Bid for post-conviction relief denied for man who kidnapped, tortured woman

Photo: David Gengler

The effort of a Lakeview man to gain post conviction relieve, after being sentenced to 33 years in prison on charges he bound a woman with duct tape, beat, raped and tortured her, has failed.

Circuit Judge Gordon Webb held a hearing by video hookup Wednesday morning. At the conclusion of the hearing, he denied the Rule 37 petition filed May 22, 2019 by 58-year-old David Gengler. The petitions generally allege defense lawyers did not do a good job representing a client.

The state filed a motion July 14 this year asking Gengler’s petition be dismissed, and Judge Webb granted the motion Wednesday.

Participants appeared on video hookup — Gengler from the Grimes Unit of the state prison system, Judge Webb from his home in Harrison and various lawyers involved in the case from their offices.

Gengler claims he is innocent of the charges and did not understand the consequences of entering a no contest plea during a session of Baxter County Circuit Court in mid-November 2018.

He contends he did not receive an adequate explanation of the plea from his attorney. In the state’s motion, it is asserted Gengler’s defense attorney had lengthy meetings with him to go over the plea and the punishment Gengler was to receive, and he understood exactly what he was doing.

In the state’s motion for dismissal, Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Carter contends Gengler’s Rule 37 Petition was not filed within the 90-day period following conviction as required by law. Carter writes the fact the petition was filed late meant the Baxter County Circuit Court where Gengler entered his plea no longer had jurisdiction to hear the petition.

The deputy prosecutor said Gengler’s Rule 37 Petition was a “backhanded attempt” to withdraw a guilty plea which is not a recognized procedure in such petitions. The state contends Gengler’s petition “has no credibility, and is a continuation of the lies he has perpetuated” since law officers first interviewed him in 2016.

In August last year, Gengler appeared in court to argue his Rule 37 petition should be heard. In a transcript of the proceeding, Judge Webb does takes note of the fact the petition was filed late.

He told Gengler “technically” the court should refuse to even entertain the request for the hearing, because it was not filed within the 90-day time limit, but said he was going to “ignore” the technicality and allow a hearing to be held.

The judge said Gengler had written letters to the court indicating he intended to file some type of post-conviction relief petition when he was able, and he had asked for an extension of time to file the paperwork.

Judge Webb said he recognized for a non-lawyer like Gengler, it was not as easy task to comply with all the rules and regulations concerning post conviction relief.

On Wednesday, the judge said he had carefully read relevant cases pertaining to situations such as Gengler’s. He said he concluded from that research, “that this circuit court lost jurisdiction due to the late filing of the Rule 37 petition.”

In addition to other issues Gengler claims makes him eligible for post-conviction relief, he contends undiagnosed diabetes left him with a high sugar content in his blood.

He has said he understands that condition can interfere with “a person’s ability to think straight, comprehend and understand.”

In a letter to Judge Webb written last year Gengler claims his attorney “should never have let me step foot in your courtroom knowing my mental state at the time.”

Judge Webb made no comment Wednesday on Gengler’s “high sugar level” argument.

You can read more about the “Twinkie defense” here.

As is normal procedure, when Gengler entered his no contest plea and was sentenced on Nov. 15, 2108, Judge Webb meticulously went through a lengthy list of questions, before accepting the plea and pronouncing sentence.

Among other things, the judge asked Gengler if he understood what the plea agreement said and the sentence he might be facing. Gengler answered he did.

Just before handing down the sentence, Judge Webb asked Gengler if he had any questions, or wanted to make any statements to the court, and Gengler declined.

In the Rule 37 filings, Gengler says he did not commit the crimes for which he was convicted. He wrote he told his lawyer he would never plead guilty to “crimes I did not do,” and claimed his lawyer said for him to just say “no contest.”

He said if he had known what no contest meant, he would have refused to accept the plea agreement. He contends he was anxious to go to trial where he could proclaim his innocence.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Webb said he had gone over the plea taking procedures and found “no grounds” for Gengler’s argument he did not understand what he was doing when he took the plea. The judge said if it had been Gengler’s aim to withdraw his plea to the crimes, he should have done that before the judgment in his case was even entered.

Judge Webb said Gengler’s plea taking process “is basically the same as thousands of others done by this court.”

Gengler was initially charged with kidnaping and five counts of first-degree battery. Prosecutors then filed the more serious charges of rape and aggravated robbery.

The charges were based on information developed during the investigation that the victim had suffered severe sexual trauma while being held against her will.

It was also determined money was missing from several locations in the victim’s residence. Gengler was alleged to have had a large sum of money in his wallet when he was booked into the county jail.

Gengler’s problems with the law began when Baxter County sheriff’s deputies responded to a residence along Greenwood Avenue in Lakeview May 24, 2016. They reported finding a badly beaten female on the floor near the front door.

Gengler and the then 57-year-old victim were reported to share the residence.

Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery said at the time, the victim had marks on her wrists and appeared to have been bound for days. She also had numerous other injuries, including what were thought to be cigarette burns.

Investigators reported finding blood splattered on the walls of the house and a large amount of duct tape with hair stuck to it on the bathroom floor. A knife and bloody cigarette butt were also found and taken into evidence.

The victim was able to make a 911 call requesting assistance. According to an incident report filed by the sheriff’s office, the victim asked for an ambulance but was initially hesitant to say why one was needed. She eventually told the 911 dispatcher, “He will kill me.”

Gengler, who was at the residence when deputies arrived, said the victim was bipolar and “falls all the time.” He denied inflicting the victim’s injuries, holding her against her will, or having forced sexual relations with her.

During an interview with the woman at a Springfield hospital where she was taken for treatment of her injuries, she told investigators she had been bound for two or three days. She said Gengler taped her in an upright position and punched, beat and kicked her. The victim said Gengler also choked her and burned her with cigarettes.

According to the victim, her relationship with Gengler began when he moved into her residence in October 2015 to work as a handyman.

Gengler underwent two psychological examinations prior to entering his no contest plea and was found fit to proceed in his cases.

The victim was in court the day Gengler entered his plea and was sentenced. The court’s bailiff stood between the woman and Gengler blocking his view of her.

According to prison records, Gengler’s parole eligibility date is June 29, 2039.

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