Friends, mother say defendant wouldn’t hurt anyone

BY SAM LANE | MARCH 03, 2010 7:30 AM

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Jonathan Schiefer’s mother spoke softly Tuesday about her son, describing some of the troubles he has faced.

“I feel a great sense of guilt that I wasn’t more involved with his mental state or his medical issues, but I felt like I should treat them as adults and not get that involved in their lives,” Emily Schiefer said about her son and his wife.

Schiefer’s mother was just one of the witnesses to testify during the second day of his trial. The 34-year-old is accused of third-degree sexual abuse and first-degree burglary stemming from an incident involving a former University of Iowa student in April 2008.

Schiefer entered the student’s apartment without consent and sexually abused her, the accuser testified Monday.

However, according to testimonies of Schiefer’s family and friends given Tuesday, the Williamsburg, Iowa, native “wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Born in Ames, Schiefer — who has one brother — moved to Iowa City in junior high school.

Schiefer went to Iowa State University and received a degree in construction and engineering. After graduation, he married and moved to Chicago before building a house in Williamsburg. Schiefer then bounced among a variety of construction companies.

From 2000 to 2005, Schiefer’s mother said, her son worked constantly, sometimes going to sleep at 1:30 a.m. and leaving for work at 6:30 a.m. She said she learned of her son’s drug use after his arrest.

He told her he was tested for ADHD and eventually began taking the psychostimulant Dexedrine.

Schiefer said he would take more of the drug on weekends in order to consume more alcohol. During this time, Schiefer’s mother said she noticed a change in her son.

Soon after Schiefer’s arrest, his wife and children moved to Arizona, and he checked into Alcoholics Anonymous. He’s now calmer and more patient, his mother said.

Schiefer’s mother testified that their family had a history of problems with mental illness in addition to drinking.

Schiefer’s friends also testified, saying they were shocked when they heard about the allegations.

“I would describe Jon as the perfect Boy Scout,” said Logan Nielsen, one of Schiefer’s longtime friends. “He helped with everything from ripping carpet to babysitting.”

Nielsen’s father, Richard Nielsen, agreed, recounting times when Schiefer helped after a flood and a tornado damaged their home. Bryan Svovada, another one of Schiefer’s friends and the manager of the alleged victim’s apartment, said he was “taken aback” after he heard Schiefer’s name associated with the crime.

“He was one of the nice guys,” Svovada said. “He never displayed any hatred or animosity toward anybody.”

Though the second day of trial only lasted until noon, the prosecution was able to get testimonies from the rest of its witnesses as well. Among the others to testify Tuesday were the nurse practitioner who treated the woman, the woman’s neighbor who called the police after she stormed into his apartment, and the Iowa City police officer who acted as a decoy on the night Schiefer was apprehended.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. today.

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