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Convicted Killer Claims He Served Life Sentence By Temporarily Dying — Did The Court Buy It?

Convicted Iowa murderer Benjamin Schreiber was serving a life sentence without parole after he viciously beat a man to death.

By Dorian Geiger
Benjamin Schreiber Pd

Four years ago, convicted Iowa murderer Benjamin Schreiber actually died — only to come back to life to fight his prison sentence.

Schreiber's large kidney stones had triggered septic poisoning, and he was found unconscious and taken to a hospital. Once there, Schreiber momentarily died, according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com.

Doctors performed emergency surgery, administered him antibiotics, and revived the 66-year-old — despite the man previously signing a “do not resuscitate order.” So, last year Schreiber filed an application for post-conviction relief with state courts, claiming that he had technically completed his life sentence by dying momentarily on March 30, 2015. 

During Schreiber’s hospitalization, medical staff had also reportedly phoned the man’s brother in Texas to notify the family of his condition, the Des Moines Register reported. His brother told hospital staff, "If he is in pain, you may give him something to ease the pain, but otherwise you are to let him pass,” according to court documents.

“Schreiber claims that he ‘died’ and was resuscitated by medical staff in 2015 against his wishes, thereby completing his sentence,” court documents stated. “He asserts he was sentenced to life without parole, ‘but not to life plus one day.’” 

This week, however, an Iowa appeals court denied Schreiber’s appeal.

“The court finds this assertion unpersuasive and without merit,” wrote Judge Amanda Potterfield in the court of appeals opinion. “Nothing in the record supports petitioner’s claims. The petitioner’s filing of these proceedings in itself confirms the petitioner's current status as living.” 

Potterfield added that there were “no conceivable state of facts” to support Schreiber’s claim, noting the 66-year-old didn’t cite any previous case law in his appeal. 

"Schreiber is either alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is dead, in which case this appeal is moot,” Potterfield added. “We conclude [the law] requires Schreiber to stay in prison for the rest of his natural life, regardless of whether he was resuscitated against his wishes in 2015.”  

On Oct. 13, 1997, Schreiber was found guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of John Dale Terry a year earlier. Schreiber had used a “long wooden axe handle” to club Terry to death, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.

The man’s body was discovered at a trailer in Wapello County in July 1996. 

Shortly before Terry’s murder, he, Schreiber, and another woman named Evelyn Tangie had been traveling in a vehicle together. Tangie told investigators she had observed a “long wooden object” in the car in the moments leading up to Terry’s death, according to the affidavit.

“Witness stated that after she, Terry, and the defendant arrived at the scene they got out of the car and Terry was struck, severely injured, and left at the scene. She stated that the only persons present were herself, [Schreiber], and John Terry," the affidavit reads.

The axe handle, which Schreiber had allegedly thrown out of a driver’s side car window, was later recovered with “blood and hair” on it, just west of Agency, Iowa, a small town roughly 95 miles southeast of Des Moines. 

Schreiber’s criminal defense attorney, Denise Gonyea, wasn’t immediately available for comment on Friday. 

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