Jamestown man convicted in murder granted parole
A man convicted of a 1991 murder in Jamestown has been granted parole pending completion of a placement plan, according to Pat Bohn, clerk of the North Dakota Parole Board.
Lanny VanNatta, 66, who is currently an inmate in the James River Correctional Center, would be released on June 12 if the Parole Board approves a placement plan that is being developed.
VanNatta was convicted in the March 29, 1991, death of Iona Ostlund in a downtown Jamestown apartment building, according to the archives of The Jamestown Sun. Wendy Sulewski, Stutsman County state’s attorney at the time of the trial in August 1992, said in her opening statement at the trial that “Iona was b e a t e n , s t r i p p e d a n d strangled in Lanny V a n - N a t t a ’ s a p a r t - ment by Lanny VanNatta.” Ostlund was 48 at the time of her death.
VanNatta was found guilty by a 12-person jury and sentenced to life in prison.
The trial was conducted in two phases. Jurors found VanNatta guilty of committing the crime during the first phase and found him criminally responsible for the crime during the second.
Judge Mikal Simonson, presiding judge at the trial, said at the time the two phases were required when dealing with someone with mental illness.
Sulewski told The Sun at that time that VanNatta had been in the North Dakota State Hospital three times but had lived on his own in Jamestown for about 11 years before the murder.
In 1993, VanNatta appealed his conviction to the North Dakota Supreme Court on the grounds that he was not competent to stand trial. Court briefs filed in that appeal said a psychiatrist at the North Dakota State Hospital had found that “despite his fixed delusional beliefs, Mr. VanNatta has the capacity to understand the proceedings against him and he is able to assist in his own defense.”
In September of 1993, the conviction was upheld.
Bohn said no one testified at the parole hearing Tuesday. VanNatta had served 26 years since his arrest in the prisons of the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
According to the North Dakota Century Code, only a person who has earned credit for good conduct while in prison is eligible for parole unless he or she has served 30 years of a life in prison sentence.