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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Because a body was never been found, the grave of James “Jim Bob” Booher remains empty.
But he and his family received a dose of justice Monday after nearly seven years of waiting for one of the accused killers of their beloved son, father, brother and uncle from Marion to be convicted.
“It’s a good feeling to get justice that Jim Bob deserved,” Susie Reynolds, his sister, said after a federal jury found Matthew Robbins, 48, guilty of robbery and gun charges. “It’s been stressful.”
“He was a hard worker. A fun guy and downright good guy, said Booher’s brother, Rick. ”He will be dearly missed.”
Reynolds said there was so much more to her brother than what came out at trial about him being addicted to methamphetamine and selling drugs — which she said her brother had kept hidden from the family.
Both siblings said they were grateful their mother was alive to see this outcome, and are now waiting for the trial of William Yancey, 45, who also is charged in Booher’s death.
The federal jury found Robbins guilty of 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. The jury deliberated about eight hours Friday and nearly two hours Monday before reaching a unanimous verdict, following s nine-day trial. The jury was individually polled and confirmed the verdict on each of the counts.
Robbins, 48, didn’t show much reaction when the verdict was read. He did, however, curse at the prosecution as U.S. marshals led him out of the courtroom. Robbins already is serving prison time for a 2015 gun conviction.
“Matthew Robbins used a gun to steal drugs and money,” Acting U.S. Attorney Sean Berry said in a statement following the verdict. “Robbins’ actions resulted in the death of the man he robbed. Today’s verdict holds him accountable for that death. This verdict was made possible by the extraordinary cooperation and hard work of more than a dozen law enforcement agencies.”
Robbins faces a mandatory 10 years and possibly up to life in federal prison. He did not testify at trial. His defense denied he had a shotgun or that he robbed or killed Booher.
According to testimony, more than one witness said Robbins fatally shot Booher, 51, with a sawed-off shotgun on May 31, 2014, and burned his body at a pit at a farmhouse on Nederhiser Road near Ely that Robbins rented at the time.
Danielle Busch, Robbins’ former girlfriend who also has been convicted in this case, was at the farmhouse when the incident was alleged to have happened and others said either Robbins or Yancey told them what happened.
Witnesses testified Robbins killed Booher because he was angry that Booher repeatedly sold him meth mixed with bath salts, reducing its purity or potency.
Busch testified she became 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 said 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 said Yancey, who had a smile on his face, came into the kitchen and said, “We got him good,” but Robbins looked scared to her.
She said she saw Yancey remove a couch she and Booher had sat on that night, which had blood on it. The couch was taken out to the fire pit and burned.
“There was blood on the walls, carpets, blood everywhere,” Busch testified.
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.
She then saw Robbins dragging a large tube with garbage bags that left “blood streaks across the floor.” He then left for his former wife’s home in Atkins. Busch said she also saw money Robbins had with blood on it.
Most of the prosecution’s case was circumstantial, but there was some physical evidence: human bone fragments found in the burn pit outside and Booher’s DNA found in Robbins’ house.
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 will be sentenced after also testifying in Yancey’s trial set for June 7, and faces up to 20 years in prison.
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