Murder suspect rejects plea deal

A Marshalltown man will face a murder trial and a potential lifetime sentence after he rejected a plea deal with the state, and a judge denied a motion to dismiss his charges.

Jeremy Gartin is accused of fatally shooting David Warnell, a Garwin man whose body was found in the basement of Gartin’s Marshalltown home on Oct. 1.

He is charged with first-degree murder, abuse of a corpse and carrying a concealed weapon.

The state offered this week a plea deal which would have lowered the charge to second-degree murder, which carries a 50 year prison sentence, with a 35 year mandatory minimum sentence. That offer was declined by Gartin.

If convicted, he faces a lifetime sentence without parole.

On Friday, Judge James Ellefson overruled the defense’s motion to dismiss charges because the motion is improper under the Iowa Rules of Criminal Procedure, he said.

Gartin’s attorneys, Paul Rounds and Michelle Wolf, of the Story County Public Defender’s Office, had argued the state had established a pattern of misconduct in the case. Those allegations included restrictions to evidence and search warrants and abuse of material witness warrants.

Ellefson said the defense failed to show prejudice in any of its allegations.

Another motion from the defense, to suppress evidence, is still under review by Ellefson. He plans to file a written decision on the matter, which alleges law enforcement improperly seized Gartin’s cell phone.

Friday’s hearing also included much discussion about motions in limine, or requests for Ellefson to determine what testimony can be included at trial.

The case is being prosecuted by Marshall County Attorney Jennifer Miller and Douglas Hammerand, the state’s assistant attorney general.

Police opened an investigation after a confidential informant reported to police he received a voicemail from Gartin, who said he’d shot someone, according to search warrant documents.

Court records indicate Gartin shot Warnell in the head following a drug deal dispute.

Gartin and Max Nelson Jr., a Marshalltown man who is also charged in the case, are accused of mutilating Warnell’s body post-mortem.

During the investigation police found fingers, teeth and patches of tattooed skin were set curbside in garbage bags following the murder. According to search warrants, Gartin carried out five bags of trash at his home, 502 N. Fourth Ave., while police were doing surveillance. The body parts were later recovered.

Gartin demanded a speedy trial which requires the case be brought to trial within 90 days of indictment. The defense was granted a change of venue because of pretrial publicity.

Jury selection in scheduled to being Tuesday in Cerro Gordo County.