Prosecutor's closing highlights physical evidence against Johnathan Mitchell

Case turned over to jury Tuesday afternoon

Assistant Linn County Attorney Nic Scott delivers his opening statement during the trial of Johnathan Mitchell at the St
Assistant Linn County Attorney Nic Scott delivers his opening statement during the trial of Johnathan Mitchell at the Story County Courthouse on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, in Nevada. Mitchell is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the April 2011 death of Century Cab driver Cathy Stickley in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)

When Johnathan Mitchell stabbed cab driver Cathy Stickley, he committed robbery and once she died he committed murder,  Assistant Linn County Attorney Nic Scott said in his closing argument Tuesday.

“Johnathan Mitchell needed crack cocaine and he didn’t care who he had to kill to get his fix,” Scott said. “I told you that at the first of the trial and nothing has changed.”

Scott said Mitchell was forced to admit certain things when he took the stand Monday. He had to admit he was in the alley that night and he had contact with her because his bloody prints were found in the cab. He also left his blood on the fence gate when he left the alley and he took Stickley’s purse and bank bag, also that had blood, and provided money for his crack cocaine purchase, as Benjamin Owens, a convicted drug dealer, testified.

Tyler Johnston, Mitchell’s attorney, asked the jury during his closing to look at all the evidence. The prints are circumstantial evidence and don’t prove Mitchell killed Stickley. He stole money from her and there’s no jury instruction for them to find him guilty of the most serious crime, just because he was charged with it.

Mitchell, 35, of Cedar Rapids, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery. He is accused of stabbing to death Stickley, 55, of Cedar Rapids, April 29, 2011 during 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.

Closing arguments wrapped up the trial Tuesday after nearly two weeks of testimony. The jury started deliberations about 1:15 p.m.

Scott said the defense spent a lot of time bringing up “red herrings” and “conspiracy theories” about Stickley or others they claim are possible suspects but none of those had a motive to kill Stickley. There’s no physical evidence to tie them to the scene.

“The other idea is that Cathy Stickley was doing something wrong,” Scott said. “That she was a drug smuggler or using drugs. There hasn’t been any evidence of that. Her toxicology (report) came back clean. She has no criminal history, no drug arrests.”

Stickley’s daughter and Ricky Prescott, Stickley’s friend and Century Cab dispatcher, testified Stickley didn’t use drugs or sell drugs, Scott said.

“You should find this offensive that her name has been drug through the mud with this kind of allegation,” Scott said.

Johnston said Stickley did some unusual things that night like not documenting a cab fare and going in the opposite direction of where she was supposed to be going. It makes more sense that she was stabbed because she was involved in something or for something that was in her cab than her being stabbed for money over a crack cocaine fix, he said.

Johnston asked the jury to review the video entered into evidence by the defense, “not the state,” taken from surveillance at Road Ranger that night. The video shows two cabs in the parking lot at 8:41 p.m. and one is Stickley’s.

There’s a person walking by and it’s Mitchell, who is wearing a white coat and red hat, which is what he testified to Monday, Johnston said. He’s walking away from the cab.

“This is a video the state didn’t want you to see,” Johnston said.

Johnston said Mitchell doesn’t walk past again and at 9:21 p.m. Stickley leaves for the Hy-Vee to pick up a fare. Mitchell didn’t get a cab to go to Oakland Gardens, where Stickley went that night.

“Why would he need to go to Oakland Gardens for crack cocaine when he knew he could get it (a few blocks away) from Owens,” Johnston said.

Scott on rebuttal argument said the state wasn’t hiding anything from the jury. It doesn’t matter if the defense entered it into evidence.

“Why didn’t the defense ask Mitchell yesterday if this was him in the video,” Scott said.

Scott told the jurors to look at the person in the video. He doesn’t go in the store. This person just stands there and stares at the cabs.“The only physical evidence belongs to Johnathan Mitchell,” Scott said. “Force him to be accountable for his actions.”

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