Public Safety

Newstrack: North Liberty landscaper's murder-for-hire trials still pending

Authorities say North Liberty man sought to have seven killed

Justin DeWitt is led from the courtroom after a July 22, 2016, hearing at the Johnson County Courthouse. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Justin DeWitt is led from the courtroom after a July 22, 2016, hearing at the Johnson County Courthouse. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)


Justin DeWitt was arrested last June after police said he was plotting to have his former business associate and the associate’s family killed. He was charged with four counts of attempted murder and four counts of solicitation to commit murder.

Authorities said DeWitt, 36, a landscaper from North Liberty, met with a person he thought was a hit man — but who was actually an undercover officer — on June 27, 2016. He gave the man a $1,000 down payment. DeWitt then signed a contract to have associate Chad Williams and his family killed for $8,000, authorities said.

The sting was set up after police received a tip from Ronald Robi, an ex-convict who had hired DeWitt as a landscaper, court documents show.

Robi told The Gazette last year that DeWitt learned about Robi’s criminal past and asked him if he had ever killed anyone or knew anyone who would kill someone for him. Robi said he recorded the conversation he and DeWitt had about the murder-for-hire and turned it over to police.

What’s happened since

While awaiting trial in the case, DeWitt attempted to have a Department of Public Safety agent and a North Liberty couple killed in December 2016, court documents show. The couple is the informer and his wife.

A criminal complaint shows DeWitt met with an undercover state agent, who he thought was an associate of a hit man, on Dec. 17 and 19 at the Muscatine County Jail, where he was being held. During the meetings, DeWitt agreed to pay $25,000 to have the three killed. He also agreed to make a $500 down payment.

DeWitt was charged in Muscatine County District Court with three counts of attempt to commit murder. He remains in the Muscatine County Jail on $750,000 bail.

Mike Lahammer, DeWitt’s attorney in the Johnson County case, said last week the trial date will be reset but the prosecution still has to have DeWitt evaluated at Iowa Medical Classification Center in Coralville. DeWitt is claiming diminished capacity.

“We anticipate those results sometime before the Oct. 2 competency hearing,” Lahammer said.

A trial in the Muscatine charges hasn’t been set. There is a status review hearing set for Sept. 1 in Muscatine County District Court.

DeWitt faces 25 years in prison on each of the attempted murder charges and 10 years on each of the solicitation to commit murder charges.

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