MARENGO, Iowa - Tonch Weldon will spend the rest of his life in prison for fatally shooting Amy Gephart in the heart because his wife planned to leave him for her in 2009.
An Iowa County jury, seven men and five women, came back just before 11 a.m. with a guilty verdict for first-degree murder Tuesday. The jury deliberated for almost five days following the weeklong trial that wrapped up last Wednesday.
Sentencing is set 1 p.m. Aug. 15 in Iowa County District Court.
Weldon, 39, of Blairstown, who was emotional and cried at different times throughout the trial, was almost emotionless as the verdict was read and afterward as the deputies walked him back to the jail.
Jim and Nancy Gephart, Amy's parents, looked relieved after the verdict. Family members and friends who filled the courtroom were in tears and hugged each other. Weldon's family and friends were visibly upset and his mother was sobbing as her husband tried to comfort her.
The Gephart's in a statement to the media thanked the jurors for their time and attention during the trial. "Amy was our only child and we had 35 wonderful years with her," BJ Franklin, of the Horizons Survivors Program, said reading the statement. "She was a talented writer, photographer, and musician. She loved children and shared her interest in science and nature with them."
The Gepharts have established an Amy Gephart Memorial Trust at the Hartman Nature Center for the education and availability of field trips for young children, Franklin said. "Amy Gephart loved animals and nature and developed a native prairie as a senior project at the high school," Franklin said. "The domestic violence issue was very near to Amy's heart and she would assist victims in any way possible through food, clothing and finances."
The Gepharts in the statement thanked the Iowa Attorney General's Office -Assistant Attorney General Denise Timmins and Candis Lockard of victim services, Iowa County Attorney Tim McMeen, the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Iowa County Sheriff's Office, the Marengo Police Department and the Horizons Survivors Program for their "sensitive and professional handling of this situation."
Edward Leff, Weldon's attorney, declined to comment after the verdict.
The defense during trial argued it was a "crime of passion." It happened in the moment without premeditation, Dennis Cohen, Weldon's other attorney told the jury during his closing. He asked them to consider voluntary manslaughter.
Timmins said in her closing Weldon, an avid and experienced hunter, aimed and shot Amy Gephart, 35, directly in the heart. She said the shooting was deliberate and premeditated. Gephart was shot once in the chest with a 20-gauge shotgun before Weldon turned the gun on himself June 7, 2009 in his home.
During the trial, Tonch Weldon's wife Amanda Weldon testified she and her husband had an open marriage and Gephart lived with them and was their sexual partner until she fell in love with Gephart. They had decided to leave Weldon and after arguing that day, Amanda said Tonch shot Gephart in front of her and then tried to shoot himself more than once.
The trial started July 15 and closing arguments wrapped up last Wednesday.