Court Upholds Conviction in Woman's Slaying

Lynn Lamasters, left, is shown in court in Grundy Center, Iowa, as a verdict is read in his trial, Tuesday, April 5, 2005. A jury found Lamasters guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder in the death of his roommate. (AP Photo/The Waterloo Courier, Rick Chase)

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By Katie Stinson

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A northeastern Iowa man convicted of strangling his girlfriend to death with an electrical cord and hiding her body in a freezer in 2003 will not get a new trial, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court rejected Lynn G. Lamasters' appeal, which argued that his lawyers should have presented an insanity defense at his 2005 trial. Lamasters is serving life in prison in the killing of Patricia Rapacki, whose body was found in the freezer at her Jesup home days after she went missing.

Lamasters failed to prove he was legally insane at the time of the killing, the court said, offering only one expert who said he could have been. His extensive drug use in the days after Rapacki's slaying, his elaborate attempts to conceal the woman's death and testimony from relatives that he was acting normal do not support an insanity claim, the court added.

At trial, Lamasters argued that he did not kill Rapacki. Instead, his lawyers suggested that the culprit was Rapacki's estranged husband, whose cigarette butts were found by the freezer. One of Lamasters' attorneys testified that he opted against an insanity defense because a jury likely wouldn't have believed it since his client "was on a methamphetamine binge."

Rapacki was last seen alive on Dec. 27, 2003, and was reported missing 10 days later. Lamasters partied and sold off Rapacki's furniture and other belongings in the days after she vanished while telling friends and investigators a range of stories about her whereabouts, including that she was gambling in Minnesota.

On Jan. 6, 2004, sheriff's deputies noticed Lamasters acting suspiciously near a bank and approached him. He drove off with deputies in pursuit, and was eventually apprehended in a ditch with self-inflicted knife wounds.

Investigators later found Rapacki's body inside a locked freezer, and the key was found in Lamasters' vehicle. His blood was identified on her sweater's collar and on the electrical cord around her neck.

In claiming insanity, Lamasters pointed to a doctor who examined him in 2004 and concluded there was a "substantial likelihood that Mr. Lamasters' psychotic symptoms had risen to the level of an insane act." He also said that his stab wounds and later statement that he was hearing voices while at the hospital supported the claim.

The court disagreed, saying "the viability of insanity defense is at best speculative."

"He continued living his daily life, drinking, partying, and doing drugs, and he created stories as necessary to account for Rapacki's whereabouts and evade suspicion," the court wrote. "These appear to be the acts of someone who is aware he has committed a crime and who calculates steps to avoid detection."

Lamasters' lawyer, Stephanie Rattenborg, declined comment, saying she had not read the ruling.
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