the trial was moved on a change of venue because of publicity.
And she wanted to thank the mall shooting witnesses who worked, albeit in vain, to save her daughter that night.
She hugged one of them — Dorian Potter — after she spoke with the media.
Potter, a former Army medic who was working at the mall that day, testified about making bandages out of trash bags and tape in an attempt to stop bleeding from the gunshot wounds.
Parrish said that Kozak’s “family is devastated. This was a horrific end. It’s sad for everyone.”
Jurors didn’t stop for the media. They quickly left the courthouse after talking with 6th Judicial District Judge Christopher Bruns.
Earlier in the day during closing arguments to the jury, Lyness said bluntly said that Kozak was “jealous and angry, and he killed her.”
Lyness asked the jury to look at the evidence and use common sense. She urged jurors to consider the testimony of that state’s experts, who said Koza’s mental or personality disorder didn’t prevent him planning and carrying out his mission.
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She also noted that a diagnosis of “intermittent explosive disorder” put forth by defense’s expert witness Dr. William Logan didn’t meet the criteria of the disorder because Kozak had no previous outbursts of violence.
Lyness argued that Kozak had recounted for investigators in great detail what had happened that fateful day and what was going through his mind. He said he was “terrified” about what he was doing, but the feeling he had for the past few months took over and he didn’t care.
He said Farrington was right to be fearful of him.
Lyness played part of a police interview recording where Kozak called the killing “premeditated murder.”
Parrish said there was no dispute that Kozak shot and killed Farrington.
But e argued that jurors must decide “to what degree Kozak is responsible.”
“This isn’t first- or second-degree murder. It’s a crime of passion,” he said, asking them to consider voluntary manslaughter, which carries a 10-year sentence. “You have to remove the sympathy and drill in on the evidence of this case.
Parrish said nobody was arguing Kozak was insane.
“We’re saying his responsibility is less because of his mental condition,” Parrish said. “The evidence points towards passion.”
Parrish spent much of his closing argument showing text messages between Farrington and Kozak. He said she was batting him “back and forth like a pingpong until he snapped.”
On rebuttal, Lyness said just because Parrish described it as “snapping” doesn’t mean a mental disorder caused it.
Kozak was captured on Interstate 80 as he fled from the mall that evening, and has been in custody since.