Mitchell testifies cab driver was dead when he stole money

Closing arguments set for Tuesday

Johnathan Mitchell takes notes during his trial for first-degree murder and first-degree robbery at the Story County Cou
Johnathan Mitchell takes notes 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 testified Monday that he stole money from cab driver Cathy Stickley, but she was already lying outside her cab in blood when he arrived April 29, 2011.

“I saw the cab with all the lights on and there was a person on the ground,” Mitchell, 35, of Cedar Rapids, said. “I shook her and asked her…. but there was no response. I started searching through the car.”

Tyler Johnston, Mitchell’s attorney, asked why he did that.

Mitchell said he was looking for something to steal but denied hurting Stickley.

“I searched in the front seats….I couldn’t open the driver’s door because she (her body) was there and went around on the other (passenger) side,” Mitchell said.

Assistant Linn County Attorney Nic Scott said "you thought she was dead, so it was at this point you decided to steal money for crack cocaine?”

Mitchell said yes.

“So you don’t have a problem with crack but you were stealing money from a dead woman?” Scott asked.

“No sir,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t (have a problem) at the time.”

Mitchell, charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery, is accused of killing Stickley, 55, a Century cab driver, that night during what started out as a robbery.

Stickley was found face down by her vehicle in the 1500 block alley between 2nd and 3rd avenues SE, according to testimony. She was stabbed 18 times in the neck and head, according to testimony.

The defense rested after Mitchell’s testimony. Closing arguments will follow jury instructions 10 a.m. Tuesday in Story County District Court.

Follow Gazette Reporter Trish Mehaffey’s live coverage of the closings from the courtroom.

Mitchell denied knowing Stickley or of riding in her cab. He lived about four blocks away from 15th Street and Second Avenue, where the murder occurred and where his friend, Willie Tory, lived, who he walked over to see all the time and went to see him that night.

Tory wasn’t home so Mitchell went to see his friend, Diane, who lived on Bever Avenue, a few blocks away. Mitchell said when he came back later to see if Tory had return that’s when he saw the cab and Stickley’s body in the alley.

Mitchell said he took Stickley’s purse and bank bag from the cab and went through a fence gate. Benjamin Owens, a dealer he bought crack cocaine from earlier that day, was standing in the back yard so he asked buy more.

There wasn’t any money in the purse but he found $35 in the bank bag, gave it to Owens for three bags of crack and ran away, Mitchell said. He tossed the purse in the bushes and dropped the bank bag in a driveway on Second Avenue before walking home and smoking the crack.

Johnston asked Mitchell if he was a crack addict.

Mitchell said he smoked three times a week but didn’t need it every day.

Scott on cross asked Mitchell didn’t he get in Stickley’s cab at Hy-Vee that night and ask her to take him to Oakland Gardens and when he couldn’t get any crack there, he then asked to use Stickley’s phone to call Owens.

Mitchell said he didn’t know anybody at Oakland Gardens and didn’t use Stickley’s cell.

“You would have us believe that you just happened upon a dead body and money near your crack dealer’s house?” Scott said.

Mitchell said Owens wasn’t his crack dealer. He only bought from him one time that day.

“So, I guess it was just a coincidence?” Scott said.

“Yes, a hell of a coincidence,” Mitchell said.

Scott asked Mitchell to identify the crack pipe investigators recovered from a trash bag at his home.

Mitchell said he didn’t know if it was his.

Scott said it was found in the trash bag with his clothes.

Mitchell said those were old clothes and denied those were clothes he wore that night.

Johnston asked Mitchell about the bleached shoe strings found in the trash bag but Mitchell said he didn’t wear them that night. He didn’t remember or know why they were bleached. 

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