Sac County Attorney Ben Smith calls Jeremy Werneburg’s story about accidentally hitting a man with his car a ridiculous story in his closing arguments to jurors this morning.
Sac County Attorney Ben Smith calls Jeremy Werneburg’s story about accidentally hitting a man with his car a ridiculous story in his closing arguments to jurors this morning.

November 4, 2016

SAC CITY

Jeremy Werneburg claims he was trying to escape a hostile situation when he accidentally struck Kyle Freese with his car in February.

The county prosecutor says Werneburg, 37, of Carroll, was trying to kill Freese, 31, of Wall Lake.

Jurors in Werneburg’s attempted-murder trial began deliberating late this morning after two days of testimony. He faces up to 25 years in prison if they find him guilty.

Freese and two others have testified that Werneburg deliberately drove his car into Freese in a confrontation at Carnarvon, where Werneburg said he had gone to pick up his ex-girlfriend at her request on Feb. 14.

There was a verbal confrontation at first as Werneburg held a hammer in his hand.

Werneburg claimed Thursday that he went back to his car to leave. The ground was snowy and his front brakes were failing.

He said the brakes would completely lock up on occasion.

Werneburg claims that as he backed his car, he turned it to point its headlights at Freese and the two others. He said one had a baseball bat, and he worried she would try to bash out his car windows.

Werneburg testified that he stopped the car, shifted into drive, and as he was turning again away from the group, the brakes locked, sending him on a collision course with Freese.

“Is that reasonable?” said Sac County Attorney Ben Smith, who is prosecuting the case. “Does that make sense? No? ... You don’t think Kyle Freese could have gotten out of the way?”

Smith argued that there was no way Werneburg could have accidentally hit Freese over such a short distance while the brakes were locked, especially with enough force to drive Freese’s leg through the wall of a building.

The impact tore a huge gash in Freese’s leg, mangled his calf and broke a bone.

Werneburg said he didn’t know he injured Freese when he drove away. He said he learned of a warrant for his arrest the next day and intended to turn himself in but didn’t. He was arrested three days later in Fort Dodge, where he resisted and was subdued with a stun gun.

In his closing statement to jurors this morning, Werneburg’s defense attorney, Andrew Smith, called the crash “an unfortunate accident” and used photos of the scene to try to corroborate Werneburg’s claims.

Investigators did not attempt to reconstruct the crash scene to show what had happened. It’s unclear why.

Ben Smith, the prosecutor, relied on three witness statements that Werneburg deliberately tried to hit Freese twice.

“There’s only one reason to drive your car at somebody when they’re on the ground, after you’ve already put them through the wall,” Smith said.

Jurors deliberations continued early this afternoon.