Mason City man sentenced to 50 years for murdering woman, setting house on fire

MASON CITY — A Mason City man was sentenced this morning to a mandatory 50 year prison sentence after entering an Alford plea to second-degree murder.

29-year-old Dominick Degner was originally charged with first-degree murder and second-degree arson in the September 7th 2021 death of 24-year-old Tonette Wolfe. Wolfe was found dead in the burned-out home the two shared at 123 North Tennessee Avenue.

A criminal complaint filed in Cerro Gordo County District Court says Degner caused multiple fatal injuries to Wolfe and then set fire to the victim’s body and the house in an attempt to conceal the crime.

Degner a week before his trial was scheduled to start entered an Alford plea to one count of second-degree murder, a Class B forcible felony that carries a maximum 50-year prison term with the possibility of parole. With an Alford plea, a person does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a likely conviction.

During today’s hearing, Degner briefly commented prior to his sentencing.  “I just wanted to say that I don’t expect any forgiveness at all, but I do want to say that I’m sorry for what happened.”

A victim impact statement was read into the record on behalf of Wolfe’s adoptive mother, Linda Wolfe, which stated that she prayed for her safety toward the latter part of her life.  “She thought she had everything under control, but I know she didn’t. I always reminded her she still had a home to come home to, no matter what or where she was, and I feel so bad that she couldn’t reach out to me sooner before you decided to take her life away from us and her biological parents at such an early age.”

District Judge Colleen Weiland handed down the mandatory 50-year sentence at the end of the hearing.  “Mr. Degner, that was a heinous action, but because I’m not using much discretion in regard to your sentencing, I don’t have much else to say. My best wishes to the friends and family on Tonette Wolfe, and to you Mr. Degner and your family and friends as well.”

With the Class B forcible felony sentence of 50 years, Degner will not be eligible for parole until he serves at least 70% of his sentence, or 35 years.