A Story County jury convicted Thomas Earl Seehan of first degree murder after an eight-day trial. Seehan, who was going through a divorce and seeking custody of his son, smothered the boy to death in December of 1975. The next day, he went to his wife’s workplace and held her hostage for a number of hours before surrendering to authorities.
His attorney argued Seehan was insane at the time. The prosecutor in the case was Ruth Harkin, who was the first woman to be elected as a county attorney in Iowa. Seehan unsuccessfully appealed his conviction. The Iowa Supreme Court and a federal appeals court rejected the argument that the jury had been inappropriately influenced by Harkin’s “visible pregnancy” when she spoke of Seehan’s dead son in court.
Seehan was sentenced to life in prison on the first degree murder charge. He died at the age of 69, after spending more than 43 years in prison. An autopsy will be performed to confirm the cause of his death.