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Murder trial on hold until Tuesday

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | NOVEMBER 02, 2009 7:20 AM

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GRUNDY CENTER, Iowa — Day two of Michelle Kehoe’s murder trial found her family members staring at her written answers to authorities’ questions, projected onto a screen in the Grundy County Courthouse.

Chris Callaway, a special agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, read aloud.

“I can’t explain this to Gene. I can’t explain this to Sean,” he said, as Kehoe’s shaky handwriting appeared. “I just want to die or be locked up where I can’t hurt anyone else.”

Kehoe, 36, of Coralville, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, and child endangerment causing injury. Her trial opened on Oct. 29.

Authorities allege she bound both her sons with duct tape and cut their necks. Her older son, then 7-year-old Sean Kehoe, survived and locked himself in a van until authorities found him the next day.

Two-year-old Seth Kehoe was killed.

Kehoe answered Callaway’s questions as she lay in a bed at the UI Hospitals and Clinics. She could not speak because she cut her own neck as well, authorities said.

After 60 questions, she still insisted a stranger was responsible for the attacks. He had hid in her van during a stop in Jessup, Iowa, she told Callaway. Kehoe described the man in vivid detail, including his clothing, hair color, and odor of cigarette smoke.

She thought 7-year-old Sean was dead.

“I was trying, trying, trying to get away,” Kehoe wrote.

According to testimony, Callaway knew she was lying. Investigators had already gotten Sean’s story, along with physical evidence from the scene.

After taking a short break from the interview, Callaway consulted with other law-enforcement personnel and confronted Kehoe again. He had to gain her trust so she would tell him the truth. It was a more effective approach than yelling or intimidation, he said.

He was right.

“I can’t ever look at Sean again,” she then wrote. “I don’t know how to explain things to Gene or Sean, this disease in my head.”

The state called several other witnesses Oct. 30. There was a manager at Paul’s Discount, 424 Highway 1 W., where Kehoe reportedly bought the knife she allegedly used. A Department of Natural Resources official identified the knife he found at the crime scene. A teacher in Jessup, Iowa, also testified she found Kehoe’s cell phone at a school playground.

The trial won’t resume until 9 a.m. Tuesday because the prosecution’s remaining witness — a medical examiner — is unavailable until then.

Defense attorneys will likely start their case on Tuesday as well, and 1st District Judge Bruce Zager said he expected the case to wrap up before the end of the week. The trial was originally expected to last up to two weeks.

Her defense attorney, public defender Andrea Dryer, hasn’t released a list of possible witnesses yet.


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