Suspect arrested in 1999 Cedar Rapids murder of Judith Weeks
Woman's body found behind apartment building in 1999
UPDATE: Monday was a bittersweet day for Kristin Twilla.
On one hand, Twilla, 29, of West Liberty, learned that an arrest was made in the 1999 murder of her mother, Judith Weeks. On the other hand, Twilla was faced once again with the memories of that 14-year-old crime.
“It brings back the memories of what happened,” Twilla said Monday. “Even though we have a killer now and he’s going to be prosecuted, it still doesn’t bring my mom back.”
The Cedar Rapids Police Department announced Monday that 34-year-old Deshaun L. Phillips had been arrested for Weeks’ murder. He faces one count of first-degree murder, a class A felony.
According to a 1999 Gazette article, Weeks' body was found, half-nude, by a passerby behind a three-unit apartment building at 1319 Second Ave. SE. Weeks had a wound on her head caused by a knife or bladed object and police said she died from multiple injuries.
Weeks’ sister, Kathleen Bessey, of Winthrop, said she was “stunned” and “very emotional” from the news.
“I’m really happy because this guy needs to be off the street,” Bessey said.
Phillips is currently in custody in the Scott County, Minn., Jail in Shakopee, Minn. The Shakopee Police Department said they arrested Phillips on July 15 for domestic assault.
"My mother was somebody to a lot of people. She was a very kind person and she had a lot to give."
Judith Weeks' daughter
There was insufficient evidence to file charges at the time of the murder, police said. Police have not said what led to a breakthrough in the case, and have said they will not be releasing any additional information on the case.
Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said he could not say what led to a break in the case, but was pleased by the outcome.
"It always feels good to bring closure to a case, especially knowing the victim's family receives a bit of closure," he said.
According to a police department news release, the case has been reviewed numerous times since the original investigation. Recently, investigators were assigned to the case and were successful in developing new information on Phillips.
Twilla said she learned from Cedar Rapids Police Det. Doug Larison on Thursday that DNA had led investigators to Phillips. Police told Twilla little else about the investigation, she said.
According to Iowa Courts Online, Phillips was charged in late April 1999 with second-offense domestic abuse. He was fined and sentenced to seven days in jail. In June 1999, Phillips was charged with two counts of second-degree burglary, and in July 1999, he was charged with one count of first-degree burglary. Court records show that he pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree burglary and one count of second-degree burglary in those cases.
According to the Iowa Department of Corrections, Phillips was released from prison in February 2012.
Twilla said she is looking forward to Phillips’ trial. Though she knows she will see and hear things that will be difficult to take in, Twilla said she plans to sit through every day of the trial to remind Phillips of what he took from her.
“I want to sit there every day and let him see my face,” she said. “He took her life. She had children and she had a mother and she had siblings.”
“He took so much away from me,” she added. “She missed those huge, monumental times in a girl’s life.”
Prior to her death, Weeks had been arrested 25 times between 1993 and 1999. A majority of those arrests were for public intoxication.
Twilla said her mother was much more than just her arrest record.
“My mother was somebody to a lot of people,” she said. “She was a very kind person and she had a lot to give. She was a mother and a sister and a daughter and a grandmother. She was somebody to a lot of people.”
First-degree murder is punishable by a mandatory life sentence in prison.
KCRG reporter Dave Franzman contributed to this report.