Manchester teen switches pleas: 'guilty' of killing grandparents - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Manchester teen switches pleas to 'guilty' of killing grandparents

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

An unexpected plea agreement Monday afternoon put an early end to the trial of a Manchester double murderer.

This is the trial of 18-year-old Isaiah Sweet, who admitted to shooting his grandparents to death on Mother's Day weekend of 2012. They were Manchester couple Rick and Janet Sweet.

Sweet changed his pleas Monday from "not guilty" of two counts of first degree murder to "guilty."

Sweet agreed to plead guilty in exchange for serving his two sentences concurrently, or at the same time. The deal may have won him a chance at parole later in life.

First degree murder in the state of Iowa carries a sentence of life in prison with chance of parole, but in June of 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life in prison without parole. Sweet was only 17 when he killed his grandparents.

However, the judge presiding over Sweet's trial, Michael Shubatt, said Sweet will have to be in jail for a very long time before being eligible for parole. Sweet's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18 at 9 a.m. in Manchester.

On Monday, jurors watched the nearly two-hour-long video-recorded interview investigators conducted with Sweet right after they arrested him. That was on May 14, 2012, just three days after the murders.

In the video, Sweet confessed to killing his grandparents.

"Shot my grandpa. He just dropped, then there was blood just pouring out of his head," Sweet told DCI agent Scott Reger. "Then my grandma looks over. She's like, 'What's going on?' Boom. Shot right there. Right through her head, and she was still moving, so I shot her right here, through her head."

Also in the video, Sweet said he'd lived with his grandparents since he was four and started to cry while describing how his grandpa emotionally and verbally abused him. Sweet said he loved his grandma, who was suffering from cancer at the time, and immediately regretted the shooting.

As part of the process of switching pleas, Sweet had to state for the court exactly what it was he'd done.

"On May 11, 2012, Delaware County, Iowa, I used a gun to shoot both my grandparents, Richard and Janet Sweet. I intended to kill them before, during and after the crime occurred. They died as a result of being shot by me," he said Monday afternoon in court.

Attorneys said the victims' family members were aware of the plea agreement and felt comfortable with it.

As of Monday morning, however, the trial faced the possibility of not continuing. On Friday afternoon, the defense had asked the judge for a mistrial.

Toward the end of the day Friday, one of the prosecution's witnesses, Division of Criminal Investigation agent Ward Crowley, accidentally mentioned during testifying he found 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.

Defense attorneys Jason Dunn and Jill Eimermann said even though judge Shubatt told jurors to strike that from their record and recollection, the metaphorical bell had already been rung and jurors wouldn't be able to forget that statement. The prosecutor, Iowa assistant attorney general Denise Timmins, argued jurors wouldn't be swayed by that one witness' slip.

Monday morning, Shubatt denied the defense's motion for a mistrial and jurors then went on to learn the six images of child porn had been downloaded under the account of the grandfather, Rick Sweet.

This story was updated at 3:00 p.m. Tuesday. KWWL had previously reported Isaiah Sweet mentioned in his video-recorded interview his grandfather Rick Sweet had physically abused him. That was incorrect. This story has been updated to reflect that.

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