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Life and no parole for Dayton



Jessica Dayton, left, reads her statement during her sentencing for first-degree murder Monday, June 28. Looking on is her attorney Douglas Eichholz.

Prior to being sentenced to life without parole for the murder of Curtis Bailey, Jessica Dayton told the judge and Bailey’s family that she didn’t do it.

Judge Denver Dillard gave Dayton, 20, Belle Plaine, the mandatory sentence of life without parole in Iowa County District  Court Monday, June 28. A jury convicted Dayton of first-degree murder April 21.

Prosecutors said Dayton helped Bailey’s live-in girlfriend Denise Frei, 44, Marengo, and her son Jacob Hilgendorf, 20, Belle Plaine, beat Bailey to death in his Marengo home July 18, 2009, using a landscaping rock.

Frei and Hilgendorf are scheduled to go on trial Jan. 11, 2011. They are also charged with first-degree murder.

Choking back tears, Dayton claimed that she is sentenced to prison for the rest of her life for something she did not do. She said being accused of a murder she did not commit is “a feeling no one should have to go through.”

“What has happened is truly a tragedy,” said Dayton. “My heart truly goes out to the family. I also lost a friend, mentor and loved one… My whole family and friends know the truth. I didn’t do this.”

Judge Dillard said to the contrary, that the evidence presented in court proved Dayton did have a role in the murder of Curtis Bailey. Dillard said based on the testimony from witnesses, it is his belief that Dayton did not deliver the blow that resulted in Bailey’s death, but she did take part.

“No matter your role or your intention, the jury returned with a verdict consistent with the evidence presented before you,” Dillard said. “My own assessment is that you played a role in this homicide… You are 20 years old and facing the rest of your life in prison.”


Before the sentencing, Dillard made a ruling on a motion for a new trial filed by Dayton’s attorney Douglas Eichholz. Eichholz claimed a new trial should be admitted based on the credibility of the witnesses in Dayton’s first trial. Eichholz did not specify which witnesses he found to be discreditable.

Eichholz if he intended to file an appeal, to which Eichholz replied, “Yes.”

If the appeal is successful, Dillard said Dayton will face another trial. If it is unsuccessful, he said the life sentence will be imposed.

“You should not be optimistic,” Dillard said. “In all likelihood you will be serving this sentence in prison.”

Dillard said the only other option is to petition the governor to commute her sentence. He said she has the opportunity to petition the governor every 10 years.

“My recommendation is as soon as you are placed in prison, you begin working on an exemplary life as a prisoner and as a person,” Dillard said. “You have a very long life ahead of you… You made some terrible mistakes in judgment and you will pay for it for a very long time.”


B.J. Franklin, director of the Horizons Survivors Program, read victim impact statements from Alex Bailey and Michelle Geary. Alex Bailey, 15, is Curtis Bailey’s only child. Michelle Geary is the mother of Alex and was married to Curtis Bailey for 10 years. She is now the executor of Curtis Bailey’s estate.

According to the statement written by Geary, she said she was awoken by Marengo police officers at 3:45 a.m. Sunday, July 18, 2009, and was told Curtis was no longer living. She said she had to wake up Alex to tell him his father was dead because of a possible homicide.

“In my life, I never imagined I would have to tell any of my children their father would be murdered,” Geary wrote.

Geary said the homicide took place in the home she shared with Bailey for 10 years, and where they planned to raise their children.

She said Alex’s health has suffered because of the stress caused by the tragedy, and his grades have suffered at school.

Geary said Dayton took away Alex’s father away, and he will never have a chance to share the most important moments in life.

“I believe justice has been served,” Geary wrote.

According to the statement written by Alex Bailey, he said the “situation messed me up.”

“I know my life will never be normal as before,” Alex wrote. “I am very glad Jessica Dayton was found guilty of first degree murder… It is good to know she will go to jail for the rest of her life.”

In addition to a life sentence in prison, Dayton was ordered to pay victim’s restitution of $150,000 plus court costs.

She was ordered into the custody of the Iowa County Sheriff’s Department for transport to the Iowa Medical Classification Center, Oakdale.


UPDATED June 29, 2010 10:32 AM

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