Firm trial date set for man charged in Delaware County cannon death

A firm trial date has been established for a Delaware County man charged in relation to a homemade cannon death, nearly three years after the incident occurred.

The trial of Max J. Fenton, 31, of Greeley, now is set for July 17.

In a recent filing in Iowa District Court of Delaware County, Iowa District Court Judge Michael Shubatt stated that “the court will not continue trial in this matter again for further preparations or negotiations between the parties.”

Fenton is charged with involuntary manslaughter and unlawful explosion of fireworks, as well as a Greeley city ordinance violation for discharging a firework.

The charges relate to a July 2, 2016, incident in which Lori L. Heims, 55, of Edgewood, was fatally injured by shrapnel from a homemade cannon explosion. Authorities said that, during a gathering at his home, Fenton discharged the cannon, made from the sawed-off barrel of a black powder rifle. The breach failed, causing the explosion.

Fenton’s attorney, John Sullivan, has argued the cannon would not be defined as a firework under Iowa law or the Greeley ordinance. Therefore, those charges can’t be the basis for the involuntary manslaughter charge. He previously asked Shubatt to dismiss all three charges.

Shubatt in February 2018 denied Sullivan’s request, stating the cannon was meant to produce an audible effect and, therefore, is a firework.

The Iowa Supreme Court in April 2018 declined to consider Fenton’s appeal to Shubatt’s ruling.