Public Safety

Iowa City man charged in fatal I-80 crash is found competent to stand trial

Stephen Lucore pleads not guilty to 7 charges

Stephen D. Lucore
Stephen D. Lucore

IOWA CITY — An Iowa City man charged with intentionally driving the wrong way on Interstate 80 to kill himself last month and causing the death of a Texas man has been found competent to stand trial.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Jason Besler, after reviewing a mental evaluation, ruled Monday that Stephen D. Lucore, 32, charged with first-degree murder and other charges, was competent to stand trial. The judge ordered Lucore to undergo an evaluation after his defense attorney requested it, saying his client had a long history of “mental disorder.”

A few weeks before the June 16 fatal crash, Lucore was removed from a rooftop of a parking ramp before he could jump and was hospitalized, his lawyer said in arguing for the evaluation.

Besler lifted the stay on proceedings, which is normal procedure involving a competency issue, and Lucore was arraigned. He pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, homicide by vehicle, serious injury by vehicle and four counts of willful injury.

According to a criminal complaint, Lucore drove his Hyundai Sonata the wrong way on I-80 about 9:30 p.m. and caused a head-on collision with a Honda Pilot driven by David Sawyer, 31, of Frisco, Texas.

Sawyer’s passenger, Robert Sawyer, 64, of Nocona, Texas, died in the crash.

The complaint shows Lucore caused serious or bodily injury to David Sawyer and to others in Sawyer’s sport utility vehicle — Luz Mercedes Cuevas Gallardo, 58, and to “D.S.” and “L.S.,” as they are identified in the complaint.

Authorities said Lucore was driving without headlights on the darkened highway when his vehicle crashed into Sawyer’s vehicle between Tiffin and Oxford. Lucore said he was trying to kill himself, according to criminal complaints.

An Iowa State Patrol report showed Lucore was driving 80 mph at the time of the crash and was not wearing a seat belt.

At the time, Lucore was on probation for a domestic abuse conviction. A woman said Lucore sat on her while attempting to strangle her in August 2017, according to a criminal complaint. The woman told police he also covered her mouth and nose to prevent her from breathing.

Lucore was sentenced to two years of probation and received a deferred judgment in that case.

A probation revocation hearing is set for Nov. 18. Probation officials are recommending his probation be revoked and that he serve two years in prison, according to court documents.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Lucore faces life in prison without parole. He remains in jail on a $1 million bail.

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