By Orrin Shawl, Courtesy Newton Daily News
A Charles City man is on trial this week for allegedly beating to death a man in Jasper County in March 2017.
Randy Linderman, 52, of Charles City, has been charged with first-degree murder for the death of Jose Ramirez Berber at Berber’s rural Newton home. Officials say they linked Linderman to the incident through DNA found on Berber’s body and on his undergarments.
Jury selection took up most of Monday and testimony began Tuesday in Jasper County District Court in Newton.
Linderman had previously told investigators he knew Berber and had been to his home “a couple dozen times.” He also told authorities he did some tree cutting work there, according to court documents.
Officials received a 911 call from a family member at 11 a.m. March 6, 2017, and responded to the home to find Berber on the floor, unresponsive.
Autopsy findings and DNA testing were the focus of the testimony Wednesday.
Francis Garrity, an Iowa state medical examiner who did the autopsy on Berber’s body, testified that the cause of death was blunt-force trauma, as evidenced by a skull fracture and dark areas in the right side of the brain that resulted from a hemorrhage.
He said the cause of the trauma was not known, and could have been made by a fist, elbow or knee. He also said the exact time the injuries were caused before death occurred could not be precisely proven.
“Certainly it wasn’t days or weeks, but it could be somewhere in between minutes or hours,” Garrity said.
Also Wednesday, Brenda Crosby, a criminalist with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, testified about DNA found on Berber’s body.
She said she tested four samples of DNA recovered from Berber’s boxer shorts. Three of the tests did not lead to a probable match, but one matched the DNA of Linderman, she said.
DNA tests were also done on a soda can and two-liter bottle at the crime scene, and although one test confirmed female DNA, neither test confirmed Linderman touched those soda products, Crosby said.
Crosby said DNA matching Linderman was found on the back side of the victim’s boxer shorts, as well as on a rectal swab taken from the victim.
On Tuesday the jury had heard opening arguments from the prosecution and the defense.
Assistant Jasper County Attorney Kelly Bennett said the witnesses and the evidence would prove that Linderman is “guilty of murder in the first-degree.”
Defense attorney Trevor Andersen asked the jurors to keep open minds, saying the case was not about direct evidence, but circumstantial evidence.
“The state is going to go through a progression of linking items of evidence they present together, attempting to show Mr. Linderman was not just there, but that he committed a crime,” Anderson said. “The state’s evidence has to show you more than Mr. Linderman was just there.”
Jurors also heard testimony Tuesday about the 911 call that sent responders to Berber’s residence, from the responders who arrived on the scene, and from law enforcement officials who played roles in the investigation.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Linderman faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Linderman is a registered sex offender who was convicted of third-degree sexual abuse in 2001 in Floyd County.
He is being held at the Jasper County Jail without bond.