Originally Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2013, 11:40 am
Last Updated: Jan. 25, 2013, 1:20 pm

Graves pleads guilty and is sentenced to 15 years in Sandra Tate death

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By Rachel Warmke, rwarmke@qconline.com

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Jeremy Charles Graves, 25, whose last known address was 1025 Scott St., Apt. E1, Davenport, pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder for fatally running over Sandra Tate, 43, of Rock Island.

Jeremy Charles Graves, 26, of Davenport, pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for running over Sandra Tate, 43, of Rock Island, last  September. 

In exchange for his guilty plea, counts of first-degree murder, aggravated battery of a police officer, failure to report a fatal accident, and a second charge of second-degree murder were dismissed, records state.

Mr. Graves, who has been incarcerated since the incident, will receive day-for-day credit and credit for time served.

According to prior court testimony, Mr. Graves went to a home in the 900 block of 15th Street, Rock Island, on Sept. 19, to pick up his child. When residents declined to let him in, Mr. Graves allegedly broke in through a back door, and a fight started that spilled into the yard. 

Mr. Graves then got into a running vehicle parked on 15th Street, and began driving in circles.

Witnesses called police, and responding officers testified they heard people screaming as they arrived. A camera in a police squad car recorded Mr. Graves aiming the vehicle towards a group of people in the street.

Ms. Tate, who was standing in the group, reportedly shoved several children out of the way before being hit by the oncoming vehicle.

Mr. Graves drove from the scene, and eventually crashed into a trailer on 9th Street, where he was arrested.

Ms. Tate died the following day at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City.

Rock Island County Assistant State's Attorney Jim Wozniak and defense attorney Herbert Schultz said they were satisfied with the second-degree murder conviction, which held a range of penalties of four to 20 years.

"This is really a case of intent," Mr. Schultz said. "It's kind of a classic law school type of question; it's not a question of 'if' someone is guilty, it's 'of what?'"

Second-degree murder implies the act was not premeditated and may have been the result of heightened emotions. The attorneys said Mr. Graves appeared angry and injured after the Sept. 19 fight. 

"When tempers flair and emotions can't be controlled, bad things happen, and this is a perfect example of that," Mr. Schultz said.

"This was one where I was very confident that I could get a second-degree murder conviction,"  Mr. Wozniak said. "I was not that confident that I would get a first-degree murder conviction."

He said that if the case had gone to trial, other factors, such as the fight or whether Mr. Graves had been intoxicated, might have prompted a judge or jury to consider a lesser conviction, such as reckless homicide or involuntary manslaughter.

"Obviously, nothing that could happen will bring their loved one back," Mr. Wozniak said, adding that Ms. Tate's death was even more difficult on her relatives because many of them knew Mr. Graves before the incident.  

"They not only lost a loved one, but also lost someone they knew."