Isaiah Hagan found guilty of murdering Halee Rathgeber

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Update

On Monday, the jury in the Isaiah Hagan trial reached a verdict. The jury found Isaiah Hagan guilty of murder, robbery, and obstruction of justice. The verdict was unanimous.

Original story

The jury in the trial of Isaiah Hagan will soon decide whether he is guilty of murdering Halee Rathgeber in Warrick County last year.

Both the state and Hagan’s defense attorney delivered closing arguments on Monday morning.

Each side was allotted an hour to make their final statements to the jury.

Rathgeber was found dead at a Warrick County soccer complex in April of last year.

The defense rested its case on Friday.

If convicted, Hagan could face life in prison.

State’s closing argument

The state went first with its final arguments.

The argument from the state was that Rathgeber was killed and robbed of her possessions and that Hagan is the person who did it.

The state said there are two threads of evidence: Rathgeber’s body and the “desperate” attempts of Hagan to distance himself from the crime.

During the trial, the defense suggested the investigation had been shoddy. However, the state said in reference to DNA testing, the reason other people’s DNA wasn’t tested was because Rathgeber’s DNA was found under her fingernails. The state said this implies she didn’t attack her attacker.

According to the state, only one sample of DNA was found on the towel under Rathgeber. That DNA belonged to Rathgeber herself.

The state reiterated the towel found and a towel found in Hagan’s parent’s home were of the same kind, color, and brand.

The state said testimony from a doctor showed that Rathgeber died at the Alcoa Soccer Fields, dying where she fell.

The state argued Hagan’s story changed multiple times throughout interviews he gave, which were submitted as evidence.

The state also told the jury that Hagan told his mom after third interview that he killed Rathgeber by accident, and threw the gun in a dumpster. 

The state touched on Hagan’s financial issues at the time during their argument, saying he was in a ‘desperate’ situation and made a ‘terrible’ choice.

Also referenced were the paths of their two cellphones, which a special FBI agent testified were together when the two went to the soccer fields, then Rathgeber’s went dark, then they came back together.

The state argues Rathgeber being shot in the back of the head suggests she knew her killer, and had her back turned.

According to the state, Hagan came away with Rathgeber’s phone, keys and wallet.

One of the charges Hagan faces is obstruction of justice. The state said Hagan admitted to throwing out Rathgeber’s cell phone.

Defense’s closing argument

The defense began its arguments by saying there are things the state wants the jury to infer that there is no evidence of.

The lack of DNA evidence was a crucial part of the defense’s argument. The defense asked the jury, how the state could tell them it proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Hagan killed Rathgeber when less than 60 days ago, items were submitted to be tested in the investigation?

In reference to Donna Hagan speaking to her son, the defense said if the state knew when she walked out of the cell having talked to her son, the state could have charged her. However, the state chose not to do that.

The defense also drew attention to the interrogation of Isaiah, suggesting that the dynamic of someone sitting close to you for 10 hours, yelling, cussing, and in some cases lying should cast doubt on Isaiah’s statements during the interrogation.

The defense reiterated that there has been no confession from Isaiah at any point.

In connection with Rathgeber’s belongings, the defense argued the state never proved that Hagan forcefully took anything from her.

There is no evidence that Isaiah Hagan altered or damaged anything, the defense told the jury. The defense also claimed Rathgeber’s wallet was never put in inventory or tested.

The defense even argued that Hagan’s financial situation was never proven by a witness the state called. The state could have charged theft but they didn’t because they couldn’t prove it, the defense said.

One thing the defense also noted was that between his two interrogations, Isaiah was taken home. The state argued that the defense didn’t have what it needed out of the first interrogation to charge him so they brought him back.

The defense did call into question the state’s timeline surrounding the cell phones.

The defense also called into question the lack of investigation of other possible witnesses, including Jordan Hughes and Thaddious Rice.

The defense questioned why one witness who said she heard a gunshot was never followed up with by investigators.

In reference to statements made by Donna Hagan, the defense argued that since she has paralegal training, she said Isaiah told her he accidentally killed Rathgeber because she believed the accidental part would protect him from being convicted of murder.

State’s rebuttal

In the state’s rebuttal, they argued the absence of DNA in the case does not prove the defendant’s innocence. The state said it is known that Hagan was there.

The state said it has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, only the elements of the charges. The state is not required to prove the time of death, they argued.

The state said search history showed Hagan had been researching wooded areas near his home.

The state argued that through his statements and his mother’s statement that Isaiah Hagan killed Halee Rathgeber.

The state also argued that testimony from an FBI agent pointed to it being possible for two people to be standing next to each other and cell signals to go to different towers. The state argued that at 3:27 a.m., the two cell phones were in the same place.

The state argued the investigation was thorough, the evidence was strong, and that Isaiah Hagan was the only person responsible for Rathgeber’s death.

Trial goes to jury

Follow Eyewitness News’ Sam Knef on Twitter for the latest on the trial.

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(This story was originally published June 25, 2018)

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