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Family of murdered cabdriver remembers mother who inspired them
They hope for closure, justice in federal trial starting Monday
CEDAR RAPIDS — The family of Catherine Ann Boyle Stickley have been on “pause” for the last 11 years since she was fatally stabbed and robbed while driving a cab in Cedar Rapids in 2011.
Now, they’re seeking closure and hoping for justice as the man originally charged in her slaying goes on trial in federal court on robbery affecting commerce — a charge meant to protect professions like cabdrivers.
Stickley’s son, Christopher Petersen, 48, of Appleton, Wis., told The Gazette during a Wednesday phone interview that he didn’t want to talk about how his 54-year-old mother was stabbed 18 times, or the man, Johnathan Mitchell, who was tried in the slaying in state court in 2013 and acquitted.
Instead, he wanted to share who she was — something that’s missing in the trial process.
Not that he isn’t grateful for another trial of Mitchell, now 43, of Cedar Rapids. He said the second trial, which begins Monday in U.S. District Court, gives the family renewed hope for a different resolution, so they can begin the healing process.
Petersen said the family is now focused on sharing their mother’s legacy with her seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, with another one on the way.
His mother, he said, didn’t have a chance to meet her two youngest grandchildren or her great-grandchildren. The siblings want their children to know their “inspiration” — their “Mimi,” as one granddaughter nicknamed her.
His mother’s death on April 29, 2011, impacted each family member, including their brother, David, who died in 2015.
Petersen admits he hasn’t been there for his kids like he should have been because he was grieving for his mother. But in the past few years, he said, his goal has been to pay tribute to his mother and share everything she taught him.
His mother was an “independent spirit” who loved her kids and grandkids. She encouraged him to see problems from multiple perspectives and always keep an open mind. They argued a lot, he said, because she was cynical and he is an optimist, but he misses those healthy discussions.
Petersen said he and his siblings spent what would be their last Mother’s Day with Stickley in 2010, when they surprised her with a family gathering. It was “one of the best days, with lasting memories,” he said.
The last time he saw his mother was Easter 2011, five days before she was killed.
He created a Facebook website in her honor called LUMinspired because she always signed letters and notes with LUM — love you more.
Driving a cab
Petersen said his mother started a home cleaning business with her best friend, a job she kept for 10 years until she started driving a Century cab. She did that for more than 10 years, until she was killed.
“She loved talking to people in the cab. … It was one of her favorite things,” Petersen said.
His sister, Tiffany Stickley, 42, of Cedar Rapids, said in a statement that her mother had a laid-back nature that brought out her passenger’s stories. She listened carefully and her love of listening was surpassed only by her love of telling stories about her family.
“My mom has always been so incredibly proud of all of us,” Tiffany Stickley said. She called her mom her “best friend, confidant and own personal comedian.” Her mother often joked about starting her own show — “Taxi Cab Confessions of Cedar Rapids.”
Petersen said they actually found some “confessions” she had written down in 2005.
She had notes about couples making out in the cab, and she caught some cheating on their spouses because she had given them rides in the past.
One of those affectionate couples quickly learned Stickley’s sense of humor when she handed them a clipboard at the end of the trip and asked if they would sign a “release form” because there were hidden cameras in the back.
Stickley’s family also found a diary, which included notes about a passenger in 2005. The man was dressed in black and had a black hoodie pulled up over his head for the entire trip to Iowa City. She wrote that she was “spooked” by the man and called a friend to tell her if anything happened to her to have police look at a convenience store tape, where the man wanted to stop before going to see his mom in Iowa City.
Stickley, in the diary, said she later found out her passenger was Robert Stanley Davis, 26, who had murdered his girlfriend, Wendy Barnes, 22, a dispatcher for phone sex workers.
Davis mentioned to Stickley he had had a fight with his girlfriend because she had cheated on him. According to court documents, Davis had stabbed Barnes 53 times. Stickley was a key witness in his trial, which ended with Davis being convicted of second-degree murder.
Mitchell was arrested and charged in Stickley’s death. His trial was moved from Linn to Story County because of pretrial publicity. A jury acquitted Mitchell on first-degree murder and first-degree robbery charges.
According to testimony, Mitchell's prints were found in Stickley's blood in the cab. Two witnesses testified they saw Mitchell in her cab, and he gave one of them bloody money for crack cocaine that night.
Mitchell testified at trial that he stole money from Stickley to buy crack cocaine but that she was already dead when he rifled through her cab for money.
After his acquittal, Mitchell was convicted and sentenced in January 2014 to seven years in prison for the 2010 assault on Arvin Druvenga and a forgery charge in Linn County. He was paroled in August 2014, according to court records.
The federal charge Mitchell now faces accuses him of obstructing commerce — the Century cab company — by “violently” robbing Stickley on April 29, 2011, in the 1500 block alley between Second and Third avenues SE, according to the indictment filed in 2016.
Petersen said it has been a roller coaster of emotions leading up to this trial because of the multiple delays because of Mitchell being found incompetent to stand trial.
Mitchell has been sent to a medical prison facility at different times over the years to have his competency restored, where he has fought staying on the antipsychotic drugs to treat his diagnosed schizophrenia and anti-social personality disorder.
In August, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld U.S. District Judge Leonard Strand’s January order for the Bureau of Prisons to involuntarily administer medication to Mitchell to maintain his competency for trial. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the appeals decision.
The appeals court concluded there was evidence that Mitchell’s mental state deteriorates when he doesn’t adhere to a medication regimen, and that he has demonstrated a pattern of failing to voluntarily maintain the regimen when he becomes competent.
The federal trial is expected to last all week. If Mitchell is convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
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