Murderer will stay in jail by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · June 21, 2013
Governor Terry Branstad refused to commute the life sentence of a man in prison for an April 14, 1979 murder in West Branch.
The Iowa Board of Parole voted 5-0 on Feb. 5 to not recommend commutation of the life sentence of Robert Lee Kern, now 67, formerly of Iowa City, according to Parole Chair Jason Carlstrom. Branstad then turned down Kernís commutation request on June 10.
Some 34 years ago, Kern was found guilty in October 1979 of the first-degree murder of Ady Jensen, 39, of West Branch. Kernís trial was merged with his then-wife, Judy Kern, now Judy White, and both received life sentences.
Jensenís wife, Jeanne, served five years of a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit a forcible felony in exchange for providing evidence.
A fourth person, Andrew Ogelvie of Rockford, Ill., was also named in the investigation, but was acquitted by a Scott County jury.
The case is somewhat complex. Cedar County Court records filed by the prosecution suggest Jeanne Jensen was having an affair with Phillip Brammer. Brammer owned an insurance agency and Robert Kern worked for him.
On or about March 17, 1979, Judy Kern and Jeanne Jensen were talking about Ady Jensen and Judy Kern stated that Robert Kern ďcould have anyone killed for $50,Ē read one exhibit.
The Kerns and Jensen conspired to take out a life insurance policy in Ady Jensenís name, have him murdered, then collect on the $50,000 policy and split it between themselves. Robert Kern turned in a forged check and application to the insurance company to begin the policy.
The hit man, allegedly Ogelvie, then told the conspirators he would blow up Ady Jensenís pickup with a ďMolotov CocktailĒ yet wired Jensenís vehicle with a different type of bomb on April 9. Ady Jensen discovered the wires and escaped without injury.
The hit man then tried to poison Ady Jensen with pills, but that failed as well.
Finally, with Jeanne Jensen staking out where Ady Jensen worked in Iowa City, the hit man was driven by Robert Kern to the home of Ferdinand and Olga Jensen, who were allowing their son, Ady, to stay with them. The hit man broke in the night of April 13, 1979, and tied up the parents.
Jeanne Jensen called Judy Kern the morning of April 14, 1979, so she could alert the hit man that Ady Jensen was leaving work for home.
The hit man, while waiting, talked to the Jensen parents in an attempt to lay a false trail about why he was committing the crime. He then confronted Ady Jensen with a .410 shotgun, tied him up, and then shot him twice ó once in the front and once in the back. Jensenís parents were tied up for a total of 12 hours until they were released.
The Kerns, both 33 years old at the time, were arrested June 28, more than two months after the murder. Police found them at their Iowa City home loading a U-haul trailer with some of their belongings and were reportedly considering leaving the state. Earlier the same day, Jeanne Jensen pleaded guilty.
Brammer began cooperating with authorities after the life insurance company refused to pay the death benefits because they deemed the check had been forged. Brammer reportedly began tape-recording phone calls and conversations with Jeanne Jensen and the Kerns, turning over the tapes to investigators. Brammer is credited with helping convince Jeanne Jensen to help the state build its case against the Kerns and Oglevie.
The murder of Ady Jensen had been the first in 17 years, according to a story in the Tipton Conservative.
Kern has also been denied commutation in 2001 and 2002.