Governor Culver commutes two prison sentences - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Governor Culver commutes two prison sentences

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DES MOINES (KWWL) -- As incoming Governor Terry Branstad, was being sworn in, outgoing Governor Chet Culver was commuting the sentences of two Iowa inmates, Sheila Mae Schertz and John H. Lowery, making them eligible for parole.

Schertz, 58, was serving a life sentence after being found guilty of First Degree Kidnapping, Second Degree Murder and Second Degree Theft.  She was not eligible for parole.

According to court documents, Schertz and four men, including her husband, went to Mark Webb's apartment in Davenport on February 8, 1981.  While at the apartment, the four men beat and stabbed Webb to death.  Schertz was instructed by her husband to hit Webb with a candlestick, which she did.

The group then kidnapped a friend of Webb's, Russell Greer, who was in the apartment.  They drove him to Palisades State Park, near Cedar Rapids, where he was tied to a tree, severely beaten and left for dead.

Greer survived the attack and was the state's principal witness at the trials of the five.

Based on disparities in her sentencing and her deteriorating health, Governor Culver commuted Schertz's sentence to 100 years.  The move makes her immediately eligible for a parole hearing. 

In the other case, Governor Culver felt that the mandatory sentence handed down to John H. Lowery was overly harsh.

In July 1997, at the age of 18, Lowery entered a hotel in Polk County with a friend, Andrew Bonner.

Bonner pulled out a gun, grabbed the female clerk and forced her into the office area and robbed the motel.

The clerk testified that Lowery never spoke, never pointed a weapon at her and never touched her.

Lowery was convicted of First Degree Armed Robbery and sentenced to 25 years in prison and is required to serve 85 percent of the sentence.

Governor Culver has commuted his sentence to remove the mandatory minimum making him eligible for a parole review.

"I am passionate about ensuring that people who break the laws serve their time and that the public safety is protected," Governor Culver said in a written statement. "But there also is a time for fairness, and common sense about the use of taxpayer dollars on our corrections system. In these two cases, there is no question in my mind that they both deserve to have their sentences commuted. It's my belief these actions meet all of these interests."

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