MASON CITY | A Mason City man charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a 19-year-old in December 2016 now faces reduced charges.
The Cerro Gordo County Attorney's Office has reduced its charge against Larry Whaley from first- to second-degree murder.
Whaley, 61, had been charged in the death of Samantha Teeter, 19, on Dec. 2, 2016.
Police accused Whaley of shooting Teeter through his apartment door that night. Teeter, who was hit once in the head in the hallway, died two days later.
According to court records, the Cerro Gordo County Attorney amended the charge to first- to second-degree murder earlier this month, following a court hearing on Nov. 16 where Judge Christopher C. Foy determined Whaley was competent to stand trial.
Cerro Gordo County Attorney Carlyle Dalen declined comment Tuesday about why he amended the charge.
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"I have no further comments," Dalen wrote in an email. "This is a pending case that is set for trial December 18."
Michael Adams, chief of the special defense unit in the state's public defender office, is representing Whaley. He also declined comment about the second-degree murder charge Tuesday.
"It is my policy not to comment on pending cases," Adams wrote in an email.
Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General of Iowa, declined comment on the case and urged a reporter to contact Dalen and his office.
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"Perhaps anecdotally, it’s unusual but I don’t have a number of cases where the charges were reduced," Greenwood said when asked about how common it is for a first-degree murder charge to be amended less than a month before the trial starts.
A first-degree murder conviction in Iowa carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. A second-degree murder conviction carries a sentence of up to 50 years in prison.
Since Whaley has been charged, he has written several letters to Foy detailing why he believes he will not receive a fair trial in Cerro Gordo County since he is black. He added that important evidence has been tampered with.
The trial has not been moved from Cerro Gordo County. Foy instructed Whaley earlier this month that all complaints must come through Adams, his attorney.
The trial is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Dec. 18 in Cerro Gordo County District Court.