Alleged kidnapping victim tells her story to jury
Kirk Levin admitted kidnapping Jessica Vega during an interview with investigators, according to a captain with the Sac County Sheriff’s Department.
Levin, who is on trial in Webster County District Court, is also charged with first-degree murder in the choking and beating death of his mother, Marilyn Schmitt, 45, in her Early home on Jan. 3.
Capt. Brian Erritt, in testimony Monday, said Levin admitted to kidnapping the Storm Lake woman, but also told investigators “he couldn’t really recall how he got to Storm Lake’ and indicated “he must have” used his mother’s car.
Vega, who met Levin through MySpace, told jurors she heard something hitting her window on the morning of Jan. 3.
“I was actually sleeping and thought it was twigs or trees hitting my window,” Vega testified Tuesday. “I saw a person I was not able to see who it was but I heard something about a car.”
Vega eventually recognized Levin, who asked her to help him out with his car, which he said ran out of gas. He asked her to drive him around until they found his car in Storm Lake. When they didn’t find it, Vega said Levin asked her to drive him back to his mother’s house at 2242 Ira Ave. in Early.
Vega said she agreed, but asked Levin to be quick because she was starting an internship that day and needed to be back in Storm Lake by 7:30 a.m.
After pulling into the driveway, Vega said Levin wanted her to go into a horse barn on the property, saying there was something he wanted to show her.
“I kept saying no, but then he took my key from the ignition and I said, ‘What are you doing? ‘You’re killing the engine,'” Vega testified. “He told me, ‘Come on, it won’t take long.’ So I told him, ‘OK, but hurry.'”
After going into the barn, Vega said Levin then told her he was kidnapping her.
“I thought he was joking, and I actually started to laugh,” she said.
But when Levin pulled out a yellow nylon rope, Vega said she realized he wasn’t joking. She said Levin tied up her arms to her waist and brought her into Schmitt’s house.
“As soon as we went in I saw a screwdriver,” she said. “I wanted to use that against him. Poke him in the eye or something, but I didn’t think that was a good idea.”
At one point, she testified that Levin took off her boots.
“I asked, ‘Kirk, what are you doing?'” she said. “I thought at this point he was going to rape me.”
Vega said she told Levin she would let him do anything, but only if he went back to Storm Lake to get her daughter, who along with Vega’s sister, was sleeping at Vega’s apartment. Vega said she pretended to comply with Levin but was trying to figure out how to “get back to society” and get someone to help her.
“How could I not fight for my life?” Vega said.
“I had supposedly given him a plan, and nobody was going to see him,” she said. “We headed back to the car.”
Vega testified that Levin eventually made her lie down in the passenger’s seat of her car. The whole time, Vega said she was trying to reach a hammer from a tool box that was in the back seat so she could defend herself.
“I was going to just lean back, but I didn’t want to kill him,” she said. “I decided I was going to do it at the first stop sign we got to.”
But before that happened, the car crashed into a ditch not far from Schmitt’s house.
Gary Schramm, a farmer from Early, happened to be driving past the scene shortly after Levin crashed the car.
He testified that he saw Levin standing outside the car.
“I rolled down my passenger window and asked if everything was OK,” Schramm said. “He said it was.”
Levin rebuffed Schramm’s offer of help, including being pulled out of the ditch.
But Levin kept saying he was fine, said Schramm. As Levin began to walk away, “a girl showed up at the passenger window screaming for help,” Schramm said. “She was screaming ‘He’s taken me. He’s kidnapped me, and he’s going to hurt me.'”
Levin first began walking, then jogging before jumping into the ditch and running toward a bridge.
Officers eventually found Levin and took him into custody on suspicion of kidnapping.
As investigators from both Sac County and Storm Lake questioned both Levin and Vega, Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure said deputies were trying to figure out how Levin ended up in Storm Lake.
“We believed it was his mother’s (car),” McClure said. “We tried calling Marilyn’s cell phone several times, but there was no answer. We called her place of employment, and they told us she wasn’t scheduled to come in until later that day.”
Inconsistencies began showing up in Levin’s story, according to McClure. Levin had allegedly told Vega that Schmitt was out of town, but he told investigators that she was at home.
“Because we couldn’t make contact with her by cell or her place of employment, we decided to do a welfare check,” McClure said. “We wanted to go out and make sure she was OK.”
McClure, who attended high school with Schmitt, said he immediately recognized her when he entered the bedroom where her bloodied body was face down on the floor.
After the scene was secured, Dr. Sabrina Seehafer, a DNA specialist with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, responded to the scene to look for samples of blood and DNA at Schmitt’s property and in Schmitt’s and Vega’s cars. She also examined Levin while he was in custody and noted minor abrasions to her hand and arm.
According to Seehafer, DNA analysis suggested that blood from Schmitt was found on clothing items that were in the trunk of Schmitt’s car as well as on her bed and on a belt that was used to choke her, while Levin’s blood was found on the car’s window and on a door handle leading to the house.
“The probability of finding this profile in a population of unrelated individuals selected at random would be less than 1 out of 100 billion,” she said.
Jurors also heard testimony from Marilyn Schmitt’s mother, Sandra Schmitt, who said her daughter was happy Levin was moving in with her.
“She was especially excited to get her home ready for Kirk,” Sandra Schmitt said. “We were helping her remodel her house by putting in new windows and doors and carpet.”
In opening statements, Sac County Attorney Ben Smith told jurors “Marilyn Schmitt was happy because her son was coming to live with her … within 48 hours of her son’s arrival, she’s dead.”
Smith said Levin grabbed a knife from the knife block downstairs, walked into his mother’s bedroom, beat and choked her with a belt that was found around her neck and stabbed her 88 times.
Levin’s attorney, Charles Kenville, asked jurors to keep an open mind, even though he said most of the evidence will not be contested.
“My caution to you, because I’m not going to contest much of the evidence, is to not get lulled into a sense of complacency,” he said. “Don’t come to any conclusions before the end of the case. I assure you that by the end of the case it will be much more clear as to what the fighting issue is.”
Levin’s case is also being prosecuted by Assistant Iowa Attorney General Doug Hammerand. Testimony is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. today.