A request for a change of venue has been granted to a Fort Dodge man accused of raping then killing a woman by setting her on fire. The trial of 35-year-old Sessions Harper will be held in the Buena Vista County courthouse, in Storm Lake.
Harper is a black man, and his lawyer asked on Friday for the trial to be moved to an area with similar racial demographics to Webster County. He’d suggested Des Moines, Waterloo, Sioux City or Davenport, but District Judge Alan Goode pointed to a legal precedent ruling that Harper’s not legally entitled to certain racial demographics in moving the trial.
Harper’s charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree arson and first-degree sexual abuse in the death of 22-year-old Holly Michael, found by firefighters in her burning home in Fort Dodge the morning of January 8. She died of her injuries last month at University Hospitals in Iowa City. The tentative trial date’s September 25.