Man convicted of killing ex-girlfriend in Marion Hy-Vee parking lot ordered new trial

Nicholas Luerkens

The Iowa Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial for a man convicted of stabbing his ex-girlfriend in the Marion Hy-Vee parking lot in 2015.

A judge wrote in an opinion filed on May 3 that the jury should have been instructed to consider an insanity defense for Nicholas Luerkens.

Luerkens stabbed 29-year-old Lynnsey Donald to death on April 21, 2015 in front of Donald's son. He then tried to kill himself on the scene.

He was convicted of first degree murder in November of 2015.

The defense argued that Luerkens wasn't in his right mind and hadn't been acting like his normal self at the time of the murder. They said his family had noticed a change in Luerkens' personality at the time. Luerkens pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but the judge determined on that there wasn't enough evidence to put forward an insanity plea.

In his appeal, Luerkens contended that the district court erred in refusing to submit his insanity defense to the jury.

In the 17-page opinion, the judge says that Luerkens' defense presented enough evidence to consider insanity.

You can read the opinion below:

Donald's family released a statement in reaction to the court opinion:

We are disappointed in today’s decision in the Nicholas Luerkens case, but are confident in the Linn County Attorney's office that they will see that justice will prevail for Lynnsey. The family and close friends of Lynnsey appreciate that their privacy is respected as we understand the next steps in the process to assure Justice for our precious Lynnsey. Please continue to keep her son and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden released the following statement:

I am deeply disappointed by the decision of the Iowa Court of Appeals to reverse the murder conviction of Nicholas Luerkens. I have conferred with the Iowa Attorney General’s office who handled the appeal and they have agreed to request the Iowa Supreme Court grant further review of the matter. Under the law, the request for further review must be filed within 20 days of the ruling. The Iowa Supreme Court should decide within about two months whether they will grant further review.
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