Public Safety

Hiawatha man to plead in death of mother

She died after rotten apple shoved down her throat

Joseph Hubbard
Joseph Hubbard

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Hiawatha man accused of killing his mother by shoving a rotten apple down her throat will plead guilty to lesser charges next month.

Joseph Hubbard, 33, is charged with second-degree murder, second-degree arson, third-degree burglary and assault causing bodily injury in the death of this mother, Deborah Roman, 56, on Dec. 2, 2016.

During a case management conference Friday, Hubbard’s lawyer and a prosecutor told 6th Judicial District Judge Mary Chicchelly in her chambers that a plea agreement had been reached.

Assistant Linn County Attorney Jason Besler said he couldn’t make public the plea agreement at this time but may be able to provide more information after the April 27 plea hearing in Linn County District Court.

Hubbard, who planned to claim diminished responsibility/insanity and self-defense, had undergone psychological evaluations by two experts, one for the defense and one for the prosecution, who would have testified at trial.

The trial had been scheduled for May 7.

Hubbard was arrested after Hiawatha police found him naked in the 700 block of North Center Point Road on Dec. 2, 2016, attempting to get into several vehicles before getting into a construction van, according to court documents.

Officers said Hubbard “appeared to be in an altered state of mind.” He told officers he had found his mother dead that morning.


Officers took him to a hospital for examination, and he confessed that he killed his mother by shoving a rotten apple down her throat.

Police went to Roman’s mobile home at 213 Sunset Lane and found Roman’s body inside.

During an autopsy, a state medical examiner found large chunks of apple in Roman’s throat and ruled she died from asphyxiation, the complaint shows.

Before police found Behrens in the construction van, he had forced his way into a storage shed of the New Beginnings Church, 910 Boyson Ct., taken off his clothes and soaked them with gasoline, the complaint shows.

Hubbard also is charged with assaulting a man named Steven Behrens before getting into the van.

Hubbard remains in jail under a $1 million bond.


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