Sentencing on firearm, drug charge leaves questions about unsolved homicide

Judge says false statements made by defendant could increase his prison time

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal sentencing on Thursday revealed more questions about the man seen leaving a home last September after shots were fired and Bryan Edwards was found dead.

Derek Hughes-Doby, 29, who pleaded guilty last December to one count of possession of firearms by an unlawful drug user, faces up to 10 years in prison on the charges.

But U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade said she wanted to review the transcript from another co-defendant’s sentencing in June, where she said Hughes-Doby made several false statements during his testimony, which will likely impact his prison time.

Reade said Hughes-Doby tried to “finger” Cecil Howell as the shooter, but she didn’t find sufficient evidence to find Howell guilty of homicide.

Reade said any of the four co-defendants could have been the shooter, as far as she knows, but she can’t depend on Hughes-Doby’s statements.

Hughes-Doby testified at the June hearing that he was there with Howell and three others to retrieve Howell’s clothes from 1045 G Ave. NW when Howell got into a fight with Edwards and pistol-whipped him. The gun went off, he said, hitting Edwards.

Hughes-Doby, Cecil Howell, 45, Trendes Howell, 28, and Keith Moore Jr., 30, fled from Edwards’ home on Sept. 10 when Edwards, 32, was shot and killed, according to court documents.

Neighbors testified in June they saw four men running down the driveway and seeing what they described as a fight before hearing a gunshot.

Police then found the four men with guns and marijuana in the vehicle that was seen leaving the house, which led to the federal charges.

None of the four has been charged in the homicide, and the case remains an open and active investigation, Greg Buelow, Cedar Rapids public safety spokesman, said Thursday.

Cedar Rapids police investigator John O’Brien testified Thursday about several false or inconsistent statements made by Hughes-Doby to police and in court.

Hughes-Doby told police during an interview that he went to an ammunition store on 16th Avenue SW and purchased .22-caliber and .40-caliber ammunition on Sept. 10. He said he bought two boxes of each caliber, paying about $30 in cash. But during his testimony at Cecil Howell’s sentencing, Hughes-Doby denied going to the store.

Hughes-Doby also denied being under investigation by a Des Moines task force for selling marijuana, O’Brien said.

Reade said she wouldn’t make a ruling Thursday because Hughes-Doby’s false statements could increase his time in prison, with a finding of obstruction of justice and denial of acceptance of responsibility.

Reade also noted that Hughes-Doby put the .22 caliber gun, which is the murder weapon, in the hands of Cecil Howell at the gun range where the men went, and he also said Cecil Howell used the .22 to beat Edwards and shoot him. The .22 is central in this case, but Reade said Hughes-Doby wasn’t credible on the stand.

A police investigator testified at the June hearing about stopping the four men in a sport utility vehicle a short time after the shooting and finding a .22-caliber gun with a missing slide-lock outside the vehicle. A slide-lock mechanism for a .22-caliber was found at the crime scene near the body. Officers said they heard it hit the ground outside the vehicle on the driver’s side when they stopped. Hughes-Doby was the driver, and Cecil Howell was seated behind Hughes-Doby.

Officers also found two .40-caliber guns inside the vehicle, along with marijuana. The men said they had been at a shooting range in Swisher earlier in the day.

“When you take an oath or say you going to cooperate, you have major problems in my court if you aren’t truthful,” Reade said. “I will be holding him responsible for statements he made to police and in court.”

The other co-defendants have been sentenced to two to seven years in prison.

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