OTTUMWA — The families of Seth Anderson and Nathan Messer released a joint statement Thursday morning, two days after the conviction of Christopher Yenger in the deaths of their sons.
Yenger and Zachary Dye were arrested in early 2016, nearly 10 years after the fire that claimed Anderson’s and Messer’s lives. Jurors found Yenger guilty of first degree murder for setting the fire that killed them. Dye took a plea bargain in the case, admitting to arson.
Dennis and Marty Anderson and Mell and Jolynn Messer expressed their thanks to law enforcement for their work and effort to crack the case, as well as to Victim Service Coordinator Charlotte Kovacs and Chris Cruz.
“These are the people that help you when you are having one of the worse experiences in your life. We would never have been able to cope without them,” they said.
The families praised Wapello County Attorney Gary Oldenburger and Assistant Attorney General Doug Hammerand as “nothing short of brilliant” in prosecuting the case.
And they stressed that the support of those who know them in the community helped make a very dark time bearable.
“We are all blessed with the safety net of family and friends. Those who reached out, and picked us up when the boys died, and then later when we learned they were murdered. You lifted us up and didn’t let us back down. We’d like to think that Seth and Nate are looking down on us and smiling about that.”
Yenger's formal sentencing is set for April 10, but there is little question about what it will be. First degree murder is a Class A felony and carries a mandatory life sentence under Iowa law. The arson charge in Dye's case is a Class B felony.
Here is the full statement from the families:
February 15, 2017
Joint Statement for the murder trial of Seth Anderson and Nathan Messer
To whom it may concern,
Over the course of the last year we have seen the best and worst in people. We would like to thank those who helped us through the journey to find justice for Seth and Nathan.
Sheriff Mark Miller and Deputy Don Phillips were always available to us to answer questions and offer support. Aaron Vose of the Ottumwa Police Department provided key info to the Wapello County Sheriff department. Jeff Shatzer from the State Fire Marshal provided key testimony about the fire investigation.
Special thanks to Wapello County Deputy Aaron McConnell and Special Agent Don Schnitker of the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation. It was their investigation, and the evidence that made the case. These two are very well trained young men that deeply care about doing a good job. We were so very fortunate to have them on our side and owe them a debt of gratitude.
There are some very special people that you never hope to meet in their professional capacity. These people work with the victims of serious crimes and they are simply the angels among us. We were first greeted by Victims Service Coordinator Charlotte Kovacs when we first learned the fire was intentional. We met her before we realized we were victims. She would soon be joined by Chris Cruz as our children became involved in the process. They were our point of contact for EVERYTHING. If we had a question, concern, or just needed to vent they were there. They helped guide us through uncharted territory with compassion and strength. These are the people that help you when you are having one of the worse experiences in your life. We would never have been able to cope without them.
Wapello County Attorney Gary Oldenburger and Assistant Attorney General Doug Hammerand prosecuted the case. Unless you have lived the process you have no idea of everything that happens behind the scenes. Every little detail can be a key or stumbling block that must be addressed. They were nothing short of brilliant. Their performance before, and during the trial was amazing. Our families were very involved. We asked a lot of questions and had countless meetings. These are very busy men that were generous with their time as well as patience. They made sure that the people who committed this crime were held accountable.
To the members of the jury we also say thank you. We know what you heard had to be difficult. We hope that your verdict provides some comfort knowing this senseless act didn’t go un-punished.
We are all blessed with the safety net of family and friends. Those who reached out, and picked us up when the boys died, and then later when we learned they were murdered. You lifted us up and didn’t let us back down. We’d like to think that Seth and Nate are looking down on us and smiling about that.
Dennis and Marty Anderson
Mel and Jolynn Messer