Man Faces 18 Years in Prison for Role in Manchester Double Homicide
By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter
MANCHESTER, Iowa - A 20-year-old charged in a 2012 double homicide of his friend's grandparents pleaded guilty Tuesday to lesser charges and faces up to 18 years in prison.
Brandon Ahlers of Manchester made Alford pleas to unauthorized possession of a an offensive weapon and third-degree burglary, both felonies, two counts of accessory after the fact, both aggravated misdemeanors, and two counts of attempted third-degree burglary, both serious misdemeanors. In an Alford plea, the defendant doesn't admit the act but admits the state could likely prove the crime.
Ahlers faces 16 years on the amended charges and another two years for a probation revocation regarding a previous forgery conviction.
Ahlers was originally charged with two counts of aiding and abetting in first-degree murder for his part in the slaying of Janet, 62, and Richard, 55, Sweet, of Manchester, May 13, 2012. According to court documents, Ahlers told investigators he suggested to his friend Isaiah Sweet different ways to kill the couple.
Isaiah Sweet, 18, of Manchester, is also charged with two counts of first-degree murder in his grandparents' slaying. The couple was found dead in their home May 13, with gunshot wounds to the head. Relatives found the bodies when they came over for Mother’s Day.
During the hearing, Ahlers admitted to possessing a weapon May 11, and didn't have a permit to carry a gun. He also admitted to burglary charges, saying he intended to take a flat screen television, a 2001 Chevrolet Impala and an antique pickup truck from the Sweet's home May 11. He also admitted to being an accessory after the fact of their homicide.
Delaware County Judge Monica Ackley asked Ahlers if he understood the benefit of pleading guilty today to the lesser charges, as opposed to risking the possibility of conviction on a life sentence.
Ahlers said he understood the risk and benefit.
Delaware County Attorney John Bernau said after the hearing that Ahlers has "critical" information regarding Isaiah Sweet and as part of the plea agreement will testify against him in his trial set Oct. 16. Bernau said he discussed Ahlers' pleas with Janet and Richard Sweet's family members.
Some of the Sweet's family members were in court but declined to comment after the hearing.
Bernau said Ahlers had been a "model" inmate during his time in jail pending trial, which wasn't always easy considering he had been attacked in prison, as possibly some kind of retaliation in a different case in which he could be a witness.
His sentencing is set 1 p.m. Sept. 24, in Delaware County District Court.
According to an affidavit for a search warrant originally filed in the case, Ahlers admitted to investigators that Sweet had asked him to come over to discuss killing the couple. Ahlers said he suggested options including poisoning, drugging and shooting them, but he cautioned Isaiah not to use an assault rifle in the house because "everyone" could hear the gunshots.
Sweet asked Ahlers how to load ammunition into an assault rifle, and Ahlers gave him advice about how to use the gun, according to an affidavit. During a phone conversation, Sweet allegedly told Ahlers, “I’ll get a hold of you when it’s done.”
Ahlers said he talked to Sweet again on the phone shortly after that and Sweet told him he had killed his grandparents, according to the affidavit. Ahlers allegedly told Sweet to come over to his house and he could get rid of the rifle and another gun. Ahlers told investigators he negotiated the sale of the rifle in Greeley on May 12, according to court documents.
Ahlers later retrieved the rifle and took it to investigators on the advice of his uncle, according to an affidavit. Sweet allegedly identified the rifle as the gun he used to shoot his grandparents.
Isaiah Sweet has asked for a change of venue for his trial but no court hearing has been set on that motion at this time.
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