Public Safety

North Liberty man faces up to 35 years for murder-to-hire plot

Justin DeWitt of North Liberty smiles as he enters the courtroom with his lawyer, Michael Lahammer (right) of Cedar Rapids, for his plea hearing in the Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City on Monday, May 7, 2018. DeWitt pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder and two counts of solicitation to commit murder. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Justin DeWitt of North Liberty smiles as he enters the courtroom with his lawyer, Michael Lahammer (right) of Cedar Rapids, for his plea hearing in the Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City on Monday, May 7, 2018. DeWitt pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder and two counts of solicitation to commit murder. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — A North Liberty man faces up to 35 years in prison for plotting to kill his former business associate and his family in a failed scheme in 2016.

Justin L. DeWitt, 38, pleaded guilty Monday in Johnson County District Court to two counts of attempted murder and two counts of solicitation to commit murder.

6th Judicial District Judge Lars Anderson ran the two attempted murder charges concurrently and the two solicitation charges concurrently and then consecutively to the murder charges for a total of 35 years in prison, in accordance with the plea agreement.

DeWitt, a former landscaper, admitted during the plea to hiring a person he thought was a hit man — but actually was an undercover officer, with the specific intent to kill on June 27, 2016. DeWitt told the judge “He cost me an $80,000 contract,” before his attorney, Michael Lahammer told him not to speak.

DeWitt gave the undercover officer a $1,000 down payment and signed a contract to have associate Chad Williams, his wife Angela and their children “A.R.W.” and “C.N.W.” killed for $8,000, authorities said.  

A 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 plot and turned it over to police.

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Anderson said these sentences will run consecutively to any sentences he receives in a similar case in Muscatine County. If the sentencing judge doesn’t accept this, DeWitt will be free to take back his plea, according to the plea agreement.

In the Muscatine County case, DeWitt plotted to have an Iowa Department of Public Safety agent and a North Liberty couple killed in December 2016. He is charged with three counts of attempt to commit murder.

Authorities said DeWitt — while awaiting trial in the Johnson County case — met with an undercover agent believed to be a hit man on Dec. 17 and 19 and agreed to pay $25,000 to have all three killed. He agreed to provide a $500 down payment for the killings, court records show.

His trial hasn’t been reset since he waived his right to a speedy trial. A hearing is set May 25 and they may set a date. DeWitt, if convicted, faces 25 years in prison on each of these charges.  

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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