ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- A man serving a lifetime prison sentence for killing an Alton, Iowa, woman in 1976 when he was 14 years old will now be eligible for parole immediately after being resentenced in accordance with a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling.
In a brief hearing conducted over the telephone Thursday, District Judge Steven Andreasen resentenced John Mulder to life in prison, but with no mandatory minimum number of years to serve before he can appear before the Iowa Board of Parole to ask for his release from custody.
"There will be no mandatory minimum sentence imposed, and Mr. Mulder will be immediately eligible for parole," Andreasen said.
It will be up to the parole board to decide if or when Mulder will ever be released from prison.
Mulder did not participate in the hearing and was not listening to the proceedings. Andreasen said it wasn't necessary for Mulder to be present because he was not being resentenced to a harsher penalty.
"The court believes this sentence is more lenient than the sentence previously imposed," Andreasen said.
The Supreme Court in April ruled that Mulder's previous sentence, which required him to serve at least 42 years before he was eligible for parole, failed to meet juvenile sentencing standards established by a court decision last year.
Mulder, 57, originally of Alton, was found guilty in Sioux County District Court of first-degree murder for shooting and killing Jean Homan, 55, on April 23, 1976, while she was in her bedroom. Mulder had aimed at her husband, Carl, but his rifle misfired.
Mulder received a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole after being found guilty in 1979. The United States and Iowa supreme courts later ruled it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life sentences without parole. In 2016, Andreasen resentenced Mulder, who was three days shy of his 15th birthday when he killed Homan, to life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving 42 years.
Mulder, who has spent more than 39 years in prison and is currently housed at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, would have been eligible for parole in September 2020 under that sentence.
He appealed it, however, claiming it was cruel and unusual punishment. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in his favor, ordering Andreasen to follow a recent ruling that basically prohibits judges from giving juveniles mandatory minimum prison sentences unless prosecutors can introduce expert testimony to show why a mandatory minimum sentence is appropriate.
Sioux County Attorney Thomas Kunstle provided no testimony Thursday. He said in an earlier court filing that he had been unable "to identify precisely what expert testimony or evidence is needed to satisfy the Iowa Supreme Court to affirm any mandatory minimum that might be imposed by this court. To date, no such expert evidence has been satisfactory."
No members of Homan's family participated in Thursday's hearing.