Iowa Man Disappears on the Day a Jury Finds Him Guilty of Killing His Wife

Iowa Man Disappears on the Day a Jury Finds Him Guilty of Killing His Wife
Defendant Gregory Showalter Sr. returns to his seat after testifying during his first-degree murder trial at the Wapello County Courthouse in Ottumwa, Iowa on Sept. 20, 2023. (Kyle Ocker/The Ottumwa Courier via AP)
The Associated Press

OTTUMWA, Iowa—Police were searching for an Iowa man who failed to show up at his first-degree murder trial on Friday, the day a jury found him guilty of killing his wife.

A judge issued an arrest warrant for Gregory Showalter Sr. of Ottumwa after he missed the reading of the jury verdict, according to the Ottumwa Courier.

Mr. Showalter, 63, had been out on bail since August 2021, when a judge allowed him to post 10 percent of his $250,000 bond as long as he attended court hearings and wore a GPS monitor. He had been charged with first-degree murder and other offenses in the strangulation death of his wife, 60-year-old Helen Showalter.

Prosecutors argued that Mr. Showalter killed his wife on July 31, 2021, and then dumped her body along the Des Moines River near Ottumwa. Her body was found floating in the river the next morning.

Jurors reached a verdict just after 1 p.m. Friday and Mr. Showalter's lawyer said he called his client and told him to come to the Wapello County Courthouse. When Mr. Showalter didn't arrive, his attorney contacted the judge as well as officers, who checked his home.

While police searched for Mr. Showalter, the judge ordered that the verdict be read, citing Iowa court rules in cases where a person on trial is voluntarily absent. The jury found Mr. Showalter guilty of first-degree murder, abuse of a corpse, willful injury causing serious injury, and domestic abuse assault by strangulation, or impeding blood circulation.

The judge also canceled Mr. Showalter's bond.

Ottumwa Police Lt. Jason Bell said when police went to Mr. Showalter's home, they found a woman outside who said she was his friend. She said Mr. Showalter had given her keys to his vehicle “and made a comment about not needing those keys anymore.”

She thought he was going to walk to the courthouse and didn't know where he had gone.

Police tried to locate him by finding his cellphone but a phone carrier said it had been turned off about 1:30 p.m. Friday.

After the hearing, Mr. Bell said police determined Mr. Showalter had cut off his GPS monitor.

The judge set a sentencing hearing for Oct. 16. In Iowa, first-degree murder carries a mandatory term of life in prison without the possibility of parole.