Public Safety

Federal prosecutors will not seek death penalty in fatal shooting of James Booher

If convicted, all 3 defendants face 10 years to life

James Booher
James Booher

CEDAR RAPIDS — Federal prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for three defendants charged in the 2014 robbery and fatal shooting of a Marion man.

Matthew Robbins, 46, of Ely, Danielle Busch, 29, and William L. Yancey, 43, both of Cedar Rapids, are 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, an indictment shows.

The three are accused of robbing 51-year-old James Booher of methamphetamine and money by force on May 31, 2014, according to the indictment. They also are accused of having a firearm during the robbery and fatally shooting Booher.

The firearms charge is a “death constituting murder” charge under federal law.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Williams previously said this case was “capital death”-eligible, but that decision would be made U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

There are no further details in court documents as to why the death penalty option will not be pursued.

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.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Morfitt declined to comment in May as to whether Booher’s body was recovered. Nothing in court documents indicates the body was found.

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.

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

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, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to being a felon and unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm, is serving 10 years in prison.

If convicted, all three face a mandatory minimum of 10 years, up to life, in prison.

A trial date hasn’t been set. This case has been designated as “complex,” which has extended deadlines for motions and the exchanging of evidence to give each side more time to prepare for trial.

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

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