Public Safety

Trial for man accused of killing woman over stolen purse is reset to May

Zackary Ildefonso (from left) talks with his attorney, David Grinde, before a case management hearing at Linn County District Court in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. Ildefonso is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, trafficking stolen weapons and possession of a firearm by a felon in the November 20, 2017 death of Heidi Stephens. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Zackary Ildefonso (from left) talks with his attorney, David Grinde, before a case management hearing at Linn County District Court in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. Ildefonso is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, trafficking stolen weapons and possession of a firearm by a felon in the November 20, 2017 death of Heidi Stephens. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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Zackary Ildefonso, 24, of Cedar Rapids, is accused of fatally shooting a woman and also trying to shoot at her friend when they confronted him about her stolen purse. He is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, trafficking stolen weapons and possession of a firearm by a felon.

A criminal complaint shows Heidi Stephens, 33, and Andrew Shank, 27, confronted Ildefonso at 1515 Second Ave. SE on Nov. 20, 2017, about Stephens’ stolen purse. Ildefonso then pulled out a Smith and Wesson .357 revolver and shot at Stephens and Shank, according to the complaint.

“The defendant admitted he used the weapon to shoot at both Stephens and Shank, but claimed he fired because he thought Shank might have a knife in his possession,” according to the complaint.

Authorities said one shot hit Stephens in the back of her neck. Ildefonso ran from the scene, but police received a tip about his whereabouts, leading to his arrest on Nov. 24, 2017. Police said when Ildefonso was arrested, he had the revolver used in the shooting. Police said the handgun was stolen, and Ildefonso admitted taking it.

Medical personnel provided aid to Stephens after the shooting, but her brother said she was declared brain dead two days later. She was kept on life support until Nov. 24 so her organs could be donated.

“She was a very giving person, and I know that’s what she’d want,” her brother, Trent Hoppe of Waterloo, told The Gazette after the arrest. “If we can prolong someone else’s life, then please, so be it.”

What’s happened since

Ildefonso, who plans to claim self-defense, asked a judge not to allow his Nov. 24 statements to police at trial because he didn’t knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waive his rights, and police continued to question him after he asked for a lawyer.

The defense argued Ildefonso wasn’t in the “appropriate mental state” to waive his rights. Ildefonso has diagnoses of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and poly substance abuse, according to court documents.

Ildefonso has been prescribed medications to help with his mental health issues, but on the day of the interview, he told an investigator that he hadn’t taken the medication, his lawyer, David Grinde, said in the motion.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Ian Thornhill denied the motion, ruling that Ildefonso waived his rights and agreed to talk with police. Thornhill pointed out the investigator who questioned Ildefonso had many years of experience, and it didn’t appear to him that Ildefonso was under the influence of any substances.

Ildefonso told police he last used methamphetamine four days earlier and smoked marijuana the night before the interview, according to the ruling.

During the interview, Ildefonso provided information about the shooting, Thornhill said in his ruling. At times, he refused to answer questions that might incriminate others.

At one point, Ildefonso said he felt like the investigator was trying to corner him into admitting certain things, according to the ruling. Ildefonso said “if that’s the case, I need an attorney.”

The investigator then asked if he wanted to continue talking or if he wanted representation, the ruling shows. Ildefonso said he wanted to talk. He even was allowed to call his mother. Either she or someone else on the phone advised Ildefonso to get a lawyer and not talk.

According to the ruling, Ildefonso didn’t ask for a lawyer or end the interview after he got off the phone. Throughout, Ildefonso freely talked about the shooting, and many of his statements were consistent with his claimed justification defense, Thornhill noted.

In watching video of the interview, Thornhill determined it was the defendant’s “free and conscious choice” to answer questions. He wasn’t coerced and had been properly advised of his rights, he added.

Ildefonso’s trial was reset last month after the defense and prosecution said depositions had not yet been taken of experts and it wasn’t possible before the Nov. 5 trial date.

His trial now is set for May 20. Ildfonso remains in jail on a $1 million bail. If convicted of first-degree murder, Ildefonso faces life in prison without parole.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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