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Murder of Milton Klema, 1988


Posted By: Reid R. Johnson (email)
Date: 5/18/2021 at 21:26:33

Cedar Rapids Gazette, 13 March 1988

McGregor - Milton J. Klema, 71, rural McGregor, was found dead Friday morning in a pickup truck outside his home. The state medical examiner has listed the cause of death as a severe beating and confirmed the death was a homicide.

(see link to his full obituary below)

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Clayton County Register, Wed., 11 October 1989

After a year and a half of delays, the Clayton County District Court murder trial of Anthony Blum no sooner began last week then it was over.

The trial began and ended Monday, Oct. 2, when Blum changed his plea from not guilty to guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder. The 45-year-old Elgin, Ill. man was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his stepfather, Milton Klema, 71, of McGregor following an argument March 10. 1988.

He has been jailed since his arrest at the time of Klema's death. His trial, however, was delayed three times at his request. Blum first requested a delay so the trial could be rescheduled in Decorah because he felt pre-trial publicity here would hurt his chances in Clayton County District Court.

The second delay was so the trial could be moved back to Clayton County District Court, also at Blum's request as he had changed his mind and said he felt more comfortable being tried here. The third delay requested by Blum came about after he fired his court-appointed attorneys and told the court he needed time so his new attorney, Joseph Bittner of Dubuque, could better acquaint himself with the case.

The reduced plea of guilty to second-degree murder was accepted by District Court Judge George Stigler a little over an hour after the regular court session Monday had been adjourned and 52 prospective jurors sent home for the day.

Assistant Attorney General James Kivi, who was prosecuting the case for the state, and Blum's attorney, Bittner, presented the plea agreement to Stigler.

Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison while a conviction of first-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.

An additional charge of assault with intent to inflict serious injury lodged against Blum for allegedly striking his mother, Helen Klema of McGregor, was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

District Court Judge Stigler ordered a pre-sentence investigation but did not set a sentencing date.

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Cedar Rapids Gazette, Wed., 22 November 1989 (included the photo of Blum, below)

Blum tries to change plea, angers judge - Gets 50-year term for murder of Stepfather
Elkader - An angry Judge George Stigler sentenced Tony Blum in Clayton County District Court Tuesday to the mandatory 50 years in prison for the March 1988 murder of Blum's stepfather, Milton Klema, 71, of McGregor.

"I feel safe in telling you, you are one of the most manipulative and deceitful persons I have ever had the misfortune to meet," Stigler said, before handing down the sentence.

"My only regret is I can't give you more time than I am going to give you," the judge said.

Blum raised Stigler's ire Tuesday by insisting one of the reasons he accepted the guilty plea to the reduced charge of second-degree murder was the judge told him to.

Blum took the witness stand Tuesday before sentencing to ask that his guilty plea be withdrawn and his first-degree murder trial be continued. Stigler denied the motion.

Blum changed his plea to guilty of second-degree murder on the first day of jury selection in his first-degree murder trial Oct. 2.

Blum claimed he felt pressured to accept the guilty plea because he was scared. He insisted that a prospective juror had said several times in front of other prospective jurors Blum was guilty and the other jurors lied about their knowledge of Blum and his family.

Neither Stigler nor Blum's attorney, Joseph Bitter of Dubuque, could recall any prospective juror proclaiming Blum's guilt.

The statements allegedly made by the judge also influenced his decision, Blum said.

"You said, 'You will either walk or you will go to prison,' " Blum told the judge. "And you said, 'I advise you better take the plea agreement because there will be no more.' "

Stigler, his anger growing as the hearing progressed, vehemently denied making any such statements and said he would never advise a defendant on whether to accept a plea.

"As far as I'm concerned, you've done nothing but lie this morning," Stigler said.

Even after Blum's attorney said he never heard the judge make those statements, Blum insisted they were true.

"That's the honest to God's truth," he said. "If Judge Stigler denies that, well..."

Stigler said Blum had manipulated the criminal justice system for 19 months since his arrest, costing the taxpayers more than $20,000 in attorneys fees. A judge should have "jerked his chain" and brought him to justice earlier, Stigler said.

Stigler also said he regretted Blum did not have a jury trial on the first-degree murder charge. Then he might have been convicted and sentenced to life with no hope of parole "so you won't be turned loose at some future point to go out and continue your ways," Stigler said.

Blum, 45, of Eagan, Ill., made several rambling statements Tuesday while on the witness stand, once declaring investigators from New York were coming in to clear up the matter. He frequently proclaimed he did not kill his stepfather.

"Milt Klema's brothers and sisters and cousins have a right to know what happened to Milt," Blum said. "I don't care how it looks. I'm innocent."

Blum also wondered who gave his mother, Helen Klema, the right to burn his stepfather's body. Klema was cremated.

Mrs. Klema, who told attorney Bittner she wanted to make a statement on her son's behalf Tuesday, left the courtroom before she could be called to the witness stand.

Bittner, summarizing what Mrs. Klema told him, said she would have testified that she did not think Blum intentionally killed Milt Klema but that he was drunk when the incident happened.

"She felt he intended to put his foot on Milt's chest and accidentally put his foot on his neck," Bittner said, explaning the fatal blow to Klema at his rural McGregor house.

Blum's cousin, Michael Loetz of Garnavillo, said after the sentencing he wished Blum had a jury trial.

"It needed to go in font of a jury." Loetz said "He's been proclaiming his innocence ever since the beginning. Who knows the truth, now ? Only Milt knows."

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Clayton County Register, Wed., 6 December 1989

Anthony Blum of Elgin, Ill. has begun serving a 50-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to killing his stepfather, Milton Klema of McGregor, in March 1988.

Blum has been taken by the Clayton County Sheriff's Department to the Iowa Medical and Classification Facility at Oakdale where he will be processed into the state's prison system.

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Clayton County Register, Wed., 20 November 1991. (extracted from a longer article)

Anthony Blum appeared in Clayton County District Court Thursday, Nov. 14, 1991, for a post conviction relief hearing, claiming he did not receive adequate council during his 1989 trial, and that the judge, George Stigler, conducted himself in an improper manner.

Judge James L. Beeghly called a halt to the proceedings and recused himself from the case.

After further consultation with both counsels, it was decided to request a judge from a different district to hear the case. The request will be forwarded to the Iowa Supreme Court, which will decide the matter at a later date.

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Ottumwa Courier, Thursday, February 20, 1997 (Iowa News column)

Court Rejects Bid for a New Trial
Des Moines - The Iowa Supreme Court refused Wednesday to revive a 1988 case where a man was charged with beating his step-father to death.

Anthony Francis Blum said he was pressured into making a plea bargain by a judge's "personal hostility" and fears he wouldn't get a fair trial.

The high court said it found "no merit" in Blum's claim that setting a time limit to decide on accepting a plea bargain amounted to unreasonable pressure.

The case got heavy attention in the spring of 1988. Court records said Blum was visiting his mother and stepfather in McGregor when a dispute broke out with his mother, Helen Klema, who fled the house. Blum's stepfather, Milton Klema, was also in the house and when police were summoned to the domestic dispute Milton Klema was found beaten to death. Blum was charged in the slaying.

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Notes: Helen Klema died in 2000 (see her obit on the Obit Board). Anthony Blum was parolled ca2011 (Iowa Dept. of Corrections website). His whereabouts are currently unknown.

Milton J. Klema Obituary

Clayton Documents maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.
WebBBS 4.33 Genealogy Modification Package by WebJourneymen


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