18-Year-Old Guilty in Killing Woman Who was DecapitatedSTEVEN P. ROSENFELD , Associated Press
Feb. 23, 1990 6:51 PM ET
NEVADA, IOWA NEVADA, Iowa (AP) _ A man accused of strangling and decapitating his brother's girlfriend was convicted of murder Friday after witnesses described the 18-year-old defendant singing rap songs about the killing.
Ruben Deases was found guilty in the May 28 murder of Jennifer Ann Gardner, 20, capping a trial that at one point erupted into a scuffle between brothers.
Defense attorney Glenn Sedgwick put his arm around Deases as the verdict was read. Deases showed little emotion at the verdict, which the jury reached after about two hours and 15 minutes of deliberations.
In Iowa, a conviction on first-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with no possiblity of parole unless a governor commutes the sentence to a set term.
The state's key witness was Deases' 16-year-old brother, Johnny, who testified about the killing and said Ruben had sex with the corpse afterward. A third brother, Edward, 21, awaits trial on murder charges.
The woman shared an Ames apartment with the eldest of the four brothers, Eustaquio Deases, 23, who was out of town at the time of the killing took place in the apartment.
Prosecutors said she died because of the younger brothers saw her as an impediment to their advancement in Eustaquio's cocaine-dealing business, and witnesses said it took place soon after she threatened the younger brothers with a gun.
Eustaquio is serving a five-year federal sentence for cocaine possession.
Four youth workers testified that Ruben bragged about the killing after his arrest and even made up rap songs about it.
One such song included the lines, ''She thought she was cool, and I was a fool. And now she's dead and I'm ahead,'' said Jack Leinen, a former youth services worker at a Des Moines detention center where Ruben was held.
Judge M.D. Seiser had told jurors they could return a verdict of innocent or of guilty to charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. No sentencing date was sent.
Ms. Gardner's head was found in a ditch along a gravel road south of Ames on May 29, and her body was found June 1 in a lake north of Ames.
Defense lawyer Stephen Terrill said he would appeal.
As Eustaquio was led into the courtroom last week to testify for the prosecution, he lunged across the defense table, throwing punches and snarling obscenities at Ruben.
Terrill had portrayed Ruben Deases as a frightened little boy who didn't take part in the killing or the decapitation.
''I'm afraid that Ruben Deases may end up paying for a crime he did not commit - a terrible crime that his brother Edward committed,'' Terrill told jurors in his closing arguments Thursday.
But County Attorney Mary Richards had called Ruben ''a cold-blooded killer'' and told jurors that ''reading at a fifth-grade level is no excuse for committing murder.''