OSKALOOSA, Iowa — The day was unforgettable. “Just a sad day for the state of Iowa, for Marquis Todd and for my son,” said Stanley VanHemert.
He is referring to March 1, 2018. A fight broke out in the front lawn of his home and his son, Luke, fatally stabbed Marquis Todd, a William Penn University basketball player. Stanley said, “My son regrets it to this day. He’s got to live with that for rest of his life. He’s not going to be the same person.”
Evidence shows Todd was with a group of friends when they got into a minor car accident in the VanHemert’s driveway. Police say the driver of Todd’s vehicle left and came back two separate times and then a fight broke out. VanHemert said, “How are we supposed to defend ourselves if someone comes into our property?”
A jury disagreed, handing down a conviction of second-degree murder Monday and up to 50 years in prison for his son. The stand-your-ground law was never an option. “The law states you have to admit to everything. That includes turning over the weapon he used. We did not do that so the stand-your-ground law was thrown out,” said VanHemert.
The VanHemert family is not arguing that Luke took the life of Marquis. “We are not asking for a complete pardon. My son knows he did wrong, too. Everyone did wrong that night,” Stanley said. It is the way in which the jury decided that life was taken. “If they want to convict him, that is fine. But second-degree murder? There was no malice or forethought,” said Stanley.
The VanHemerts also question the trial’s location at the Mahaska County courthouse, just a one-mile walk from the arena Todd helped win basketball games in. “There are a lot of ties to this community from William Penn,” Stanley said.
While the Todd family will never see their son again, the VanHemerts hope their fight can save Luke. “We would be happy with even involuntary manslaughter,” said Stanley.
The VanHemerts hope to appeal the ruling. Luke VanHemert will be sentenced in June.