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Man gets life sentence in '08 random killing

The Des Moines Register: Man gets life sentence in ’08 random killing

BY TOM ALEX AND GRANT SCHULTE • TALEX@DMREG.COM • NOVEMBER 28, 2009

A man who stabbed a Des Moines bicyclist last year in a game called "victim" was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a group that attacked, robbed and terrorized random people.

Roberto Rodriguez, 20, was given the life sentence Wednesday for his first-degree murder conviction in Polk County district court.

A judge also imposed a 25-year prison sentence for first-degree robbery, 10 years for second-degree robbery and 10 years for second-degree burglary. The sentences will run back to back.

Polk County jurors declared Rodriguez guilty Oct. 13, more than a year after he stabbed Dean Davis in a random attack on the city’s east side.

Prosecutors argued in court that Rodriguez and several friends roamed the streets on July 26, 2008, with plans to "go out and mess with society."

Three co-defendants - Ryan Higgins, 19, Brian Lee, 21, and Zachary Kern, 18 - were charged with first-degree murder. They struck deals for lesser sentences and testified against Rodriguez.

Assistant Polk County Attorney Jaki Livingston said the first assault happened when Higgins jumped out of the group’s car, punched a man and stole his cell phone. Later, she said, the group attacked a Des Moines couple who were out looking for drugs.

The attack on Dean Davis, 46, began around 3 a.m. in the 2400 block of Des Moines Street as he biked home from his usual late-night ride. Higgins allegedly punched Davis and knocked him off his bike. The four then took turns beating Davis, Livingston said, while the father of six shouted: "Please, I have children. I have a family."

Davis’ wife, Serena Davis, described her husband as a good-natured man who built motors, raced cars and enjoyed late-night bike rides.