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Case No. 18-1471

State of Iowa
Michael Lee Syperda


State of Iowa


Michael Lee Syperda

Attorney for the Appellee

Kyle Hanson, Assistant Attorney General

Attorney for the Appellant

Maria Ruhtenberg, Assistant Appellate Defender

Court of Appeals

Court of Appeals Opinion

Opinion Number:
Date Published:
Dec 18, 2019

            Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Henry County, Mark Kruse, Judge.  JUDGMENT AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.  Heard by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Schumacher, JJ.  Opinion by Tabor, J.  (29 pages)

            This is a murder case without a body.  Elizabeth Syperda has been missing since July 2000.  She was married to Michael Syperda, but she had recently left him to pursue a relationship with a co-worker.  Elizabeth’s friends and family testified to Michael’s long history of physical abuse and death threats towards Elizabeth.  Michael was charged and convicted of first-degree murder.  He now appeals.  OPINION HOLDS: Because the totality of evidence supports a second-degree murder conviction and the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Michael acted with the specific intent to kill, we reverse the first-degree murder conviction and remand for entry of judgment and sentence on second-degree murder.  Also, we find that the suppression hearing magistrate had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed to support the search warrant.  Next, we find that no abuse in discretion in the district court’s admission of prior acts evidence.  Also, we may consider Michael’s pro se brief filed before the effective date of a recent statutory amendment prohibiting pro se filings.  Finally, we find Michael cannot show he was prejudiced by counsel allowing a witness to testify by video deposition and that the record is not adequate to address other claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.

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