IOWA CITY — Iowa City police have issued an arrest warrant for Curtis C. Jones, the person of interest in the death of 46-year-old cabdriver Ricky Lillie, who was found dead in his taxi in the early morning hours of July 28.
Jones, 41, of Mount Pleasant, faces one count of first-degree murder, a felony punishable by life in prison.
Authorities said Jones was identified entering Lillie’s cab and taking an “uninterrupted” cab ride to the 500 block of Ernest Street, where Lillie’s body was found. Police said that’s where the killing took place on June 27.
“Jones ... shot Lillie in the head, and was observed on surveillance video leaving the location where Lillie was found,” a news release states.
According to the criminal complaint, several items belonging to Lillie are missing. Those items are not identified in court records. Iowa City Police Sgt. Scott Gaarde said he could not say whether police have recovered any of Lillie’s missing items or the weapon used in the shooting.
Jones was identified as a person of interest in Lillie’s death in late June after police released images of him to the public. Police said Wednesday that Jones is being held in the Washington County Jail on theft charges out of Keota, as well as a parole violation. He will remain there until he is transported to Johnson County for his arraignment.
Gaarde said he didn’t know when Jones would be brought to Johnson County.
“I would imagine sooner rather than later,” he said.
Lillie was found dead in his cab around 3:42 a.m. in the 500 block of Ernest Street. A fellow cabdriver had gone to check on him and found him slumped over in his cab, which was parked near an apartment building behind the Alexis Park Inn.
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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.
Lillie’s death is the second homicide in Iowa City this year. Bail bondsman Jonathan Wieseler was found dead at Lederman Bail Bonds on April 23. Police said he was shot to death and no arrests have been made in that case.
Gaarde said police will investigate to determine whether Jones has any connections to Wieseler’s death or any other crimes in the community.
“We continue to look at all leads to determine if there are any similarities between the crimes,” he said.