Conviction overturned for Dubuque man in girlfriend's murder

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - An Iowa Appeals Court ruled the mental health history of a murdered Dubuque woman should have been allowed at the trial of her former boyfriend.

Fontae Buelow testifies in court on Thursday, January 18, 2018

The court cited that as its main reason to overturn the second-degree murder conviction of Fontae Buelow on Wednesday. Buelow was serving a 50-year prison sentence after his conviction in January 2018.

Prosecutors say Buelow stabbed Samantha Link to death during a fight at a home on Kane Street in Dubuque in March 2017 after the two had returned from a night out at area bars. Buelow's attorneys claim Link stabbed herself twice in the chest during the argument.

During trial, Buelow's attorneys attempted to introduce evidence of Link's mental health history and other testimony they say "demonstrate the decedent’s suicidal disposition." That evidence included Link's previous suicide attempts and mental health diagnosis that increased her risk for committing suicide. But the district court judge barred Buelow's attorneys from presenting much of that evidence at his murder trial.

Prosecutors argued the mental health evidence was years old, making it irrelevant and only speculation to demean Link's character.

In its ruling, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled the evidence had important relevance to determining how Link died and whether Buelow had killed her and should have been allowed at trial.

"In short, we believe the excluded evidence “would have clearly aided the defense in its only available theory,” namely, that Link was responsible for her own death," the court ruling states.

Cassie Nelson, Samantha Link's half-sister, says it was overwhelming for her family to hear the court's decision. Still, she says she's not worried about her sister's mental health records being included in a trial.

"The medical records don't scare me. If that means a free trial, then so be it, because that was three or more years ago and Sam was well. She was doing well," Nelson said.

Buelow's case will now go back to district court for a new trial. However, Nelson said her family plans to appeal this court's decision.