Public Safety

Judge moves trial date for man accused of killing Susan Kersten

Trial continued until spring 2016

Steven Klein speaks with his attorneys at the Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City on Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (Adam We
Steven Klein speaks with his attorneys at the Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City on Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The trial for the man accused of killing Susan Kersten 20 years ago won’t happen until the spring at the earliest.

Steven Klein, 54, appeared before a judge briefly Friday afternoon to discuss matters related to his first-degree murder trial. Currently scheduled to go to trial on Nov. 3, Judge Chad Kepros noted with the amount of work attorneys have yet to do in that case, that trial date wouldn’t work.

“My thought is that I continue the trial until spring and indicate we will review matters at that time,” said Kepros, noting that a further continuance is possible, if not likely. He said he would set a new trial date for April or May.

Klein is accused of killing Kersten on Sept. 24, 1995. Her body was found in a burned out car outside of Iowa City, but authorities quickly determined she was killed by several blows to the head. Klein was a person of interest from the beginning of the investigation, but was not arrested until earlier this summer.

His arrest came at the conclusion of a visit from the cable television program Cold Justice, which investigates cold murder cases with local authorities. Klein was arrested on July 17, 10 days after the TV arrived in Johnson County.

At a hearing prior to the airing of the Kersten episode of Cold Justice, Klein’s attorneys argued they should be told what new evidence led to their client’s arrest. The episode revealed one of Kersten’s cousins recalled being on the phone with Kersten around 8 p.m., Sept. 24 when she heard shouting and the line went dead. That changed the timeline for investigators and led them to eliminate another potential suspect.

Friday’s hearing was the first since the episode aired. There was no mention of the TV program during the brief hearing.

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Also during the hearing, the state said they would make arrangements to allow the defense to examine and photograph state evidence. They also said they would withdraw an earlier motion to squash a subpoena. No ruling was made on the defense’s motion for a bill of particulars, which would require the state to detail their case.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Klein would spend the rest of his life in prison.

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