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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
More than a year after a young Cedar Rapids man was discovered dead from a shotgun blast, five people were charged Thursday in connection with his homicide - but none of them with the killing itself.
Back on Feb. 1, 2017, Linn County deputies were called to 2260 Seven Hills Rd., about 5 miles southwest of Coggon, to look into a report of fighting and shooting.
They found the body of Dylan Plotz, 20, a roofer who had graduated from Jefferson High, in the yard outside the home.
Authorities interviewed witnesses, but made no arrests and disclosed little. However, federal court records released Thursday outline a marijuana robbery plot that backfired and turned deadly.
Chase Daniel Zerba, 20, and Cameron Lee Klouda, 21, both of Coggon, and Tyler Michael Clemens, 23, of Alburnett, each were charged in U.S. District Court with one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and using, carrying, brandishing, and discharging a firearm - a 20-gauge pump shotgun - during a drug trafficking crime.
Zerba and Clemens each also were charged with being drug users in possession of the gun.
Dillon Craig Beener, 21, and Kordell Maurice Jones, 19, both of Cedar Rapids, were charged with one count of attempted robbery and using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.
Four of the men made initial appearances Wednesday and Thursday and were being held without bail pending detention hearings set for Monday. Beener has not yet appeared in court.
Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner said he couldn't comment on the investigation now that charges have been filed in federal court.
Based on cellphone records and witness statements outlined in court records, Plotz had left Cedar Rapids with Beener and Jones to travel to Coggon. During the car ride, the three planned to rob Zerba of marijuana, according to an affidavit with the criminal complaint.
The court document shows text messages between Beener and Plotz talking about Zerba not having a gun - so he wouldn't be prepared when they get there.
The three men brought with them a .40-caliber High Point pistol, the complaint shows. When they arrived at Zerba's home, Clemens, Klouda and Zerba were sitting in a minivan in the driveway.
Beener, Plotz and Jones approached and spoke to Zerba.
As they spoke, authorities said, Plotz brandished the pistol and demanded Zerba hand over marijuana.
According to the complaint, Zerba yelled 'get it up,” and one of the occupants of the minivan fired a shotgun from the passenger side window, hitting Plotz in the head.
During a search of the crime scene, investigator said they located $60 in Plotz's pocket and the .40-caliber pistol near his body. The pistol was loaded, with a round in the chamber and the safety off, investigators reported.
Zerba told deputies a shotgun was taken from his home and he believed that shotgun was used to shoot Plotz, according to search warrant affidavit filed in Linn County District Court.
In the minivan, investigators said they found six containers of marijuana totaling 386 grams. Multiple jars of marijuana were also found.
If convicted on all charges, Zerba, Clemens and Klouda face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, and a possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Beener and Jones face a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years, and a possible maximum life sentence.
The robbery, firearm and drug charges would likely result in longer prison sentences upon conviction in federal court than in state court. Federal judges may consider previous convictions in sentencing.
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Trish Mehaffey of The Gazette contributed to this report.