Public Safety

Illinois man pleads to lesser charges in Cedar Rapids woman's shooting

He faces up to 30 years in prison

CEDAR RAPIDS — An Illinois man who has had issues maintaining mental competency since 2018 pleaded guilty Thursday to lesser charges for shooting a Cedar Rapids woman, seriously injuring her.

Leon Barnes, 26, of Bartonville, originally charged in Linn County District Court with attempted murder, pleaded to intimidation with a weapon, willful injury causing serious injury, possession of a firearm as a felon and going armed with intent.

He admitted to shooting Lailah Wood, 41, outside her home in the 1600 block of Bever Avenue SE at 7:24 p.m. Dec. 30, 2017.

A criminal complaint showed Barnes had been waiting for Wood in a vehicle outside her house and fired several shots when she arrived.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden previously said the shooting was not a random attack and that Barnes was “familiar” with Wood.

Police said Wood was shot in the abdomen and was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City for surgery.

Barnes fled to Illinois after witnesses named him as the shooter.

The complaint showed Barnes bragged to a companion about shooting the woman. Barnes was arrested and extradited to Linn County in January 2018.

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During the Thursday hearing, Sixth Judicial District Senior Judge Nancy Baumgartner said Barnes faces up to 30 years in prison and must serve a mandatory five years each on the intimidation and willful injury charges before being eligible for parole.

This case took some time to resolve because Barnes was twice found incompetent — meaning he didn’t understand the nature of his charges and couldn’t assist his lawyer in his defense.

Court proceedings are typically put on hold until a defendant’s competency is restored.

The last time Barnes was restored to competency a few months ago, both his lawyer, Linn County Public Defender Brian Sissel, and Vander Sanden asked a judge to place Barnes in the psychiatric forensic hospital at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville pending trial to maintain his competency.

The prison’s hospital didn’t have room for him, but it became a moot point because of the plea agreement.

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

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