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Person of interest in Iowa City cabdriver death identified, in custody

Curtis Cortez Jones being held without bond

IOWA CITY — The person of interest in the Ricky Lillie homicide has been identified and is in custody.

Iowa City Police Lt. Zach Diersen said Curtis Cortez Jones, 41, of 405 S. Hamilton St., Keota, has been identified as the person of interest in Lillie’s death last week. Jones is in custody in the Keokuk County Jail. Police said “multiple tips from the public” led them to Jones.

Diersen said Monday authorities are investigating Jones’ role in Lillie’s death.

“At this point, we’re not prepared to call him a suspect,” Diersen said.

Police also announced on Monday that Lillie’s death was determined to be a homicide by the Johnson County Medical Examiner’s Office. The cause of death was determined to be gunshot wounds to the head.

Lillie, 46, a cabdriver for Yellow Cab of Iowa City, was found dead in his cab around 3:42 a.m. June 28 in the 500 block of Ernest Street. A fellow cabdriver had gone to check on Lillie and found him slumped over in his cab, which was parked near an apartment building behind the Alexis Park Inn.

Police have not said if they know when Lillie was fatally shot.

Diersen said Jones will remain in custody in Keokuk County unless he is charged in Johnson County. He has a parole violation and is being held without bond, Diersen said. According to court records, Jones is accused of stealing a car in Keokuk County.

“He’s not going anywhere,” Diersen added.

The criminal complaint in the car theft establishes some of Jones’ whereabouts before and around the time Lillie was found dead in his cab.

According to a criminal complaint, Jones stole the vehicle around 8:58 a.m. June 27 when it was parked in front of Fountain Fitness, 126 E. Broadway Ave., Keota. Witnesses told police they saw Jones walk back and forth past the vehicle before entering it and driving away.

Keota police said Jones was later captured on video surveillance at the Mid-Town Motel in Burlington exiting the stolen vehicle around 1 a.m. on June 28. Authorities said Jones used his Iowa identification to check into the motel.

He was arrested Friday in Mount Pleasant.

Jones has a lengthy criminal history in Iowa and has served prison stints for crimes out of Henry, Washington and Johnson counties. In February 2005, he was arrested in connection with two armed robberies in Johnson County. Authorities at the time accused Jones of robbing a desk clerk at gunpoint at the Cantebury Inn and Suites in Coralville around 3:30 a.m. Feb. 17, 2005. About 30 minutes after that robbery, Jones robbed the now-closed Cub Foods. Police said Jones ordered an employee at gunpoint into another room, kicked him and hit him in the head with a gun and metal ladder.

Jones was arrested and charged with first-degree robbery for both incidents, but later agreed to plea deals which saw him plead guilty to first-degree theft and first-degree burglary. He was sentenced to a total of 40 years in prison for the two crimes.

According to the Iowa Department of Corrections, Jones was released from prison in March 2016 and was put on work release until May 31, 2016. During his time assigned to the Hope House Residential Facility, Jones was placed on escape status when he failed to return from work, but that case was later dismissed by the court, according to court records.

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