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North Iowa man who tortured woman and was sent to prison for life won’t be set free

DES MOINES – A North Iowa man who committed a heinous crime against a woman in 2017 and was sent to prison for life won’t be set free after the Iowa Supreme Court took the case on appeal.

Charles Albright, formerly of Rockwell, was sentenced to life in prison back in 2017 on a kidnapping charge and a concurrent 5-year sentence for willful injury.

According to court documents, Albright, and a female, “K.H.” dated for over two years, during which time they lived together in various locations around Iowa. In October of 2016, Albright and K.H. lived in a house in Meservey.

Around 1:30 a.m. on October 7, 2016, Albright became paranoid after using methamphetamine and decided not to go into work that day. Albright accused K.H. of having men over to their home while he was at work and said he was going to stay home to keep an eye on K.H. K.H. told Albright she was not having men over while he was at work. At that point, Albright became very angry and hit K.H. Albright continued to hit her in the face with both an open hand and a fist while accusing her of lying and calling her worthless, good-for-nothing, and other derogatory names.

K.H. tried to get away from Albright. As she went toward the locked door of their home, Albright grabbed K.H. by the collar of her jacket, threw her against the wall, and told her she was not leaving the house. Albright then threw K.H. onto the floor and slammed her head into the ground twice. Albright continued to hit K.H. as he threw her onto the mattress in the living room. Albright’s dog, who lived with the couple, began biting K.H. on the leg and on the hip while Albright continued to batter K.H. on the mattress.

Albright hit K.H. in her pelvic region multiple times with the backside of a cordless drill. K.H. tried to block Albright’s blows to her face and body with her hands and arms. Albright held K.H. down and cut behind her ear with a knife. He used a Taser to burn K.H.’s wrists. The assault went on intermittently for hours.

K.H. could not escape because she was scared and Albright was always watching her. When she tried to leave the home by moving toward the door, Albright blocked the door and told K.H. to sit back down. K.H. had to remain within Albright’s eyesight the entire morning, and Albright never fell asleep.

That afternoon, Albright forced K.H. to go with him to the veterinarian in Sheffield. K.H. did not want to enter Albright’s truck with him because she was afraid he would kill her. She told Albright she did not want to go. Albright started getting out of the truck to force her physically inside, so K.H. entered Albright’s vehicle.

On the way to the veterinarian’s office, Albright continued to hit K.H. Albright made a phone call to a friend, and K.H. tried to call out “help” to the friend on the phone. Albright told K.H. he was going to bury her in a cornfield up to her neck and let a combine cut off her head.

When Albright and K.H. arrived at the veterinarian’s office, K.H. stayed in the truck while Albright took the dog inside. K.H. did not try to escape from the truck while Albright was inside the veterinarian’s office because there was a large window looking out from the office to the parking lot, and she was afraid Albright would see her escape from the truck.

After the veterinarian appointment, Albright drove to a Casey’s gas station. While Albright was inside the gas station, K.H. escaped by leaving Albright’s truck and running across the road to Dollar General. Once inside, K.H. asked the Dollar General clerk for a telephone and the keys to the restroom. K.H. called 911 for help from inside the restroom and waited there until an officer arrived.

The Sheffield Chief of Police arrived at Dollar General at approximately 3:00 p.m. as the first officer on the scene. K.H. sounded very scared when he arrived, and she wanted to verify it was the officer outside the restroom door, not Albright. When K.H. opened the door for the officer and he first saw her, K.H. was propped up against the bathroom wall and her eyes were almost completely swollen shut. The chief called an ambulance and asked an EMT who was shopping at Dollar General to evaluate K.H. before the ambulance arrived.

As a result of Albright’s beating, K.H. suffered two nose fractures; bruising and swelling of her arms, legs, and face; head and wrist pain; dizziness; and vision problems. Albright also broke K.H.’s dentures when he repeatedly hit her in the face.

On October 10, the court issued a warrant for Albright’s arrest. On October 18, officers executed a search warrant for Albright’s home in Meservey. Officers found a cordless drill sitting upside down on a chair near the mattress in the living room.

Officers located and arrested Albright on October 19 at a home in Mason City. The State charged Albright with willful injury resulting in serious injury, a class “C” felony, in violation of Iowa Code section 708.4(1) (2016), and kidnapping in the first degree, a class “A” felony, in violation of Iowa Code sections 710.1 and 710.2.

At trial, the State entered evidence that Albright had been abusive and controlling of K.H. and that she had tried to leave him in the past. Defense counsel did not object to the testimony and asked questions of K.H. that resulted in further prior bad acts evidence. The State and defense counsel also introduced evidence of Albright’s prior convictions and jail time. Defense counsel did not request a limiting instruction on the prior bad acts or prior convictions evidence, and the district court did not give a limiting instruction to the jury.
The jury found Albright guilty of willful injury causing bodily injury and kidnapping in the first degree. The district court entered judgment, ordering Albright to serve a term not to exceed five years for the willful injury conviction and life in prison for the kidnapping conviction. The district court ordered Albright to pay a $750 fine, 35% surcharge, and “court costs in the amount assessed by the Clerk” for the willful injury conviction. The district court also ordered Albright to pay court costs for the kidnapping conviction.

The Iowa Supreme Court has denied Albright’s appeal on the most serious charges and he will stay in prison. Albright raised four issues on appeal. First, whether the State presented sufficient evidence to support his conviction of first-degree kidnapping. Second, whether the district court erred in submitting kidnapping in the second degree as a lesser included offense of kidnapping in the first degree. Third, whether counsel was ineffective by failing to object to and by introducing evidence of Albright’s other crimes, wrongs, or other acts. Fourth, whether the district court was wrong in ordering Albright to pay restitution without first considering his reasonable ability to pay. The court affirmed Albright’s convictions for willful injury causing bodily injury and kidnapping in the first degree. On direct appeal, the court did not reach Albright’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel for his counsel’s failure to object to and introduction of evidence of Albright’s other crimes, wrongs, or other acts. Finally, the court vacated the restitution part of the sentencing order and remand the case to the district court to order restitution in a manner consistent with this opinion.

Charles Albright
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