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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man is the third defendant to be convicted in the robbery and death of James Booher, who went missing May 31, 2014, after going to an Ely farmhouse to make a drug deal.
William L. Yancey, 45, who was set for trial in U.S. District Court next month, pleaded guilty Thursday to robbery affecting interstate commerce and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in murder.
During the plea hearing, Yancey admitted to knowingly robbing Booher of methamphetamine and money on May 31, 2014.
He also admitted to knowing a firearm was going to be used or carried during the crime, that he had advance notice of the crime and the choice to walk away. He also admitted the firearm was discharged and resulted in the fatal shooting of Booher, 51, of Marion.
Yancey decided to take a plea deal a few days after Matthew Robbins, 48, of Ely, was convicted May 3 in the robbery and fatal shooting of Booher.
A federal jury found Robbins guilty of robbery affecting interstate commerce, conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce, and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in murder. He already is serving prison time for a 2015 gun conviction and faces a mandatory 10 years and possibly up to life in federal prison.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Roberts, in going over Yancey’s plea, said Yancey faces no less than 25 years and up to 35 years in prison. Yancey also is already serving a prison term for drugs and firearms.
According to testimony in Robbins’ trial, more than one witness said Robbins fatally shot Booher with a sawed-off shotgun and burned his body in a pit at the Ely farmhouse on Nederhiser Road that Robbins was renting.
Danielle Busch, Robbins’ former girlfriend who also has pleaded in this case, was at the farmhouse when the shooting happened, and others said either Robbins or Yancey told them what had happened Booher. Busch also was set to testify against Yancey at his trial.
Witnesses testified Robbins killed Booher because he was angry that Booher repeatedly sold him meth mixed with bath salts, reducing its purity and potency.
Busch testified they had a plan to lure Booher to the farmhouse. Yancey, who Busch also had a sexual relationship with, made her offer Booher sex in exchange for meth.
After Busch arrived with Booher at the farmhouse, she became scared when she saw an upset Robbins come into the house carrying a sawed-off shotgun. She went into the kitchen and heard Robbins yelling.
It sounded to her like Robbins hit Booher, and they were struggling, and then she heard gunfire.
Busch said Yancey, who had a smile on his face, came into the kitchen and said, “We got him good,” but she said Robbins looked scared.
She said she saw blood on the couch she and Booher had sat on that night. Yancey removed the couch, which was burned in the fire pit.
“There was blood on the walls, carpets, blood everywhere,” Busch testified.
Busch later came down the stairs and could see Robbins’ “shadow” in the living room and heard him “crying” and saying “Oh, J.B.” The shadow looked, she said, as if Robbins was chopping up something with a hatchet.
She said she saw Robbins dragging a large tub with garbage bags that left “blood streaks across the floor.” Busch said she also saw blood on money that Robbins had.
Most of the prosecution’s case was circumstantial, but there was some physical evidence — human bone fragments found in the burn pit and Booher’s DNA found in Robbins’ house.
Busch pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in murder. She faces up to 20 years in prison but may get a reduction in her sentence for her cooperation in the prosecution of Robbins. Her sentencing has not been set.
Yancey’s sentencing will be set after a presentencing report is completed.
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