Curtis Jones charged in death of Iowa City bail bondsman Jonathan Wieseler

Jones also faces murder charge in death of cabdriver Ricky Lillie

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IOWA CITY — As the Iowa City Police Department investigated the homicide of Jonathan Wieseler, Det. Mike Smithey made a pact with the slain bail bondsman’s family.

“I made them a promise that we would not stop investigating this until we made an arrest and we were able to hold someone accountable for what happened,” Smithey said.

On Monday, Smithey made good on that promise.

Authorities announced that Curtis Jones, 41 — already facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of cabdriver Ricky Lillie — would be charged in Wieseler’s death. Jones will be charged with first-degree murder, a felony punishable by life in prison.

A criminal complaint made available Monday states that between 10:20 and 10:32 p.m. April 22, Jones shot Wieseler in the head with a small caliber firearm while committing a robbery at Lederman Bail Bonds, 518 S. Capitol St., where Wieseler was employed. Police said Jones was captured on surveillance video driving a vehicle “within blocks” of the crime scene. When police obtained a search warrant for that vehicle, the DNA of both Wieseler and Jones were found inside.

Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness said during a news conference Monday that the first-degree murder charge is appropriate because Jones killed Wieseler while committing a forcible felony, first-degree robbery.

In an interview with The Gazette, Wieseler’s fiancée, Harmony Hauser, said she is still in shock over Wieseler’s death and Monday’s announcement rekindled painful emotions.

“I’ve already experienced a tidal wave of the grief and mourning hitting me again,” she said.

She added, “The fact that he’s in jail now brings a small comfort. I’m hoping that will mean there’s no chance he could get away and avoid prosecution.”

Jones was arrested for the Lillie homicide on July 20. Police said Jones entered Lillie’s cab around 11 p.m. June 27 and the two men drove uninterrupted to the 500 block of Ernest Street on the south side of Iowa City. Authorities said Jones then shot Lillie in the head. He faces charges of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery for that crime. His trial is scheduled to take place in Scott County beginning April 9.

Wieseler, a Sioux City native, attended the University of Iowa and graduated from the UI College of Law. Friends and family said Wieseler had little interest in practicing law and took a job as a bail bondsman instead.

Wieseler was engaged to be married last June. He was killed the weekend before his bachelor party.

“He was loved by so many,” Hauser said through tears. “We had a love that I dreamed of finding. We were committed to each other in every way. He was my person.”

Methodical Investigation

Smithey said he could not say when Jones became a suspect in the Wieseler investigation, but according to a footnote in court documents filed in September by Jones’ attorney in the Lillie case, investigators questioned Jones about Wieseler at the time of his arrest in July.

“It just made sense, at that point, to inquire from him personally about the Wieseler homicide,” Smithey said.

Asked about Jones’ whereabouts between the two homicides, Lyness said she was unsure at the time of the news conference. She praised Iowa City police for their efforts to bring Jones to justice.

“I want to commend the ICPD for doing an excellent job and never, ever giving up on this case,” she said. “I hope this brings some solace to the family.”

Although Jones has been in custody since July, that did not change the way police approached the case, Smithey said.

“(The investigation) continued to be methodical in how we collected evidence until we got to the point where we were ready to charge,” he said.

Smithey said he could not comment on any connection between Wieseler and Lillie or possible motivations for the homicides. He did say it’s rare in this area to have one suspect arrested for two separate homicides.

“We’ve had cases where someone murdered more than one person, but not in separate incidents,” he said. “That’s the difference between this and the other cases.”

Each of the Iowa City Police Department’s 14 investigators worked the Wieseler homicide, as did a “significant portion” of the patrol division, Smithey said. The police department also had assistance from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Coralville, University of Iowa and Cedar Rapids police departments, FBI and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. Agencies involved in the Lillie investigation, including the Mount Pleasant and Burlington police departments, assisted as well, Smithey said.

“It was pretty spectacular to have no questions asked from everyone that we asked for help from,” he said.

Measure of comfort

Brian Vakulskas, one of Wieseler’s friends, said Jones’ arrest will bring a measure of comfort to Wieseler’s family and friends.

“I think the fact that there’s an arrest in this case will help a lot of us who loved Jon and knew Jon move toward closure,” he said. “It has been frustrating to not have any answers for the last seven months. ... As more details come out, as they undoubtedly will, it will be therapeutic for Jon’s family and friends to know what his last moments were like.”

Added Vakulskas, “We may not have answers to the ‘why,’ but at least we have answers to the ‘what.’ ”

Hauser called on Jones to be punished “to the fullest extent of the law.

“I just want to know why,” Jones killed Wieseler, she said. “And, unfortunately, I’m afraid he’s just a monster who does what he wants. I would like him to know he took one of the best men from this world and he was loved by so many.”

Linda Wieseler, Jonathan’s mother, called Monday a “bittersweet” day. She said she has asked everyone to pray for justice for her son. With Jones’ arrest, justice is a possibility.

“In that respect, it’s a sweet day,” she said.

KEY DATES

Here are some key dates in the Jonathan Wieseler and Ricky Lillie homicide investigations:

April 22 — Jonathan Wieseler is killed at his workplace, Lederman Bailbonds. His body is found the following day.

June 27 — Cabdriver Ricky Lillie is killed in his cab. His body is found in his cab the following day.

July 20 — Curtis Jones is arrested in connection with the Lillie homicide. Police question him about Wieseler’s death.

Oct. 6 — 6th Judicial District Judge Chad Kepros rules that Jones’ murder trial in the death of Lillie will be moved out of Johnson County. The trial is later set to take place in Scott County beginning April 9.

Nov. 20 — Jones is arrested in connection with the Wieseler homicide.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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