Sarah Winters, 40 was strangled to death on July 10, 2012 in a boarding house at 410 N. Washington Ave in Mason City Iowa. Arrested for her death and currently on trial is Aaron Harris, 36 who met her at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in 2010 in AA General Service Area 24, District 14 (http://www.aa-iowa.org/index.php?id=95). Aaron Harris has a history alcoholism treatment and is being tried by Judge Rustin Davenport of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa with Assistant Iowa Attorney General Douglas Hammerand and Attorney Carlyle Dalen as the persecutors. Harris is claiming diminished capacity because he is an alcoholic. (emphasis is mine)
Police officer testifies about call to alleged murder scene
May 15, 2013 12:28 pm • By PEGGY SENZARINO
MASON CITY — A Mason City police officer described finding Sarah Winters’ body in a Mason City rooming house during the first day of testimony in the trial of Aaron Harris.
Harris, 36, Mason City, is charged with first-degree murder in the strangulation death of Winters, 40, on July 10, 2012. Her body was found at about 12:45 a.m. in Room 101 at 410 N. Washington Ave.
Sgt. Brett Hollander testified seeing the defendant sitting in the common area of the rooming house.
The three-story building has approximately 13 sleeping rooms. The common area includes a television room, a music room with a piano and a kitchen.
“He was sitting on the edge of the couch. He looked scared. Yeah, there’s no other way to put it. He was sitting bolt upright on the edge of the couch,” Hollander said.
Hollander saw the door of Room 101 was slightly ajar. He could see a woman lying on the bed.
He asked Harris who lived there. He said he did. He then asked about the woman on the bed.
“He sat there for a minute and paused,” Hollander testified. “He said I killed her. I pushed the door immediately open and went into the room.”
Hollander began CPR but Winters did not respond.
Harris was then taken into custody by police.
In opening statements, defense attorney Susan Flander said Harris is responsible for Winters’ death but she claims Harris has a history of mental illness and alcohol problems which make it impossible for him to form the intent and premeditation to commit first-degree murder.
Flander is putting forth a defense of diminished responsibility and intoxication.
Also taking the stand Wednesday morning was Harris’ former employer Hilton Ramlakhm who runs a cleaning business.
Harris worked part time in the months leading up to the alleged murder.
Ramlakhm said he met Harris at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in 2010.
He testified Harris called him in the early morning hours of July 10, 2012 saying he “screwed up bad.”
Ramlakhm said Harris admitted killing Winters but then changed his story when he suggested calling the police.
Testimony will continue at 1 p.m. in Cerro Gordo County District Court in Mason City.
Jury sworn in for Harris trial on first-degree murder charge
May 14, 2013 5:50 pm • By MARY PIEPER
MASON CITY — The jury in the murder trial of a Mason City man accused of strangling a woman to death last July was sworn in late Tuesday afternoon in Cerro Gordo County District Court.
The trial of Aaron Harris, 36, who is charged with first-degree murder in the July 10, 2012, death of Sarah Winters, 40, Mason City, begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Winters’ body was found in an apartment at 410 N. Washington Ave.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Douglas Hammerand and Cerro Gordo County Attorney Carlyle Dalen are prosecuting the case. Susan Flander and Alex Berger are the defense attorneys. The judge is Rustin Davenport.
A panel of 32 potential jurors was called from a pool of more than 50 gathered in the courtroom Tuesday morning.
Hammerand questioned those on the panel on whether they knew any of the parties involved in the case, if they have read or heard about the case and remember specific details, and if they have ever had experiences with law enforcement that would prevent them from being fair and impartial jurors.
One woman was excused because one of her relatives was a homicide victim. A man was excused because he works the overnight shift and said he would have trouble paying attention to the trial due to lack of sleep.
Other panelists were questioned in private. Some were then excused, and more potential jurors were called from the pool to sit on the panel.
Hammerand asked the panelists if they are comfortable with the state not having to prove a motive in the case.
“This is not a whodunit case,” he said, noting defenses of intoxication and diminished responsibility due to mental illness will be raised during the trial.
He explained that diminished responsibility is not the same as an insanity defense, and that someone with a mental illness does not necessarily have diminished responsibility if he or she commits a crime.
Flander asked the panelists if they believe mental health professionals can disagree on a diagnosis and if people can act out of character when they are intoxicated.
She also asked them if they thought someone could be so intoxicated that he or she could not plan something.
Twelve jurors and one alternate were chosen.
Harris is being held in the Cerro Gordo County Jail under $200,000 cash bond.
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here is some video from local news …http://www.kimt.com/2013/05/16/aaron-harris-trial-resumes/