Public Safety

North Liberty man will plead in murder-for-hire plot

Justin DeWitt, 38, would have gone to trial later this month

(File photo) Justin DeWitt is led into the courtroom for a hearing at Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
(File photo) Justin DeWitt is led into the courtroom for a hearing at Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — A North Liberty man accused of plotting to kill a former business associate and his family will plead to lesser charges Monday in Johnson County District Court.

A trial for Justin L. DeWitt, 38, was set to start later this month but his lawyer, Mike Lahammer, filed a motion Tuesday, asking the court to set a plea hearing. Lahammer didn’t provide details of the plea agreement.

DeWitt is charged with four counts of attempted murder and four counts of solicitation to commit murder for a failed scheme he planned in 2016, authorities said. If convicted of those charges, he faced 25 years on each of the attempted murder and 10 on each of the solicitation charges.  

Authorities said DeWitt, a landscaper, met with a person he thought was a hit man — but actually was 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, police 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 plot and turned it over to police.

Court proceedings were suspended last June after the defense argued that he undergo a competency evaluation. DeWitt was found to be competent to stand trial in October.

Prosecutors then had DeWitt evaluated at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville and he was also found competent to stand trial. His trial was set to start May 15.  

DeWitt also faces charges in Muscatine County for a similar crime — that he plotted to have an Iowa Department of Public Safety agent and a North Liberty couple killed in December 2016.

Authorities said DeWitt again met with an undercover agent believed to be a hit man and agreed to pay $25,000 to have all three killed. He faces three counts of attempt to commit murder in the Muscatine County case.

DeWitt faces 25 years in prison on each of the attempted murder charges in the Muscatine County case.

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

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