116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A former Cedar Rapids pro boxer, who turned to methamphetamine years after his career ended, testified Thursday that his friend Matthew Robbins didn’t completely admit to fatally shooting James Booher in 2014 but what Robbins did say made him believe “something bad happened.”
Robert Bleakley, who became a pro boxer in 1992 and had 127 fights during his career, testified Thursday that Robbins asked him to come to his farmhouse in Ely on June 1, 2014, the day after Booher, 51, of Marion, was killed.
He said Robbins was “acting strange” and told him “crazy sh** happened out here last night,” which Bleakley understood as someone was “raped or killed.”
He 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.
Robbins’ trial started Tuesday, and testimony will continue Monday. Prosecutors are ahead of schedule but the rest of their witnesses from out of state can’t be in court until next week.
Bleakley testified Robbins asked him to take his dogs to his ex-wife’s home in Atkins and gave him $20 and a little meth. Bleakley said he saw William Yancey, also charged in this case, split $140 with Robbins at the farmhouse and give him one of the two bags of meth he had.
When Bleakley got back from Atkins, he asked Robbins what was going on. Robbins told him, “You seen what it was,” which Bleakley thought meant he and Yancey had robbed somebody.
Later, Bleakley saw Robbins pulling up the carpet in the living room and that Robbins said the dogs had urinated on it.
Danielle Busch, Robbins’ ex-girlfriend, testified Tuesday that Booher was fatally shot in the living room and blood was on the carpet.
She said she lured Booher to Robbins’ house, so Yancey and Robbins could “do something” about Booher because he was “cutting” the meth he sold to Robbins with bath salts — reducing the quality of the drugs.
Robbins, she said, was angry about it and during the encounter fatally shot Booher.
During questioning Thursday, Bleakley said he had suffered several concussions and had traumatic brain injury from his time in the ring, but, for the most part, answered her questions and didn’t seem to have memory issues.
Bleakley said he returned to the farmhouse the next day, June 2, when Robbins called him. Robbins gave Bleakley a pipe with meth in it, and, after smoking it, Bleakley said he went out behind the house and found Robbins at the fire pit, shoveling ashes into garbage bags.
Robbins loaded the four or five bags into Bleakley’s vehicle and they drove to the Palisades-Kepler State Park boat ramp. He watched Robbins wade out with each bag and dump them in the river.
He again asked Robbins what had happened, and Robbins said, “If he wasn’t selling bath salts, he wouldn’t be missing.”
Later, Robbins told Bleakley he had “cracked him” — making a gesture of holding a gun — and said the “body was gone.”
Bleakley admitted he had lied to a grand jury hearing evidence in Booher’s slaying because Robbins had told him he’d be in “a lot of trouble” if he told what he knew.
Bleakley said he and Robbins had been friends for more than 30 years. He didn’t want to testify at Robbins’ trial but he did because it has been “horrible” living with what he knew for seven years.
In other testimony Thursday, Anna Young, an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation criminalist, testified to finding one latent fingerprint on the passenger side door of Booher’s truck that matched Busch’s right middle finger.
Busch testified that after Booher was killed, she and Yancey drove Booher’s truck from Robbins’ house to an apartment building’s parking lot in southwest Cedar Rapids.
A bleach bottle and lid recovered from the burn pit and shotgun shells found in a sock in Robbins house didn’t have suitable fingerprints to identify, she said.
Two other witnesses testified that they had been told Robbins killed Booher.
Candi Cater, who now lives in Texas, said her friend, Yancey, told her Robbins had shot Booher and burned his body.
Shaw said he told Robbins he knew what had happened to Booher but that Robbins at first denied it. Later, when they were watching a television news report on Booher, Robbins said, “Yeah, I did it, but you already know the truth.”
Shaw was convicted last year of running a large marijuana trafficking ring that supplied marijuana to Chris Bagley and the two men charged with killing Bagley over drug robberies from Shaw.
Shaw and Robbins are both serving federal sentences for drugs and firearms.
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