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Friday, February 25, 2011

Scott County, Iowa - Jury finds James Salkil guilty of kidnapping..

Brian Wellner

James Salkil faces a mandatory life sentence in connection with the brutal beating of Anthony McFarland, who was dumped in a ditch in rural Davenport on March 11, 2010.
Even after a Scott County jury found Salkil guilty of first-degree kidnapping Monday morning, questions remain why he and two others committed the crime.
“Salkil has this club, and he’s the boss,” prosecutor Jerry Feuerbach said following the verdict. “He makes the rules. He thinks he’s the godfather.”
Feuerbach, recalling testimony at Salkil’s week-long trial, said McFarland, 20 years old at the time, was “acting up” and “wouldn’t be quiet” when the victim was celebrating Salkil’s 35th birthday with Nathan Johnson and Benjamin Border the night before he was found in the ditch. In the early morning hours of March 11, the four went back to Salkil’s Davenport home to continue partying.
According to Border’s testimony, Salkil hit McFarland in the head numerous times with an aluminum baseball bat in his living room. The victim was then stuffed into the trunk of Border’s car, driven to a secluded part of the city and left for dead beside Utah Avenue.
“It was up to the defendant to handle things,” Feuerbach said of Salkil.
Testimony revealed that Salkil was “captain” of a local motorcycle club called “Pirates Corp.” Border and Johnson also were members.
An investigation determined the suspects were involved in a large-scale marijuana distribution conspiracy in Davenport around the time the beating occurred. The same day McFarland was found, police seized approximately 12 pounds of marijuana, packaging materials, travel documents and $12,354 from Salkil’s home.
Feuerbach said there is no indication McFarland was in a dispute with the suspects over money or drugs.
Salkil did not testify in his defense. The only explanation Border gave during his testimony as to why Salkil struck McFarland is because the victim had argued with Johnson and another friend, Charles Ray, that night.
Ray testified that he and McFarland “got into it” when the group was at Tuxedo’s Show Club, a strip club on Grand Avenue.
Border, 25, and Johnson, 29, each pleaded guilty last year to the lesser charge of third-degree kidnapping and are serving 24-year prison sentences.
Salkil’s jury had the option to convict him of third-degree kidnapping or false imprisonment. After a few hours deliberating Friday afternoon and Monday morning, the jury returned a guilty verdict on first-degree kidnapping, which carries a mandatory life sentence in Iowa. The jury also convicted him on simple assault and assault resulting in serious injury.
“Overall the most important piece of evidence were various phone records,” Feuerbach said.
Data from cell phone towers had Salkil making calls along the route to the dump site in the hours before McFarland was found.
His defense claimed Salkil wasn’t with Border and Johnson when they dumped McFarland.
Defense attorney Dave Morrison also tried to have the first-degree kidnapping charge dropped, saying McFarland didn’t suffer serious injury while he was being transported in the trunk of Border’s car.
Morrison declined to comment Monday about the verdict.
“You have a person who clearly suffered a severe head injury,” Feuerbach said. “These people wrap him up, pick him up and haul him out.
“They take the person away in the trunk of a car. They bounce him around for 15 or 20 minutes and then dump his body alongside a road on a cool morning in March.
“The jury could find, and obviously did, that that also caused serious injury.”
McFarland, who now is 21, suffers permanent brain damage because of what happened, he testified at Salkil’s trial. He’s still undergoing surgery 11 months later.
Salkil’s family has turned down several requests to be interviewed.
Salkil is scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. March 17.