(Photo by Miranda Klinkenberg)
Kirk Levin, who has been in and out of prison since age 17, appeared in Sac County court late Tuesday morning cuffed, at the wrists and ankles and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. He did not speak during the proceedings, kept his eyes lowered and slumped in his chair, and when addressed by the judge, he showed little reaction or emotion.
The bond hearing was originally for kidnapping and assault charges stemming from a Jan. 3 incident.
At 6:30 a.m. last Thursday morning, Levin went to the Storm Lake home of a female acquaintance, told her his car had broken down and asked for a ride back to 2242 Ira Avenue, an acreage his mother, Marilyn Schmitt, had owned since October 2007. After reportedly luring her into a barn, he told her he was kidnapping her, tied her up and forced her into a car. After running the vehicle into the ditch and a passing farmer stopped to investigate, the woman escaped. Officers later used a tracking dog and found Levin hiding in a barn a half-mile from where the car skidded off the road.
The kidnapping victim's name has not been released.
Since Levin was charged Monday with the first-degree murder of Schmitt, Bush decided to address the Class A Felony during the hearing.
After further investigation Thursday morning following the alleged kidnapping incident, law enforcement officials found Schmitt dead in the bedroom of the white farmhouse. Autopsy results indicate she was killed by sharp force trauma sometime between 1:30 a.m. and 5:45 a.m.
According to Schmitt's obituary, she spent most of her childhood at her parent's farm southwest of Early, was actively involved in 4-H and regularly showed her horse, Black Beauty.
Schmitt met Matt Levin in Estes Park, Colo. during a summer break from college, was married in 1988, and had two children, Kirk and Jessica. The couple later divorced.
In 2004, Schmitt moved back to Early and was employed full-time at V.T. Industries in Holstein, with the exception of the year she milked cows for LeRoy and Karla Meyer in Sac City.
A copy of the criminal complaint obtained by the Pilot-Tribune alleges Levin admitted to officers he had choked his mother, and that he was the only one who could have killed her. Levin previously lived with his mother at the Ira Avenue address before going to prison in 2010 to serve a third-degree burglary conviction, Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure confirmed.
The kidnapping and murder do not appear to be connected, but given the crimes were reportedly committed less than 36 hours after Levin was released from a Mount Pleasant prison Jan. 1, County Attorney Ben Smith argued bond for murder charges should be set at $1 million, with bond for kidnapping and assault charges remaining at $200,000.
Aside from his maternal grandparents, Ed and Sandra Schmitt of Early, and his mother, an alleged victim of "willful, premeditated murder" after being stabbed multiple times, Smith contended Levin had "zero ties to the community," since he did not grow up in Sac County.
Online records indicate Levin attended high school in Mount Horeb, Wisc.
State-appointed attorney Chuck Kenville did not disagree with Smith's request, and said even a $200,000 cash or surety bond was "out of reach" for the defendant. Levin's previous attorney, Charles Schulte, had previously withdrawn the bond reduction request after first-degree murder charges were filed early this week.
"Any number the court sets is fine," Kenville told the judge.
In the event Levin is released on bond, Bush ordered home confinement and an electronic tracking device.
Levin will be back in court Jan. 18 for a preliminary hearing, and in the meantime, Bush told the Pilot-Tribune he expects the case to be transferred to district court.
First-degree murder convictions carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.