McCain murder trial in judge’s hands

Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber, second from left, along with deputies John Canida, Will Conlee, Craig Burch and Det. Chad Donaldson escort 1st-degree murder suspect Adam McCain from the courtroom in Keokuk, Iowa Thursday after the bench trial went to 8B District Judge Mary Ann Brown. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC


KEOKUK – The 1st-degree murder trial of a 25-year-old Fort Madison man is in the hands of District 8B Chief Judge Mary Ann Brown.

Prosecutors, who’ve charged Adam Golden McCain of 1st-degree murder, wrapped up their case just after 10:30 a.m. Thursday, after a full day of evidentiary testimony on Wednesday.

McCain is charged in the stabbing death of CaLove Sackman, then 27, of Keokuk on Feb. 5, 2019 at about 10 p.m. in the 200 block of Main Street in Keokuk.

After about a 10-minute break, Brown and McCain’s defense team of Kendra Abfalter and Joseph Beres met on the record in Brown’s chambers for about 10 minutes, before Brown put the court back in session at 11 a.m.

At that time, Abfalter put McCain on the stand for about five minutes to testify to his education, personal struggles, and mental health issues.

McCain testified he currently has a felony conviction in Missouri and only completed education into his sophomore year of high school. He also said he was raised by his grandparents in Fort Madison, his uncle, and his father, Chris.

“I had trouble in school with math and reading. I had difficulty focusing and with concentration… making friends. There were a lot of things that made it difficult to get along in school,” he said.

McCain said he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder as a child and currently suffers from clinical depression as well as anxiety and panic disorders and was prescribed medication for that.

He said he hasn’t been taking the medications as prescribed and hadn’t taken them since May of 2018. However in a hearing in September, McCain testified that he was coming off benzodiazapene, an anti-anxiety medication, when he was arrested.

Brown then allowed closing arguments to be made.

Asst. Lee County Attorney Jonathan Stensvaag said McCain murdered Sackman and was fully aware of his actions.

“Adam McCain killed CaLove Sackman…. He hated her for how she had wronged him and ruined his life,” Stensvaag said.

He spoke of a threat McCain allegedly made to CaLove on Thanksgiving in 2018 that wasn’t allowed by Brown into evidence. Stensvaag said McCain threatened to kill Sackman and her children if she ever left him.

“Fast-forward to Jan. 22, 2019 when CaLove brought her mother Traci out to her house at 910 Concert because CaLove wasn’t strong enough to kick him out,” he said.

“McCain was given 15 minutes to get out…. That was pouring gas on the fire and then on that Jan. 22 she left him – starting a countdown for her death.”

Stensvaag also pointed to testimony that McCain pulled Sackman back into his vehicle when she tried to jump out on Main Street on Feb. 5, and stabbed her. Stensvaag said when she did finally escape the vehicle, McCain drove over to where she was, got out, and stabbed her again multiple times before getting back in his car.

“He stabbed her no less than eight times with that butterfly knife, and three of those injuries proved fatal.” Stensvaag said.

Keokuk Police Detective Andrew Whitaker was on the stand Thursday testifying to evidence handling and crime scene photos. Whitaker also testified the knife was never recovered, and the blood inside McCain’s vehicle in the passenger seat was not tied to Sackman.

Joseph Beres, McCain’s attorney, painted a picture that there was no premeditation and deliberation in the crime, which would move the needle from 1st-degree to 2nd-degree murder.

First-degree murder in Iowa is a mandatory life sentence with no parole, but 2nd-degree murder carries a 50-year penalty with a chance of parole at 35 years.

“The state has not proved its case and this was not a cold-blooded killing,” Beres told Brown.

“The record we have shows this killing was impulsive, but it’s not accompanied by premeditation or deliberation in any meaningful way.”

He reminded Brown of evidence earlier Thursday from Keokuk Police Detective Steven Dray about text messages that were extracted from McCain’s phone during the investigation. The texts were between McCain and Sackman, in which McCain was trying to get Sackman to agree to let him come see her that night. One of the texts indicated he wanted to see the couple’s 2-year old daughter.

“These were relatively benign. To see Willow… for money… to just talk. He wanted to sit quietly with her in her room and just talk.”

Beres went on to say that McCain is “very childlike in the way he thinks.”

“Someone who thinks like a child might not think things through,” Beres said.

“He said repeatedly during interviews that he just lost it.”

Stensvaag countered that McCain also said repeatedly during interviews that he wanted her to suffer the same pain he was suffering.

‘The first time he ever showed any remorse was when he tried to call his grandmother to tell her he killed CaLove.” Stensvaag said.

“And Adam also testified that he was pursuing an Industrial Engineering degree and was half way through that program, but he thinks like a child?”

Brown told both parties that she was taking the case under advisement and would issue a decision as soon as possible.

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