Sabrina Seehafer of the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation held up a pair of black U.S. Polo shoes. A bloodstain on the tongue of the shoe had a DNA profile matching James Remakel’s, she told the jury in a Maquoketa courtroom earlier this week.
The shoes were found in a box labeled “Drew’s winter things,” obtained by a search warrant in 2018. Prosecutors say the bloodstain on Drew Mangler’s shoes ties him to Remakel’s death. Mangler is charged with first-degree murder.
Remakel died in December 2016 in his Riverview Street home in Bellevue after being stabbed 32 times, possibly with a screwdriver, according to prosecutor Andrew Prosser of the Iowa State Attorney General’s office. Prosser said Remakel did not die immediately, but “bled out” a painful death in his bedroom.
Prosser argued that Mangler killed Remakel out of “wrath and greed,” specifically because of a desire for money and drugs.
Mangler’s defense team had not yet presented arguments at press time.
Mangler’s trial was scheduled to conclude Friday but will likely continue into next week because courts were closed Thursday because of weather. Judge Joel Barrows also sent jurors home early Tuesday and started proceedings an hour late on Wednesday due to icy conditions.
Seehafer also testified Wednesday afternoon about what she found when she got to Bellevue at about midnight on Christmas Day 2016. Seehafer is a DNA specialist and member of the state’s crime scene response team.
Prosecutors showed photos of the crime scene, including the bedroom in which Remakel’s body was found.
Photos showed bloodstains on the floor and walls of the kitchen. In the bedroom next to Remakel’s body, the drawer of a locked dresser had been forced open. Pill bottles and bank bags were found inside the drawer. Two jewelry boxes were found on the floor.
A shoeprint was clearly visible on the outside of the door to the house, as if it had been kicked, Seehafer said.
DNA from bloodstains in the house and on Mangler’s shoe had only a “one in 94 octillion” chance of belonging to someone other than Remakel, Seehafer said.
Police questioned Mangler on the night of Remakel’s death and a few days after Christmas, when Remakel’s body was found. The break in the case didn’t come until police got a search warrant for shoes with prints matching those found at the scene.
Through other testimony, prosecutors attempted to develop a timeline of Remakel’s death. Jerry Eglseder of Bender’s Foods said that Remakel didn’t pick up meat that he ordered Dec. 21, and Remakel didn’t respond to attempts of a FedEx pick-up after speaking to a Younker’s store manager a few days earlier.
Joyce Avanzo testified that she was visiting her sister Laverne Jackson in December 2016 when a man Jackson knew as “Drew” burst into the home. Jackson reported the incident to police, who talked to Mangler and his friends later that night, a few hours after prosecutors say Mangler murdered Remakel.
Dick Steines, a former coworker and helper of Remakel, testified that he found Remakel dead in his home on Christmas day. His testimony was filled with the details of bringing a Christmas dinner to someone who couldn’t leave home easily: Steines balanced two trays as he opened the unlatched door. He set a Corona on the table for Remakel.
Steines was also Remakel’s financial power of attorney, he said.
Steines testified that he expected to see police officer Ryan Kloft at his family Christmas dinner immediately after he found Remakel’s body. When Kloft didn’t show up, Steines called Kloft and told him that Remakel was dead.
Nothing in his testimony indicated that he thought at the time that Remakel was murdered. The bedroom was dark, and Steines only had the dim light of his phone camera.
Jury selection lasted two days. One hundred people were called to the Jackson County Courthouse Monday morning for jury duty. A long line snaked through the courthouse as potential jurors waited to go through the newly-bought metal detector.
Attorneys asked if potential jurors knew Mangler, Remakel, their family members or witnesses. They questioned jurors about their willingness to approach the case with an open mind and admonished them not to read media reports, speak to others about the case or research it outside of the courtroom.
In smaller communities, it can be a challenge to find jurors who aren’t connected in some way to those involved. Knowing someone involved doesn’t preclude someone from being a juror in a case, but those with close connections or strong feelings are typically dismissed.
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