Jury convicts Theodore Gathercole of attempted murder in neighbor's stabbing

Gathercole faces up to 60 years

Trish Mehaffey
Published: February 7 2014 | 3:03 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:20 am in

A Linn County jury on Friday found Theodore Gathercole guilty of attempted murder in the stabbing of his elderly neighbor last June.

Gathercole, 52, of Cedar Rapids, was also found guilty of first-degree robbery and willful injury causing serious injury. He faces up to 60 years in prison.

The jury deliberated about six hours following a four day trial. Sentencing will be set at a later date.

Rottmiller wasn't in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

Gathercole stabbed Frederick Rottmiller, 72, of Cedar Rapids, multiple times in the abdomen, the front and back of his neck and one eye June 16, 2013. Gathercole asked Rottmiller for money to take a cab or other transportation downtown but Rottmiller agreed to give him a ride instead of money. Gathercole had borrowed $20 from Rottmiller earlier in the day.

Rottmiller testified at trial he had no doubt that Gathercole was the person who attacked him that early morning. Rottmiller lived in the same apartment building as Gathercole and was also the maintenance man for the building, so he saw Gathercole in passing and had talked to him.

Rottmiller said he was attacked as he went to open the passenger side door for Gathercole.

“He was (over him) face to face with me,” Rottmiller said at trial. “He said ‘I know I’m going to prison for this.’ He didn’t say anything else that made much sense.”

At some point Rottmiller saw a knife “longer than a paring knife but smaller than a butcher knife.” He estimated it had a 6 to 8 inch blade.

Rottmiller said when he fell to the ground he ended up lying halfway under his truck and Gathercole said he was calling 911 but nobody came to help him until much later. A man who had been at Gathercole's earlier in the evening saw Rottmiller and stopped a cab driver to call 911.

Police found Rottmiller's wallet lying partly underneath him and there was some money laying on the ground near him.

First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks said in his closing Rottmiller and police didn't know how much money was missing but Rottmiller was carrying about $200.

Rottmiller said during his testimony that he couldn't have taken his wallet out because he couldn't move his right leg after the attack and he kept his wallet in his right pocket.

Maybanks during his closing argued it didn't matter if any money was actually taken by Gathercole because robbery was his intent in this attack.

Attorneys for Gathercole didn't put on witnesses but Gathercole's videotaped police interview was played for the jurors by the prosecution.

Gathercole denied stabbing or hurting Rottmiller. He claimed he saw Rottmiller standing by his truck about 10 p.m. and he asked him for a ride downtown. He said Rottmiller then went up to his apartment to get his keys and never came back. That was the last time he saw him that night.

Gathercole's defense also argued there was no physical evidence to tie him to the assault. The defense claimed the police "contaminated" the crime scene by releasing it and not conducting further investigation until hours later.

According to testimony, Rottmiller has some long term or permanent damage from the assault. He's had five surgeries and will likely need more in the future. He can't walk without a wheelchair because of the spinal cord injury and he's blind in one eye.

 

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