Dykstra found not guilty in son's death


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Brian Dykstra's family and friends shrieked, gasped, cried, and anxiously laughed Thursday after the 35-year-old was found not guilty of murdering his 20-month-old adopted son.

Dykstra, a former Iowa City resident, was charged in 2008 after his child died from brain trauma while under his care on Aug. 13, 2005. He said he called 911 after his son vomited, rolled his eyes back, and passed out.

A jury of nine women and five men decided on the verdict after deliberating for less than a day.

While waiting for the jury to enter the courtroom at the Johnson County Courthouse, defense attorney Leon Spies whispered to Dykstra and patted him on the back. After 6th Judicial District Judge Patrick Grady announced the verdict, the two embraced, Dykstra in tears.

Spies said he felt the testimonies of Dykstra's friends and neighbors made the difference in the case, calling it a "nightmare compounded" that "prolonged the agony of [the child's] death."

"I think it was important for the jurors to hear from the many men and women who knew Brian," Spies said. "I was moved by it."

Dykstra's ex-wife, Lisa DeWaard, who defended her former husband in her testimony Monday, said the verdict was "just an answer to a prayer."

"There's nothing worse than watching your baby die; the second worst thing is watching someone you know be accused," DeWaard told The Daily Iowan. "We can live normally now for the first time since [our son] died … we can just move on finally."

While the rest of his extended family exited the courtroom, Dykstra and DeWaard remained, laughing, pacing, and making phone calls.

Dykstra's trial began Oct. 26, more than six years after the child's death.

Several doctors and other medical officials testified they believed the injuries they observed on the child were results of "inflicted injury."

First responders to the 911 call described Dykstra's demeanor at his Iowa City home as unnaturally "calm."

Dykstra's neighbors and church friends spoke positively about his character.

Next-door-neighbor Carey Norton said in her testimony on Monday Dykstra was "very caring" and "very loving," adding she would trust him to watch her own children.

"Brian can be very caring and very gentle, but [he's] definitely someone who's more reserved verbally," Norton said.

Dykstra's character was also the main focus of Spies' closing argument Wednesday.

"Men and women, Brian Dykstra has been described consistently as a caring, loving dad," Spies said. "What you see about Brian is what you get; he is pretty plainspoken and quiet. He is not the killer."

DeWaard approached Spies after the verdict was read and said, "Would you tell them I want my baby's stuff back now?"

Spies nodded.

"Thank you," DeWaard said.

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