Sweet trial Friday: graphic photos and motion for mistrial - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Sweet trial Friday: graphic photos and motion for mistrial


Friday marked the second day of witness testimony in the double Manchester murder trial of Isaiah Sweet.

Sweet, 18, faces two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his grandparents Rick and Janet Sweet on Mother's Day weekend of 2012.

A surprise came at the end of the day, when the Division of Criminal Investigation agent testifying, Ward Crowley, accidentally mentioned finding evidence of child pornography on Sweet's computer, which investigators had taken for searching. Both the defense and prosecution had agreed prior to the trial to omit that fact.

Although the judge told jurors to strike that statement from their consideration, the defense moved for a mistrial after the jury had been dismissed for the weekend. The judge said he'd take it under consideration and announce his decision Monday morning.

Earlier in the day, however, jurors saw some incredibly graphic and disturbing images.

The court learned in opening statements Thursday Sweet admitted in a video-recorded interview he had killed his grandparents.

The trial, all attorneys said, is not about deciding whether Sweet killed his grandparents but, rather, to what degree of responsibility Sweet should be held.

The prosecution alleges this was murder in the first degree. The defense claims evidence will show those charges are too extreme.

On Friday, the state called Sgt. Jim Hauschild, the Manchester officer who first responded to the home of Rick and Janet Sweet on Mother's Day of 2012. He echoed what Janet Sweet's daughter said Thursday on the witness stand, that family members arrived at the Sweets' home for a family gathering that Sunday and found the pair slumped dead on their couch, shot in the head.

Hauschild went on to explain that Isaiah Sweet, who lived with his grandparents, quickly became the lead suspect after officials saw there was no evidence of forced entry, Sweet was not in the home and Rick Sweet's truck was missing.

Officials caught Isaiah Sweet in Cedar Rapids the next day and brought him back to Manchester, where Hauschild and a DCI agent conducted a video-recorded interview with the teen. In it, Hauschild said, Sweet stated he'd committed the killings and had to pay for what he did.

Hauschild also said Sweet admitted to initially planning on killing Rick Sweet with a baseball bat. A subsequent search of the Sweets' home revealed a baseball bat in Isaiah Sweet's room.

On a computer officials recovered from the home, Hauschild said, was evidence of an Internet search Isaiah Sweet had conducted, researching ways to kill someone without making much of a mess and without causing too much pain.

Hauschild said Rick Sweet was a known drinker. He also said Manchester police had responded to the Sweets' home on multiple occasions at the request of Rick and Janet Sweet - and on one occasion Isaiah Sweet - when heated arguments broke out between the teen and his grandparents. Hauschild said there was evidence of Rick Sweet's alcohol use upon officers' response to those disputes.

Isaiah had used an aerosol spray can and a lighter as a torch and had lit some papers on fire on at least one occasion of police response, Hauschild said. On a couple of occasions, the grandparents asked police to arrest Isaiah but then changed their minds at the last minute.

Among Friday's witnesses, the state called DCI lab criminalist Amanda Kilgore. She took 510 photos of the crime scene, 300 to 400 of which, she said, were pictures of the bodies, blood splatters and skull fragments.

The jury was dismissed for a discussion between attorneys. The prosecution wanted to admit as evidence and show to the jury additional photos of the crime scene, including graphic and close-up depictions of the Sweets' wounds. Kilgore described for attorneys why each photograph helped investigators piece the story together.

The judge allowed many of the photos to be admitted as evidence.

Following lunch, attorneys showed jurors photos of the crime scene, which included ones of the used bullet casings, blood splatters on the wall, bits of the Sweets' skulls and, most graphically, close-ups of the Sweets' injuries. Rick Sweet sustained a gunshot wound to the back of his head, while Janet Sweet received two shots to the head.

Kilgore explained what each photo showed.

The state then called DCI State Crime Laboratory criminalist Vic Murillo, who described the semi-automatic rifle he examined from the killings, calling it an SKS old world country military-type rifle.

Attorneys say they expect Sweet's trial to stretch into the middle of next week.

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