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Jessica Dayton being led away from the courtroom by Iowa County Sheriff Robert Rotter and deputy Doug VanBennekom.

Dayton found guilty

By NICK NARIGON

Jessica Dayton was found guilty of murder in the first degree Tuesday, April 27, in Iowa County District Court.

After deliberating for two days, a jury found Dayton, 20, Belle Plaine, guilty of murdering Curtis Bailey, 33, Marengo, on July 18, 2009.

A sentencing for Dayton will be held June 14 at 1 p.m.

Dayton broke down sobbing when the guilty verdict was announced. Also breaking out in tears were Bailey’s ex-wife Michelle Geary and their son Alex Bailey.

Bailey family spokesperson Penny Galvin said the family was happy with the conviction.

“The trial has been very difficult for the family,” Galvin said. “It brings everything up in the family’s face. It feels like the murder happened all over again.”

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 using a landscaping rock.

According to Assistant Iowa Attorney General Douglas Hammerand, Dayton and Frei promised to perform a ménage-a-trois sex act with Bailey. Their plan was to get Bailey drunk until he passed out.

When Hilgendorf arrived at the home around midnight, Bailey woke up and a struggle ensued. Dayton retrieved a landscaping rock and dropped it on Bailey’s head three or four times. Hilgendorf then allegedly used the rock to deal the fatal blows.

Following the verdict, Hammerand said he felt the evidence proved Dayton was guilty beyond reasonable doubt and she acted with malice aforethought. He said the most compelling piece of evidence may have been the landscaping rock itself.

“The family, it has been extremely difficult for them, feels that justice is being served,” he said.

Dayton’s attorney Douglas Eichholz, Des Moines, did not present any witnesses during the trial. During his closing remarks, he said the prosecution’s allegations were based on “speculation and assumptions.”

When questioned about the defense’s tactics, Hammerand didn’t say he was surprised by Eichholz’ move, but he did say the prosecution was expecting Eichholz to bring forward witnesses. He said he has been in trials where the defense brings forward witnesses, and trials when they don’t.

“They tried to point out the weaknesses in our case, and some things were questionable, but there was still enough evidence to prove murder in the first,” Hammerand said.

Hammerand thanked the Iowa County Attorney’s Office, the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office and the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation for their assistance during the case.

“It was a great team effort,” he said.

Iowa County Attorney Tim McMeen said he felt the guilty verdict was fair and they had a fair jury.

He said Dayton has the right to appeal the verdict, and McMeen said he would not be surprised if she did file an appeal.

McMeen said they are preparing for the first-degree murder trials for Frei and Hilgendorf. Frei’s trial was rescheduled for Jan. 11, 2011. Hilgendorf’s pre-trial conference was scheduled for May 3, and McMeen said he anticipates Hilgendorf’s trial will also be delayed until January.

 

UPDATED May 6, 2010 11:26 AM

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