In the Iowa District Court for Cedar County, Milton Jermaine Cole Serrano Jr., 21, of Muscatine was officially charged with murder in the first degree, harassment in the first degree, and criminal mischief in the third degree.
Serrano Jr. is charged in the stabbing death of Chantz Stevens, 19, of Wilton, who died at the scene of a party in the early morning hours of July 19. Stevens was a 2019 graduate of Wilton High School.
The defendant (Serrano Jr.) requested court-appointed counsel. The Public Defender’s Office will be appointed to represent the defendant in the matter.
A preliminary hearing was scheduled for July 29 at the Cedar County Courthouse.
The following narrative was provided by Cedar County Sheriff Deputy Austin Sorgenfrey in an affidavit filed with the Cedar County Court:
The defendant, Milton Jermaine Cole Serrano Jr., attended a party at 936 Quincy Avenue in Clarence in rural Cedar County during the early morning hours of July 19.
While attending the party, Milton Serrano Jr. intentionally, and without any right or permission to do so, keyed a silver Toyota Camry belonging to Lenny Edens, resulting in approximately $1,000 worth of damage to the vehicle.
After keying the vehicle, Milton Serrano Jr. was confronted by other party attendees and told multiple times to leave. A physical altercation ensued between Milton Serrano Jr. and another individual. The physical altercation was broken up and the parties were separated. Milton Serrano Jr. then made reference to a knife in his pocket and threatened to stab other individuals at the scene.
Milton Serrano Jr. was then involved in a physical altercation with Chantz Stevens. When the altercation went to the ground, Milton Serrano Jr. retrieved a knife from his pocket and stabbed Stevens twice in the abdomen.
An individual at the scene was able to take the knife away from Milton Serrano Jr. Milton Serrano Jr. then made reference to going to his vehicle and getting a gun. Milton Serrano Jr.’s associates were able to convince him to leave the area and travel to Muscatine.
Several individuals attempted to render first aid to Stevens. However, their efforts were unsuccessful and the victim eventually succumbed to his injuries. An autopsy is pending but there was no apparent cause of death other than the two puncture wounds to the victim’s abdomen.
Later that morning, Milton Serrano Jr. posted to social media, making reference to being involved in a physical altercation and stabbing someone. In the post, Milton Serrano Jr. has what appears to be dried blood on his person and is brandishing a knife that appears consistent with witness accounts of the knife used in the stabbing. The knife in the social media posts has what appears to be dried blood on the blade.
Milton Serrano Jr. was located at a residence in Muscatine and detained for further investigation. Milton Serrano Jr. subsequently admitted to law enforcement that he had been involved in an altercation early this morning during which he stabbed an individual. Milton Serrano Jr. further admitted the knife he used in the stabbing should be present in the residence in which he was found by law enforcement. A search warrant was executed on the residence and clothing consistent with those described by witnesses to the stabbing was seized.
Witnesses urged to come forward
Detective Matt Jackson of the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office said there were several people from the Wilton-Durant area present at the scene of the alleged murder, and that investigators want to talk with as many witnesses as possible.
“We want to get the word out for kids to come forward as witnesses,” said Jackson. “Our objective with this situation is to present the best case for prosecution. We don’t want to jam kids up due to being at a party. This is far more serious. We want to talk to those who may be on the fence. We have a victim who lost his life — a young life. That makes it all the more tragic … This happened in front of several people.”
Those with information are encouraged to call the Cedar County Sheriff's Office at 563-886-2121. Jackson said some young adults might be apprehensive to come forward due to not wanting their parents or affiliated schools to know they were in a party-like setting. Statements and evidence is what investigators are after.
“What these kids saw is very traumatic. They need to come forward,” said Jackson. “They need to tell their parents. They need someone to lean on for their own well being.”
He noted that there could be several photos or videos of the incident still out there that police haven’t seen. “There could be several more videos. We’re always looking for more. It’s important to make the best case we can for Chantz,” Jackson added.