Man Sentenced to 18-Years for Role in Manchester Double Homicide

By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter

Brandon Ahlers consults with his attorney Aaron Hawbaker during his sentencing held at the Delaware County Courthouse in Manchester, Ia. Tuesday. Ahlers received 18 years for his role in aiding and abetting the deaths of Manchester couple Richard and Janet Sweet. (Dave Kettering/DUBUQUE TELEGRAPH HERALD)

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By Aaron Hepker

MANCHESTER, Iowa — Brandon Ahlers, who assisted Janet and Richard Sweet’s grandson in their double homicide, was sentenced to 18 years in prison, the maximum time he could receive on the charges he pleaded guilty to July 16, in Delaware County District Court.

Ahlers, 20, 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 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 Isaiah Sweet, grandson of Janet and Richard, different ways to kill the couple. The couple was found with gunshot wounds to the head.

Isaiah Sweet, 18, of Manchester, is also charged with two counts of first-degree murder in his grandparents’ slaying. His trial was moved to Dubuque County based on pretrial publicity and remains set Oct. 16, but will likely be changed.

Delaware County Judge Monica Ackley sentenced Ahlers to the 16 years in accordance with the plea agreement but also revoked his previous probation and ran that two year sentence consecutively to the other charges.

Ahlers asked the judge to consider a letter he sent to the court, which asked if he could have 24 hours before he started serving his time to see his two sons and his mother, who was dying.

Ackley said she gave him the maximum time based on his “shear lack of remorse” and because he assisted in the loss of two lives. “I can’t imagine the horror to walk in that day on Mother’s Day to find that,” Ackley said. Look at me, it is absolutely appalling that you walked in and saw those bodies lying there and didn’t make a phone call to tell anyone. That’s the coldest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Ackley also denied his 24 hours request.

Angie Camlin found her mother and stepfather dead on Mother’s Day 2012 in Manchester said had no forgiveness for Brandon Ahlers. “He has committed a hateful, evil crime,” Angie Camlin said in a victim’s impact statement at Ahler’s sentencing. “I want him to be in jail as long as the court can give him.”

Camlin said it “chills me to the bone” think about him climbing in a window, stepping over their bodies that day, so he could go into the garage to steal her stepfather’s vehicle, as well as other items from the home.

Camlin said she believed Ahlers helped plan the murder and wondered if he hadn’t helped Isaiah, maybe there would have been time for a change of heart. She wondered how much he was pushing Isaiah to commit the crime because Ahlers benefited from it. The antique truck and another truck were worth thousands of dollars, as well as cash and jewelry taken.

Ahlers caused Camlin’s daughter, who first saw her grandparents’ bodies, “unspeakable pain,” Camblin said. She still suffers from panic attacks, nightmares and has flashbacks of that “bloody scene.”

“I loved my mother with all my heart and miss her every day,” Camlin said.

During the July plea 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. He also admitted to being an accessory after the fact of their homicide.

After the plea hearing, Delaware County Attorney John Bernau said that Ahlers has “critical” information regarding Isaiah Sweet and as part of the plea agreement will testify against him in his trial.

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.

Ahlers gave Isaiah Sweet advice about how to use the rifle, according to an affidavit. Isaiah Sweet called Ahlers after the killing and Ahlers told him to come over to his house and he could get rid of the rifle and another gun. 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.
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