Judge resentences Yvette Louisell to 25 years

AMES – An Iowa inmate who was given life in prison during her trial in Fort Dodge when she was a juvenile has been resentenced to 25 years in prison.

Story County District Court Judge James Ellefson issued the sentence Friday for 43-year-old Yvette Louisell. It’s scheduled to go into effect on Feb. 10.

Louisell was convicted in 1988 of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 42-year-old Keith Stilwell, a budget analyst/accountant with the National Animal Disease Center in Ames. She was 17.

She was 18 when she began serving her sentence.

Her trial was moved to Fort Dodge on a change of venue from Story County, authorized by the now-late Judge Allen Goode.

Louisell was arrested in a mall in Ames with Stilwell’s automatic teller card, credit card and voter registration card. She initially told police she had found his billfold on the Iowa State University campus where she was an honors student.

According to articles in The Messenger in 1988, authorities said the two met when she modeled for an art class Stilwell was taking, and she later also modeled in his home.

Stilwell, who had broken his neck in a wrestling accident in high school, was a paraplegic who used canes and crutches. His body was found in his home with a knife protruding from his chest.

Louisell testified she was modeling for Stilwell in his home when he twice attempted to rape her and that she had stabbed him with a knife he had first pressed against her thigh.

At the time of the murder, Louisell was a freshman at ISU, attending on a full-tuition, room and board scholarship. She had been a high school honors student in Kalamazoo, Mich.

The resentencing makes Louisell eligible for release, because of time already served.

The resentencing follows an Iowa Supreme Court decision last summer that ruled mandatory life sentences for juveniles were illegal.

The U.S. Supreme Court reached the same conclusion in a 2012 ruling.