Public Safety

Coralville police chief credits hours of relentless investigation for arrests in Christmas homicide

'That's what our job is'

A parking lot is cordoned off in the 900 block of Boston Way in Coralville on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019, as investigators
A parking lot is cordoned off in the 900 block of Boston Way in Coralville on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019, as investigators work the scene of a Wednesday night shooting that left one person dead and two injured. (Lee Hermiston, The Gazette)

CORALVILLE — Hundreds of hours of investigating. More than 100 interviews. Three crucial tips.

It took nearly four months, but on Friday authorities in Kentucky made two arrests in a Christmas night shooting in Coralville that left one man dead and three others injured.

“It was just doggedly going after it every single day,” Coralville Police Chief Shane Kron said. “That’s what it takes. This is really an example of a case where you just keep at it.”

Brothers Milton L. McAbee, 19, and Elijah McAbee, 18, each face life in prison for the shooting death of 30-year-old Gregory Jackson. The elder McAbee brother faces a charge of first-degree murder and his sibling is accused of aiding and abetting him in that crime.

Both men are awaiting extradition back to Johnson County.

Seven Coralville police detectives and five agents from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation had been plugging away at the case since Dec. 25.

That night, at 9:32 p.m., officers responded to a report of gunfire in the 900 block of Boston Way. Three people — including Jackson — were found with gunshot wounds.

A fourth victim later showed up at a hospital with a non-life-threatening gunshot wound.

Kron said police knew early on in the investigation what led to the shooting.

“But knowing it and proving it are obviously months apart,” he said.

The events leading to the fatal shooting began with a dispute — name calling and gesturing — between juveniles, Kron told The Gazette. Juveniles roamed the neighborhood looking for a fight.

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Police initially responded when parents and older siblings started fighting. The homicide stemmed from that ongoing confrontation, Kron said.

“It wasn’t going to make sense to anybody,” Kron said. “A dispute between junior high kids ends up in a shooting with adults. It’s never going to make sense. When the whole story comes out, you’re just going to shake your head.”

Kron said there wasn’t one piece of information that tipped the investigation into the arrest stage. Instead, he said it was one piece, one interview, one increment that helped investigators “tie it all together.”

Three “really crucial leads” came from Iowa City Area Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line, Kron said.

“They were at intervals,” he said. “It’s not like they were on a day. Then we got another one. It just seemed like we were stalled, we just needed another piece. We got another Crime Stoppers tip.”

The McAbee brothers were believed to be in Chicago after the shooting and police had been searching for them there “for a significant period of time.”

The men eventually were tracked to Kentucky, where they possibly are residents. Kron said he didn’t know what permanent address they gave arresting officers.

Kron said he couldn’t say how police tracked the McAbees to Kentucky.

“It’s good investigation is what it is,” he said.

That investigation will continue up until the two men go to trial. Additional charges are possible, and more people are under investigation. But as Kron has stated throughout the investigation, there’s what you know and there’s what you can prove.

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“We’re not done,” Kron said. “That’s the myth, that you file a charge and then, ‘Hey, we’re good.’ The days and weeks to come will be just a lot more work.”

And while the case has resulted in two arrests, Kron isn’t celebrating.

“There’s no joy in a murder case — there’s just not,” he said. “We work at it, work at it, work at it because that’s what we do. That’s what we’re asked to do. That’s what our job is.

“I’m glad we came to a resolution because that’s what we’re supposed to do. I’m glad we finally got the story. But it doesn’t bring back Greg Jackson, I know that.”

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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