A former Iowa State University student convicted of murder 17 years ago when she was 17 asked a judge for a new trial today . Yvette Louisell was sentenced to life in prison for stabbing a wheelchair-bound Ames man to death in December of 1987.
Keith Stilwell was a 42-year-old paraplegic who had hired Louisell to do some nude modeling at his home. Louisell told a Story County judge she deserves a new trial because she now remembers she was sexually abused by her father. “I think the fact that I was sexually abused by my father because it changes everything because it changes my viewpoint of the word, my view of the things that happened, my reactions to the things that happened,” Louisell said.
She told the judge that abuse does not justify killing Stilwell, but explains why she reacted violently to his sexual advances. “What it does do, however, is explain both why I was nude modeling for a man in his home when I was 17 years old and why I reacted to the situation in the manner in which I did, not to mention many of my self-destructive behaviors while at Iowa State University,” Louisell said as she read from a prepared statement.
An attorney challenged Louisell, suggesting her memory of the abuse came after she had exhausted all her other legal options. Louisell’s aunt, Marie Norton, testified that she, too, had been molested by her brother — Louisell’s father — when she was a child. “I do recall an event where I was molested by my brother when I was approximately age five,” Norton said. Norton said her brother offered her three dimes to play house. “We were both naked. He was on top of me and my father caught us at that time,” Norton said.
Norton flew in from California to testify after friends of Louisell contacted her to try to find out if there was any history of abuse in the family. Louisell’s attorney says this information may not have conviced a jury to acquit Louisell, but it may have resulted in a lighter sentence. Judge Dale Roo is expected to rule later this month on whether Louisell gets a new trial.