Lake Mills man found guilty of murder

Published 9:03 pm Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sentencing is slated for Aug. 25

By Mary Pieper, Mason City Globe Gazette

FORT DODGE, Iowa — A Webster County jury found a north Iowa man guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder Thursday.

Peter Veal, 31, of Lake Mills sat quietly as the verdict was read, but tears were shed in the areas of the courtroom reserved for Veal’s family and the families of the victims.

Peter Veal

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Mindy Kavars died of a gunshot wound to the throat shortly after 2 a.m. Nov. 17 at a residence in the 1600 block of North Hampshire Avenue in Mason City. Caleb Christensen died of multiple stab wounds.

Police said Veal committed those crimes and attempted to kill Ron Willis, who was also in the house. Willis testified Veal pointed a gun at his head and pulled the trigger, but the gun didn’t fire.

Willis said he ran from the house and called 911 while Veal tried to get a jammed round of ammunition out of the gun.

Many members of Kavars’ family were in the courtroom throughout the trial and when the verdicts were read.

Melissa Kavars Hall, Kavars’ sister, said the trial became about Veal and Willis, and the victims seemed to be forgotten.

“Mindy was kind and loving and very funny,” she said. “We don’t want her to be forgotten.”

Kavars’ daughter, Alexandrea Kavars Rhine, said she hopes her family and Christensen’s family can now “find the peace we desperately needed during these brutal months.”

Kavars’ mother, Linda Boyd Kavars, said she knows the verdict won’t bring her daughter back, but “we are so glad this guy is locked up and isn’t going to hurt anyone again.”

She said her daughter “may have had her problems, but she was a beautiful soul.”

Veal is tentatively scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 25. The mandatory sentence in Iowa for first-degree murder is life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Cerro Gordo County Attorney Carlyle Dalen said he was happy for the victims’ families, as the verdicts should give them a sense of relief.

“I felt like justice took place today,” he said. “This was an extremely brutal murder, and conviction in this case was the right thing given the facts.”

During his closing argument Wednesday, public defender Steven Kloberdanz claimed Willis was the one who fatally shot Kavars and stabbed Christensen to death.

Kloberdanz claimed Willis put his bloody coat on Veal, who was under the influence of drugs, so he would take the fall.

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown said during his closing argument that no evidence existed to back up that claim. Veal was found and arrested on North Carolina Avenue not long after Willis called 911.

Officers testified during the trial that Veal’s jeans and shoes had blood on them, as did a coat found along the path Veal took when he left the crime scene on foot.

The trial, which was moved to Webster County due to publicity, began July 10.

The case was submitted to the jury at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday. Jurors deliberated about an hour and a half before going home for the evening.

The jury resumed deliberations at 9 a.m. Thursday, taking a lunch break shortly before noon. The verdicts were read in the courtroom at 1:45 p.m.