UPDATE: Man charged in Iowa cold case pleads guilty

Published: Feb. 17, 2017 at 6:45 AM CST
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No one will ever be convicted of murder in the 1995 death of Susan Kersten outside Iowa City. But a man who was a longtime suspect in the case, and who was scheduled to go on trial next month, did accept a plea deal Friday morning to reduce charges.

Steven Klein of Mount Pleasant, 56, was accused in the September 24th 1995 death of Kersten. The body of the woman, then 38, was found in her burned out car, 2 miles south of Iowa City. The scene was near her home at the regency mobile home village. In court, Klein agreed he was guilty of three charges. The charges are willful injury, 2nd degree arson, and suborning perjury.

That last charge means Klein tried to get someone to lie about the case to law enforcement period. The agreement called for a total sentence not to exceed 15 years. After the deal the judge gave family members the chance to speak. Sandra Rohrer, the victim's daughter, told the court her mother was "a beautiful person and I have no words to express the void in my life." Rohrer also told the judge she was 19 at the time her mother died and Klein stole the most important person in her life. Rohrer concluded "he got away with murder."

After the hearing, family members said they were not totally happy with the deal and were not consulted by prosecutors about the agreement. They had hoped to see Klein admit to the killing even if it were a lesser charge such as manslaughter. After the sentencing, on prosecutor said they had accepted a guilty plea to willful injury and arson because those were charges where they had some physical proof.