A Washington, Iowa, man facing a first-degree murder charge after authorities say he followed through on a macabre to-do list — “Kill Ed,” it said — was found guilty of murdering his brother-in-law nearly 30 years ago before the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the conviction.
Clarence D. Pedersen, 64, was charged Thursday in Washington County District Court with killing his roommate, Ed Jones, 70. He was ordered held in jail on a $1 million cash-only bail.
He had been taken into custody about 10 p.m. Wednesday after Washington police were called to look into a suspicious death at his apartment earlier that day.
According to a criminal complaint, Pedersen left the apartment early Wednesday to get coffee and cigarettes. He stopped by the office of Optimae Life Service, which provides services to people with disabilities and mental illnesses. He spoke there with his caretaker, who later told police she was preparing to go to his apartment to take him breakfast.
Pedersen and the caretaker headed to Pedersen’s home. When they arrived, the caretaker went inside — Pedersen stayed outside — where she discovered Jones and called police, the complaint said.
When investigators arrived, they found Jones “seated in a living room recliner chair, fully clothed, dressed for work, wearing his employment name tag,” according to the complaint.
He had an apparent stab wound on his upper torso. A bloodied Buck-brand hunting knife was found on his lap.
Jones had missed his bus and didn’t show up at his place of employment, the complaint said.
While interviewing Pedersen, investigators showed him a picture of the knife. Pedersen admitted owning one similar in appearance. Authorities said in the complaint that an empty Buck-brand knife sheath was found in his car and “apparent blood” was found on the right and left sleeves of his shirt.
During a search of Pedersen’s apartment, investigators said they found two notes in a lock box in his bedroom. The first said “Kill Ed.” The second said, “Kill Yourself. Suicide.”
This is the second time Pedersen has been accused of murder.
In 1979, Pedersen was convicted of first-degree murder for shooting his brother-in-law, Kent M. Nelson, 28, of Herman, Neb., in the head with a shotgun, according to articles in The Gazette.
At the time, Pedersen was living on a Pottawattamie County farm with his parents. Court documents showed Nelson was asleep in a sleeping bag in front of the fireplace at the home when Pedersen shot him.
At trial, Pedersen refused legal help and represented himself. A jury found him guilty.
Pedersen appealed. In 1981, the Iowa Supreme Court found he was mentally unfit to represent himself and overturned the conviction.
The ruling said Pedersen’s history included living in “mental institutions, use of controlled substances, mutilation of livestock and a nomad existence.”
If convicted now of first-degree murder, he faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
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