Prosecutor says man killed cab driver in 2011 to get crack cocaine

Defense questions victim's actions night she died

Johnathan Mitchell listens to testimony during his trial for first-degree murder and first-degree robbery at the Story C
Johnathan Mitchell listens to testimony during his trial for first-degree murder and first-degree robbery at the Story County Courthouse on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, in Nevada. Mitchell is charged in the April 2011 death of Century Cab driver Cathy Stickley in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)

Johnathan Mitchell killed cab driver Cathy Stickley in 2011 because he needed crack cocaine and “he didn’t care who he killed to get his fix,” Assistant Linn County Attorney Nic Scott said in his opening statement Thursday.

“His bloody hand prints were found in Cathy Stickley’s blood,” Scott said. “She was murdered for $53.”

Stickley was stabbed multiple times in the face and neck, Scott said. Mitchell took her life at age 55.

Tyler Johnston, Mitchell’s attorney, in his opening shared what he called the “other half of this story.” He claimed there was only circumstantial evidence and it doesn’t prove Mitchell killed her.

Johnston then went on to accuse Stickley of wrongdoing that night of April 29, 2011. He said there is surveillance tape from a Road Ranger that shows Stickley didn’t go pick up a fare she reported to Century Cab but instead went the opposite way and ended up in the alley where she died.

“What does that mean?” Johnston said. “We don’t know, except Stickley was doing something she wasn’t supposed to be doing. She was doing something drug related. It could be a possible motive for someone to kill her. It’s a mystery but it’s part of this entire case.”

Mitchell, 35, of Cedar Rapids, charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery, is accused of stabbing to death Stickley that night during what started out as a robbery. Stickley was found face down in blood by her vehicle in the 1500 block alley between 2nd and 3rd avenues SE, according to testimony. Stickley died from multiple stab wounds to her neck and head.

The trial was moved from Linn County to Story County based on pretrial publicity, which Mitchell claimed prevented him from getting a fair and impartial jury.

The trial started Tuesday in Story County District Court and is expected to last two weeks. Follow Gazette Reporter Trish Mehaffey’s live coverage from the courtroom as the prosecution continues its case 9 a.m. Friday.

Scott said Stickley was stabbed 12 times in the face and neck. One of her eyes was penetrated and the wounds to her neck cause massive blood loss which caused her death.

Scott said witnesses will testify to seeing Mitchell inside of Stickley’s cab that night. He admitted the two witnesses were a drug dealer and a drug user who are serving time themselves but these two men didn’t commit this crime – it was Mitchell.

Mitchell bought crack cocaine from the dealer but told him he didn’t have the money and he would be back later, Scott said.

“This is when Johnathan Mitchell decided to rob and kill Cathy Stickley, and then went back to the dealer and gave him bloody money,” Scott said.

Johnston said Mitchell’s prints were found at the scene and he should have been charged in this crime but not for murder. He said Mitchell wasn’t a crack addict and speculated that it could have been anybody in this “high traffic” crime neighborhood.

Michael Williams of Cedar Rapids testified about seeing Stickley’s body that night. He lived at 211 15th St. SE back in 2011 and was leaving to go to Hy-vee that night. He backed into the alley to turn around and saw a cab with one door open. He thought it was strange and then he saw a person lying on the ground.

Williams first thought it was a man’s body. He didn’t know for sure but he thought the person was dead. He called 911 and reported it.

In other testimony, two Cedar Rapids Police crime scene investigators testified about the blood and other evidence collected at the scene.

Martin Eganhouse, crime scene investigator, took photos of prints founds inside and outside the cab, on a bank bag, cab log sheet, and other evidence.

Ron Johnson, identification officer, said the bloody palm and fingerprints with enough ridge detail to identify matched Mitchell’s prints.Johnson will continue his testimony Friday.

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