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Cedar Rapids man pleads to lesser charge in 2019 fatal shooting
Conklin and his girlfriend attempted to cover up his crime by staging it to look like suicide
CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man who fatally shot his girlfriend’s uncle with an air rifle in 2019 pleaded last week to a lesser charge before his trial was set to start Tuesday.
Joshua Kenneth Conklin, 29, charged with the second-degree murder, pleaded to voluntary manslaughter, going armed with intent and possession of a controlled substance — methamphetamine — third offense.
He fatally shot Randal Campbell, 44, with an air rifle on June 21, 2019, in a detached garage of a southwest Cedar Rapids home owned by Campbell’s mother, according to court documents.
Assistant Linn County Attorney Mike Harris said Wednesday he will recommend running the 10-year sentence for manslaughter and two five-year sentences for the other charges consecutively for up to 20 years in prison.
Harris declined to explain the plea agreement because the case remains open until sentencing. Conklin’s sentencing is set for April 14.
According to Iowa law, a person commits voluntary manslaughter when they cause the death of another, “under circumstances which would otherwise be murder, if the person causing the death acts solely as the result of sudden, violent, and irresistible passion resulting from serious provocation.”
Cedar Rapids police responded to a report of a suicide that day in the detached garage, where they found Campbell dead with an air rifle positioned on his lap.
An autopsy showed Campbell was fatally shot at close range with the air rifle as a pellet entered his right eye and lodged in his brain, according to the criminal complaint.
During the investigation, police learned Conklin had been living in that garage before having a conflict with Campbell’s mother. They also found out Conklin had been in possession of an air rifle.
Video surveillance also showed Conklin and his girlfriend, Felisha Campbell, Randal Campbell’s niece, were near the detached garage and left after her uncle was shot.
According to court documents, Felisha Campbell was present at the shooting and suggested staging the scene to look like a suicide.
Police said she initially lied to investigators about her and Conklin's involvement but eventually said Conklin had shot her uncle with the air rifle and then returned to the garage to leave the weapon and stage the crime scene.
Conklin was an inmate at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility on unrelated charges when police obtained a warrant for his arrest on July 27, 2020.
Conklin admitted to police he knew the air rifle was capable of killing animals. His fingerprints were found on the air rifle.
His trial, first set for January 2022, had been reset several times.
Felisha Campbell, 28, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge — conspiracy to obstruct prosecution — and accessory after the fact and faces up to four years in prison. Her sentencing is March 21.
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