Jury selection

Mark Retterath enters a Franklin County courtroom during jury selection on Monday.

Editor's note: This story contains content some readers may find objectionable.

HAMPTON | During opening statements Tuesday in the trial of Mark Retterath, the state claimed the 52-year-old Osage resident planned to extract a deadly poison from castor beans to kill a young man who had accused him of sexual abuse.

However, defense attorney Angela Campbell said the young man made up the molestation story because Retterath was trying to get him to stop using drugs.

She also said although officers found castor beans and instructions on how to extract the toxin ricin from them in Retterath's house, ricin itself was not found.

Retterath's trial was moved from Mitchell County to Franklin County. He is charged with attempted murder, solicitation to commit murder and third-degree sexual abuse.

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Denise Timmins said the accuser had his first sexual encounter with Retterath when he was 13. 

After a number of other incidents over the years, the accuser finally told someone in 2014 when he was 24, she said.

At that point Retterath lost the control he had over his victim and decided he was going to regain that control by getting rid of "the one person who could tell the secret," Timmons said. 

A drug addict Retterath knew through Alcoholics Anonymous told him about an episode of the TV series "Breaking Bad" in which a character mixed ricin with a drug to kill someone, Timmins said.

Retterath talked about getting castor beans and instructions on the internet on how to extract ricin from them, according to Timmins. 

Retterath asked the addict to get him heroin, which was the drug of choice of the man accusing him of sexual abuse, so the ricin could be mixed with it and left inside the accuser's home, Timmins said.

Retterath talked about his plan to another individual, according to Timmins. 

However, he lost control once again when both his confidants told the police what he was planning, she said.

When officers searched his home, they found a packet of castor beans in the pocket of a pair of jeans. They also found instructions on how to extract ricin from the beans. 

Campbell said the individual Retterath first allegedly talked to about killing his accuser was supplying drugs to the accuser.

"Those two gentlemen were talking to each other" in 2014, before the accuser talked about Retterath's alleged abuse, Campbell said.

The confidant did not tell police about Retterath's alleged plans to kill the accuser until he learned the police had evidence he sold heroin to the young man, according to Campbell. 

She also said officers found the castor beans and the ricin-extraction instructions the same day the accuser's deposition was being taken in the sexual abuse case against Retterath. 

Campbell said it wouldn't make sense for Retterath to wait to kill the accuser until after he had already given a sworn statement of his allegations against him.

She also noted officers searched all of Retterath's computers and phones, and although they did find a record of a Google search for how to extract ricin from castor beans, all the other searches done around that time were related to plants, not topics such as how to dispose of a dead body.

Campbell said Retterath loved plants and had ordered "hundreds and thousands of seeds online."

Timmins said the accuser described to police and made a drawing of a sword tattoo Retterath has on his penis.

However, Campbell said the accuser could have learned about the tattoo from others.

The accuser was the first witness to testify Tuesday.

He said Retterath, a family friend, asked him to go with him to his farm near Stacyville when he was 13 to help him plant some trees.

When they were sitting in Retterath’s truck on the farm, Retterath pulled a gun from the back seat of the truck and placed it on the center console, according to the accuser. He said Retterath never pointed the gun at him.

He said Retterath then began talking about masturbation.

The accuser said his first thought was, "Where do I run? How can I get out of here?"

He said Retterath "wanted me to pleasure myself." 

Retterath showed him pornography and the two of them masturbated side by side, according to the accuser.

"He was looking at me the whole time," he said. The accuser said he felt "scared and ashamed" and did not tell anyone.

He said he was 16 when Retterath touched his penis in Retterath's home. He said Retterath touched him two other times while he was in high school. 

"It's hard to express how I felt," he said. "Just frozen in fear is the best way I can explain."

The accuser said by this time he was using marijuana and he told Retterath about it. He said the two of them smoked pot together at Retterath's request.

He said they also watched porn, either on TV or Retterath's laptop.

The accuser, who joined the military immediately after graduating from high school, said he saw Retterath when he was home on leave. He said his parents sent him to his house to talk to him because they knew he had a drinking problem and Retterath was in AA.

Once again, Retterath asked him to masturbate in front of him and he complied, he said.

After the accuser was discharged from the military and had settled in Georgia, he began using drugs. After he "got really high," his father arrived to bring him home. Retterath was with him. 

After another overdose in the fall of 2014, the accuser was sent to inpatient treatment. 

He said the first time he told anyone Retterath abused him was during his treatment group when the others talked about things that happened to them during childhood.

He said he told his parents when they came to visit him. However, he didn't tell the police until later. 

Also on Tuesday, the jury heard a recorded phone call the police had the accuser make to Retterath.

In the phone call, the accuser told Retterath he was feeling depressed and made veiled references such as asking if he remembered when they were in his truck at his farm and the time "you brought the laptop out and put the movies on TV."

In the recording, Retterath complained several times about poor cell phone reception but also said, "I think I got what you said."

He also told the accuser -- without going into details -- that "it's not a big deal."

"Religion gets you all screwed up with that," he said.

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