Iowa City Murder Suspect Makes Initial Court Appearance

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

David Christian, 29, of Iowa City makes his initial appearance by video from the Johnson County Jail on charges of second degree murder and public intoxication Monday, Oct. 20, 2008 in Iowa City. Christian was charged with murder after a fight early on Sunday over a chess game resulted in the death of Michael Steward, 39, of Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)


By Becky Ogann

IOWA CITY - Monday was the first court appearance for an Iowa City man accused of killing a neighbor during a chess game fight.

Iowa City police claim the murder suspect choked his victim by using his legs. David Christian, 29, faces a charge of second degree murder. He's accused of killing Michael Steward, 39, early Sunday morning.

We knew Sunday that Steward and Christian were playing a game of chess at the rooming house where both lived. But new court details about the way Steward died makes a strange case even more bizarre.

David Christian didn't say much in court as the judge set bond at 500-thousand dollars. But court documents claim Christian admitted he and the victim started fighting while drinking and playing chess. And during that fight (quote)"...the defendant placed the victim's head between his legs and applied pressure to the victim's neck."

"By his own admission, he applied the choke hold, applied, relaxed and applied...and it went on over a series of minutes until the victim was totally unresponsive," said Sgt. Troy Kelsay, Iowa City Police Dept.

Police say all this happened in a rooming house common area, but no one else was around. Investigators say Christian told them Steward "didn't look so good" after a while.

When asked what he meant, Christian replied "have you ever seen a dead person?"

Neighbors knew both victim and defendant hung out and would go drinking together. But police claims Christian choked Steward to death using his legs caught many by surprise.

"I would have had a hard time believing's quite's very strange," Caleb Gentry, next door neighbor.

"I'm sad to hear this happened...and I'm shocked," said Gareth Gingerich, knew the victim and suspect.

Police say Christian told them he performed C-P-R on his neighbor, but got no response.

Police charged Christian with public intoxication as well as 2nd degree murder. Court documents say Christian's blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit four hours after officers were called.

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