Hagan guilty of murdering Rathgeber


The family and friends of Halee Rathgeber wept as a jury handed down guilty verdict in the murder trial of Isaiah Hagan.

Hagan, 23, was charged in the shooting death Rathgeber, a 20-year-old student at the University of Southern Indiana. Her body was found at the Alcoa Soccer Complex east of Newburgh on April 24, 2017.

In a packed courtroom lined with deputies from Warrick County Sheriff's Office and officers from other law enforcement agencies, the jury found Hagan guilty on all four counts, including murder with the possibility of life in prison without parole, murder, robbery resulting in serious bodily injury and obstruction of justice.

Hagan and his family seemed stoic and shocked as the court worked out a plan to begin the second phase of the process to determine sentencing for the charges brought in the case.

Now, the jury will return on Thursday (today) to begin a secondary trial process where the parties bring mitigating and aggravating factors in order to allow the jury to determine whether Hagan will serve life in prison without the option of parole or a number of years determined by Warrick County Circuit Court Judge Greg Granger.

The trial continued last week with more testimony after the jury finished watching several hours of the interrogation of Hagan on June 19. The Warrick County Prosecutor's Office rested the state's case on June 20, before the court recessed to allow for witnesses to appear in the defense's case. The defense continued on Friday before resting that same day.

The trial then began with closing arguments on Monday. Warrick County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Levi Burkett told the jury the evidence from the crime scene and the efforts Hagan made to cover his tracks pointed to his guilt.

Burkett said the testimony from Hagan's mother, Donna Hagan, further shined the light on his guilt. Hagan's mother testified earlier in the trial that, when she was able to meet in private with Hagan, he told her he killed Rathgeber on accident.

"It doesn't make sense that a mother would do such a thing unless it were true," Burkett said during the closing argument.

If it were true that Hagan didn't mean to kill Rathgeber, Burkett said the action would still have been considered murder. However, he said Hagan wouldn't have brought a gun to a dark field just to talk.

"He chose to take Halee to that dark field, he chose to rob her and he chose to kill her," he said.

Hagan's attorney Mark Phillips directed the jury to the evidence that was ignored in the case, and told the jury he believed the officers convinced Hagan of false information to get him to admit to something he didn't do. Phillips said he believed that Hagan's mother may have lied about what her son told her in an effort to help him get a lesser sentence.

"If you could take the brunt of punishment or blame for your child, you would," he said to the jury during his closing argument.

Phillips also pointed out that the investigation into the case continued even after the first mistrial in the case. He said evidence including DNA, a time of death and a location of death were missing from the case.

"How can the State tell you that they have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Isaiah Hagan killed Halee Rathgeber when less than 60 days ago they submitted items for testing to further their cause," he said during his closing arguments. "If they can't prove where she died and they can't prove when she dies, they can't prove who killed her."

Then, Warrick County Prosecutor Mike Perry was allowed a rebuttal and told the jury that what was left out of the case was irrelevant information. He said the bottom line is that the evidence showed that Rathgeber trusted the person she went to the fields with and that person killed her anyways.

"No one shoots their friend in the back of the head and leaves them to die in a dark parking lot," he said in the rebuttal.

After hearing the final arguments, the jury was given final instructions and was sent to the jury room for deliberation.

It then took the jurors four hours to determine that Hagan was Rathgeber's killer.

The sentencing portion of the trial will commence Thursday at 7:30 a.m.

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