116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The family has waited over seven agonizing years for Matthew Robbins to be punished for not only fatally shooting their beloved son, father and brother “Jim Bob” Booher, but also dismembering, burning and disposing of his body, which was never found.
Six of Booher’s nine siblings and his mother gave heartbreaking, sometimes angry, victim impact statements Friday, as they asked a federal judge to sentence Robbins, 49, of Ely, to the maximum of life in prison.
U.S. District Chief Judge Leonard Strand sentenced Robbins to more than life in prison, even after giving him credit for time served in a separate firearms conviction from 2016.
Booher’s brothers, Dan and Rick Booher, in their statements said they didn’t understand how anybody could “chop someone up and burn him.”
“This was premeditated murder,” Dan Booher said.
Rick Booher said he, Jim Bob and Robbins had worked together on Riverside Casino when it was built — they were in the same carpenters union. But he can never forgive Robbins.
“I want you to rot in hell,” Rick Booher said. “This tore my family to pieces. Jim was my best friend. I can’t imagine what my brother went through.”
Penny Koerperich, Booher’s sister, agreed in her statement, saying her brother was killed in the “most horrific way imaginable” and she wanted Robbins to die like him because “wasting away behind bars wasn’t good enough.”
“You have sat there with that smug smile, rocking back and forth in your chair being disrespectful to my mother and all of us,” Koerperich said. “This is the legacy you leave — as a murderer.”
Karen McCormick, James Booher’s mother, in her statement talked about what Jesus would ask her, as a Christian, to do — forgive those who have wronged her.
McCormick said she knew her son was dead when she received the call on June 1, 2014, from her daughter, saying he was missing. She recalled praying and felt his “spirit, whirling by her in the wind.”
Booher’s sister, Julie Reid, said she misses her brother every day. He would flip off pool tables, cars, anything to make everyone laugh and smile. She was competitive with him about doing flips. He was always there for her and everybody. He also was her protector from men, except from her future husband. Her brother tried but she ended up with the man anyway.
“I’ll never get to enjoy his laughter again,” Reid, who attended the sentencing by phone, said. “You did a monstrous thing to his body and deserve the maximum sentence.”
Robbins was found guilty by a jury in May of three charges — 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.
Michael Lahammer, one of Robbins’ lawyers, asked the court for a variance — less prison time — because the killing wasn’t “premeditated.” According to testimony, witnesses said there was struggle between Robbins and Booher and a gun was discharged.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Williams, in her argument for life in prison, said this crime wasn’t an accidental or unintentional shooting. Robbins hasn’t admitted to anything, but he told a witness that if something went wrong with the plan to lure Booher to the Ely farmhouse on May 31, 2014, he was going to use a gun.
According to testimony, Robbins killed Booher, 51, of Marion, because he was angry that Booher repeatedly sold him methamphetamine mixed with bath salts, reducing its potency.
“This is such a needless reason we’re here that a man was killed for over $150 and a quarter ounce of meth,” Williams said.
Williams said this was a “heinous and depraved” crime that left victims without the body of their loved ones.
Robbins, who had no reaction to the victims’ statements, said he didn’t care about what the victims or anyone else thought about him. He felt like his “rights were violated.” The prosecutors told a “fake” story of what happened. He “didn’t do anything, doesn’t know nothing.”
Strand said the nature and circumstances of the crime are “unbelievably aggravating and about as bad as you can get.” He said he understands Robbins has maintained his innocence throughout the trial and sentencing, which is his right, but he wasn’t going lower than the guideline sentencing range.
“He is a poster child for a life sentence given the facts of this case and what the jury has found in this case,” Strand said.
Strand sentenced Robbins to 20 years each for robbery and conspiracy charges but ran those concurrently. He then gave Robbins over four years’ credit for time served on his separate gun conviction, which left a total of over 15 years to serve. The murder charge of life was then run consecutively to the 15.
“Matthew Robbins’ criminal conduct resulted in a tragic death,” Acting U.S. Attorney Sean Berry said in a statement after the hearing. “The hard work and team effort by the law enforcement agencies involved in this investigation ensured he would be held accountable for his crimes. Robbins earned every day of the life sentence the court imposed today.”
According to testimony, more than one witness said Robbins fatally shot Booher with a sawed-off shotgun on May 31, 2014, and burned his body in a pit at the farmhouse on Nederhiser Road near Ely that Robbins rented at the time.
Danielle Busch, Robbins’ former girlfriend, testified she was scared after seeing Robbins come into the house upset and carrying a sawed-off shotgun. She went into the kitchen and heard Robbins yelling.
She then heard Booher say, “What the hell.” It sounded to her like Robbins hit him and they were struggling, and then she heard gunfire.
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.
Busch was convicted and sentenced to 10 years for 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.
William L. Yancey, 45, also was convicted and sentenced to over 30 years in prison on the same charges as Busch.
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