Shawn Bentler took the witness stand in his own defense on Friday, repeatedly denying he killed his family as one of the most gruesome murder trials in Iowa history drew to a close.
Bentler, of Quincy, Ill., is charged with five counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of his parents, Michael and Sandra, and his sisters, Sheena, 17, Shelby, 15, and Shayne, 14.
Bentler spoke quietly in court, his voice virtually devoid of emotion. Asked more than once by both his attorney and a prosecutor whether he killed his family, Bentler never offered more than a one-word response: "No."
Delivering his closing argument, Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown said Bentler was lying. "He coldly and systematically executed his entire family," Brown said. "That's what the evidence shows in this case."
Brown pointed to the tape of a 911 call made by Shayne early in the morning of Oct. 14, just before the slaughter.
"You can hear Sandra screaming for her life. You can hear her saying, 'Shawn, don't.' And then what happens? We hear a shot. And then we don't hear Shayne.
"That 14-year-old kid is absolutely terrified. And in he walks through her door and points (the gun) at her head, and she screams, 'Shawn, no.' And then the phone goes dead."
Bentler tried to paint his family as a loving situation.
"He sounded desperate," said Mario Mendez, a brother of Shawn Bentler's mother, Sandra. "It was someone desperately trying to save themself."
The case will be decided by Judge Michael R. Mullins, because Bentler waived his right to a jury trial.