Public Safety

Cedar Rapids woman pleads to robbery conspiracy that ended in death of Marion man in 2014

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids woman pleaded guilty Monday to participating in a drug robbery that resulted in the fatal shooting of a Marion man who went missing in 2014 and whose body has never been found.

Danielle L. Busch, 30, pleaded in U.S. District Court 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.

Busch, during the plea hearing, admitted that she “voluntarily or intentionally” agreed with two or more people to commit a robbery on or after May 31, 2014.

She also admitted that a co-conspirator used or carried a firearm during the robbery.

She admitted the crime committed was part of the conspiracy and that discharging of the firearm caused the death of “J.B.”- James Booher, 51, of Marion.

Under federal law, the firearms charge is a “death constituting murder.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Roberts told Busch she faces up to 20 years on the conspiracy conviction, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release after prison. On the firearms conviction, she faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and possibly up to life, a $250,000 fine and five years of supervised release.

Roberts said the firearms sentencing will run consecutively to the other sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Williams asked that the plea agreement be filed under seal, meaning kept secret.

Busch’s co-conspirators, Matthew Robbins, 46, of Ely, and William L. Yancey, 43, of Cedar Rapids, have trials pending, and the plea has stipulated facts that likely include the two men,

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Robbins and Yancey are charged with charged with one count each 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, according to an indictment.

Busch may likely testify against one or both of them.

All three are accused of robbing Booher of methamphetamine and money by force and fatally shooting Booher on or after May 31, 2014, according to court documents.

In 2015, Marion police considered Booher, who went missing May 31, 2014, a homicide victim, but no charges were filed in his death until May of last year.

Federal prosecutors have declined to comment as to whether Booher’s body has been recovered. Nothing in court documents indicates the body was found.

On Feb. 13, authorities were digging for about 18 hours in the backyard of a house on Cherry Hill Road NW, which Yancey listed on a court financial affidavit in 2016 as his residence, according to court documents.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Morfitt, in February, confirmed that more than one law enforcement agency was searching the property but wouldn’t say why, only that it involved an ongoing criminal investigation.

Morfitt wouldn’t confirm any link between Yancey and the property or that it had anything to do with Booher’s disappearance.

Robbins and Yancey are in prison serving time for drug and firearm convictions. Robbins had been linked to Booher’s disappearance but was charged only with firearms and drugs offenses.

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Evidence from Robbins’ first trial, which ended in a hung jury, showed Robbins knew Booher and had bought methamphetamine from him.

Robbins and another man are accused of robbing Booher on June 1, 2014 — the day after police say Booher was last seen alive, according to court documents in the firearms case. Robbins and a friend identified as Busch bought meth from Booher on May 31, 2014.

Robbins and Busch contacted Booher later to set up a time to buy a larger quantity, according to court documents. Booher went to Robbins’ home later that night and wasn’t seen after that visit, according to court documents.

Booher was reported missing by his sister June 3, and his truck was found abandoned June 9.

In May 2015, during the investigation into Robbins, a forensics team that specializes in identifying human remains set up a dig site at a rural Ely farmhouse where Robbins once lived to search for evidence.

Court documents showed Robbins later moved out of the farmhouse and, before doing so, removed carpet, furnishings and fixtures — which he burned behind the house.

No human remains were found, but federal agents did recover a .45-caliber shell casing in the burn pile, according to court documents.

Robbins is scheduled for trial Sept. 14 and Yancey for Oct. 11.

Sentencing for Busch will be set after a presentencing report is completed.

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

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