116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A former girlfriend of an Ely man testified Tuesday that she helped lure a Marion man who was fatally shot in 2014 to a farmhouse, where her boyfriend confronted him about “ripping him off” on meth buys.
Danielle Busch, 31, of Cedar Rapids, said former boyfriend or sexual partner Matthew Robbins, 48, was angry because he thought James Booher, 51, a drug dealer, was “cutting” meth he was selling with bath salts — lowering purity and quality for the same cost, and Robbins “needed to do something about it.”
Robbins, charged in the fatal robbery, is in on trial this week in federal court.
Busch, who cried off and on or was teary throughout her testimony, said Robbins and William L. Yancey, 45, of Cedar Rapids, also charged in this case, were trying to find a way to get Booher alone, and Yancey suggested they use Busch.
Yancey, she said, wanted her to have sex with Booher, as a way to get him to the farmhouse, where Robbins lived at the time.
Yancey had used Busch like this before, Busch testified. He would make her have sex with others in exchange for meth for him. After Yancey assaulted her, she agreed to the plan that led to Booher’s death.
Robbins is charged with 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.
Busch pleaded guilty last year to one count each of 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.
As part of the plea agreement, she agreed to cooperate with the prosecution and give truthful testimony about the fatal robbery on May 31, 2014, when Booher went missing.
According to Busch, Robbins and Yancey planned to have Busch meet Booher earlier before bringing him to the farmhouse on Nederhiser Road, where they were going to rob Booher of meth and money. She sent a text message to Booher to come to her house in Cedar Rapids. They then went to purchase alcohol and glass pipes to smoke meth before going to Ely.
When they arrived at the farmhouse, only Yancey was inside. They got high and waited for Robbins to get home.
Busch said Robbins was upset when he came in with a sawed-off shotgun that she had seen in his possession before. It had a short barrel that fits inside a tube sock, where he stored it.
Busch became scared and went to the kitchen. She crouched on the floor between the refrigerator and the cabinets when she heard Robbins yelling.
She then heard Booher say, “What the hell.” It sounded like Robbins hit him, they were struggling and then a gun fired. Next, she heard Robbins “yelp or cry.”
Busch said Yancey, who had a smile on his face, came into the kitchen and said, “We got him good,” but Robbins looked scared.
She saw Yancey take out the couch she and Booher sat on that night, which had blood on it. The couch was taken out to a fire pit they had burning all night.
“There was blood on the walls, carpets, blood everywhere,” Busch said.
Busch was scared and went upstairs. Later, she came down the stairs and could see Robbins’ “shadow” in the living room and she heard him “crying” and saying “Oh, J.B.,” — Booher. The shadow looked as if it was chopping up something with a hatchet, she said.
She then saw Robbins dragging a large tube with garbage bags that left “blood streaks across the floor.” He then left for his ex-wife’s home in Atkins.
Busch said he told her to keep the fire pit going. As she went outside she noticed the dog sniffing at something that looked like “part of an eye.”
Busch said she also saw money Robbins had with blood on it.
On cross-examination, she admitted to lying to law enforcement over the years about not seeing Robbins with a gun and telling different versions of what happened that night.
She said she was being truthful because she was hoping to get her sentence reduced upon her conviction in this case. But the prosecution didn’t promise her that.
In other testimony, Suzanne Reynolds of Marion, one of Booher’s nine siblings, testified about their close-knit Catholic family. She said she knew about Booher’s meth addiction but didn’t know he sold drugs.
Reynolds said Booher was a union carpenter — “the best in Cedar Rapids,” but he wasn’t working in 2014 or since a previous vehicle crash, which resulted in several injuries.
She said he never would have disappeared without contacting members of his family, especially his mother. They filed a missing person report in June 2014 and eventually declared him legally dead, although his body wasn’t recovered.
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