Prosecutor: Man saw cousin shot in Mason City double homicide case

Published 11:10 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2017

By Mary Pieper, Mason City Globe Gazette

FORT DODGE, Iowa —  Several police officers testified Wednesday in Peter Veal’s double homicide trial that an alleged eyewitness told them Veal shot Mindy Kavars on Nov. 17 in Mason City.

Veal, of Lake Mills, is facing two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kavars and Caleb Christensen.

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He also is charged with attempted murder for allegedly attempting to shoot the eyewitness, Ron Willis, who called 911.

Peter Veal

Willis might testify Thursday, according to Cerro Gordo County Attorney Carlyle Dalen.

“This is a brutal murder,” Dalen said during opening statements Wednesday afternoon.

He said Kavars was shot in the neck and Christensen was stabbed 25 times in the head and shoulders.

Willis reportedly was socializing with his friends Veal and Christensen and his cousin Kavars at Christensen’s house in the 1600 block of North Hampshire Avenue when Veal got out of his chair at around 2:15 a.m. and shot Kavars.

Veal then pointed the gun at Willis and pulled the trigger, but it didn’t fire because it jammed, Dalen said.

He said Veal then hit Willis over the head with the gun and Willis ran out the door and called 911.

“He had just seen a murder and had barely gotten out alive,” Dalen said.

If Willis hadn’t escaped and called 911, the police might not have been able to identify a suspect, according to Dalen.

Willis saw Veal leave the house while he was still talking on his cell phone to a dispatcher, Dalen said.

Officers responded to the scene. One of them spotted Veal, who took off running, according to Dalen.

Police found Veal on someone’s porch a short distance away and arrested him, he said.

Public defender Steven Kloberdanz told jurors “you will hear a rather bizarre tale” during the course of the trial.

He also told jurors to pay close attention to Willis’ testimony as well as details of the investigation —including both what officers did and didn’t do.

“Don’t take their (the state’s) case at face value,” Kloberdanz said. “No one likes to admit that they made a mistake.”

Also on Wednesday, jurors were shown graphic photos taken at the crime scene of the bodies of the victims.

Veal’s trial was moved to the Webster County Courthouse in Fort Dodge due to pre-trial publicity.

Jury selection began Monday, but was halted due to a defense motion to strike the jury panel to allow more time to investigate whether African-Americans were being systematically excluded.

District Court Judge Rustin Davenport overruled that motion Tuesday morning and jury selection resumed in the afternoon.

The jury wasn’t selected until around 12:45 p.m. Wednesday.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday.