Iowa’s longest-serving inmate dies after 64 years behind bars

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A man convicted of killing a northeast Iowa police officer nearly 65 years ago who later saw his death sentence commuted to life in prison has died at the state penitentiary in Fort Madison, Iowa corrections officials said Thursday.

Warren John Nutter, 84, was the state’s longest-serving inmate, Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman Nick Crawford said. He died Wednesday morning in a hospice room of the Iowa State Penitentiary, where he had been housed due to chronic illness.

He was 18 when he was sent to prison after pleading guilty to killing 52-year-old Independence police officer Harold Pearce in January 1956.

A 2017 Des Moines Register story recounted that Pearce was questioning Nutter and four other teens at a sheriff’s office about a gas station robbery when Nutter asked to use the restroom. Officials said he then climbed out an open window, retrieved a shotgun from a car outside and shot Pearce when the officer tried to stop the group from leaving. Nutter was captured 3½ miles away.

He was sentenced on Feb. 10, 1956, to hang. Death penalty opponents seized on his case and drew national attention to it. In 1957, Gov. Herschel Loveless commuted his death sentence.

Nutter’s lawyers had argued he grew up in a broken home in Illinois and was 14 when he was sent to juvenile detention for theft and forgery. He was on parole when he shot Pearce.

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