A Mason City man has been found guilty of first degree murder in the death of his girlfriend in July 2012. An autopsy showed 40-year-old Sarah Winters died of strangulation. Thirty-six-year-old Aaron Harris now faces life in prison with parole.

Cerro Gordo County Attorney Carlyle Dalen says he’s pleased with the jury’s verdict. “This, factually, was a very gruesome case,” Dalen said. “I mean, to think of a man putting his hands around somebody and taking the life of that person is just absolutely gruesome.”

Last week, a psychologist testified for the defense and said Harris suffers from bi-polar disorder and a substance abuse disorder. Dalen said jurors didn’t buy that argument. “We’re very pleased the jury found the diminished capacity and intoxication defenses were not appropriate in this case,” Dalen said. “He clearly formed the intent to kill and clearly formed everything we needed for (first-degree murder) and I think made those admissions in interviews with law enforcement.”

The verdict in this case wraps up a trio of murders that happened in Mason City within a 12-month period, with convictions happening in all three cases. “The success that we’ve had with these cases and the work that’s been put (into) them, I think has finally paid off,” Dalen said. “We’ve seen the kind of verdicts that Cerro Gordo County juries are willing to dish out and appropriately so. These are facts that are very gruesome and warranted a murder in the first degree.”

A sentencing date for Harris has not been scheduled. Harris was hoping for a lesser verdict as part of a diminished capacity defense.

by Bob Fisher, KGLO