Public Safety

Five men sent to prison in fatal Coggon marijuana robbery

Judge decries 'needless tragedy' of 2017 armed confrontation

(Top row) Shown left to right are Cameron Klouda, Chase Zerba, Kordell Jones and Tyler Clemens. (Bottom row) Dillon Beener
(Top row) Shown left to right are Cameron Klouda, Chase Zerba, Kordell Jones and Tyler Clemens. (Bottom row) Dillon Beener
/

CEDAR RAPIDS — All five men charged in a 2017 marijuana robbery that led to the fatal shooting of Dylan Plotz in Coggon were sentenced Monday to over six or more years in prison.

Adriana Ritchard, Plotz’s sister of Cedar Rapids, making the only victim’s impact statement presented in open court, said she lost her brother and best friend Feb. 1, 2017. She said she hasn’t gotten better over time, only learning to “live with the pain.”

Her brother’s death changed many things for their family and her own life, Ritchard said. The worst part was having to identify the 20-year-old’s body and seeing his face, which was shot at close range during the robbery. Ritchard said the “pain and anguish will haunt her forever.”

Other victim statements were submitted, along with support letters for each defendant, to the court.

U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams sentenced each defendant separately Monday. Families and friends of each man packed the courtroom during all the hearings.

During morning sentencings, another courtroom was opened for overflow. Those individuals couldn’t see the proceedings but could hear them. The judge decided on sentencing:

Chase Zerba, 21, of Coggon, convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, was sentenced to over seven years.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Tyler Clemens, 24, of Alburnett, convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, was sentenced to over six years.

Cameron Klouda, 22, of Coggon, convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, was sentenced to eight years.

Dillon Beener, 22, of Cedar Rapids, convicted of attempted robbery and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, was sentenced to over six years.

Kordell Jones, 20, of Cedar Rapids, convicted of attempted robbery and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, was sentenced to over six years.

The difference in prison time for each defendant was based on their criminal histories and the role each played during the fatal robbery.

During earlier hearings, investigators testified that Plotz, Beener, and Jones traveled from Cedar Rapids to Zerba’s home in rural Coggon ostensibly to make a drug deal but really to rob him of a half-pound of marijuana. A juvenile was driving the car but wasn’t charged.

Plotz was armed with a .40-caliber pistol, according to testimony.

Zerba asked friends Klouda and Clemens to come to his home in case something went wrong during the deal. Clemens and Zerba took a shotgun from the house, and Clemens loaded and carried it to a minivan outside where they waited to make the deal, according to authorities. Klouda was armed with a knife.

Beener first went to the minivan to discuss the price of marijuana and then came back to the car where Jones and Plotz were waiting. Then all three went to the van and stayed outside as Plotz pointed his gun at Zerba, authorities said.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

According to testimony, Zerba then yelled “Pull it up,” and Clemens raised the shotgun and it discharged.

When authorities arrived, they found Plotz dead with a shotgun wound to the face.

Despite testimony that Clemens fired the gun, authorities previously said they hadn’t determined who pulled the trigger. But during the sentencings, it became evident that Clemens unintentionally shot Plotz.

But none of the men was charged directly with his death.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Williams pointed out in each hearing that what was “remarkable” about this “tragic” case is that any of the young men could have “stopped this chain of events” but didn’t.

Judge Williams, calling this a “needless tragedy,” said the violence leads to “collateral victims,” including family members in the gallery during the hearings.

Each defendant apologized to their own families and Plotz’s family. Most also mentioned that their drug use or adiction led to the robbery.

Zerba said the past 11 months in jail have been the “hardest” of his life; that he had no intention of hurting anyone.

Clemens said he “never meant for this to happen” and it makes him “sick every day.”

Klouda, calling it a “senseless loss of a young man’s life,” said he regrets it and promised to change his life.

Beener said his actions were “wrong, stupid and out of character.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Jones said he “lost track of his goals” and got involved with drugs after an injury kept him from playing sports. He promised to be a better person for his daughter, family and community.

Judge Williams also ordered Zerba, Clemens and Klouda to jointly pay $5,611 in victim’s restitution to Plotz’s parents. Klouda was fined $1,000 because he was the only one with means to pay it.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.