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Jessica Dayton is found guilty



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

MARENGO — Jessica Dayton was found guilty of murder in the first degree Tuesday, April 21, 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.

Dayton broke down sobbing when the guilty was announced. Also breaking out in tears were Bailey’s ex-wife Michelle Gaffield 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.

Frei and Hilgendorf are scheduled to go on trial in January.

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 used the rock to hit Bailey in the head until he was dead.

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 forwards 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.

Hammerand said you never know how long a jury will take to reach a decision. He said he thought it might take some time in this case.

The jury of seven women and five men went into deliberation Monday, April 26, at 12:35 p.m. and announced a verdict Tuesday, April 27, at 2:40 p.m.

A sentencing will be held within the next 30 days.


UPDATED April 27, 2010 6:19 PM

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