Judge grants stay in Louisell case

An Iowa Supreme Court justice has granted a stay in the resentencing of Yvette Louisell, an Iowa inmate who was given life in prison during her trial in Fort Dodge when she was a juvenile.

Justice David Wiggins’ order Thursday impacts the District Court decision that called for Louisell’s resentencing to go into effect Monday, according to Iowa Courts Online.

The resentencing would have made Louisell eligible for release, because of time already served.

It followed 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.

The stay was sought by the Iowa attorney general’s office in a filing Thursday, according to the online court record.

The attorney general’s office also filed an application for discretionary review.

Louisell now has 14 days to file a response to that application.

She had been resentenced to 25 years in prison by Story County District Court Judge James Ellefson on Jan. 31.

Louisell, 43, 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 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.