Johnson County Metro

Judge: Suspect in 1985 Iowa City death to be released pending trial

Burtch will be monitored with GPS device, will live at friend's home

Anthony Burtch
Anthony Burtch

IOWA CITY — Anthony Burtch, recently accused of killing his wife’s boyfriend three decades ago, will be released from jail with GPS monitoring and other conditions until his trial after a judge learned new testing on DNA evidence doesn’t implicate Burtch.

Burtch, now 58, is charged with first-degree murder in the Aug, 12, 1985, death of Lance DeWoody, 22. DeWoody was found shot at a picnic shelter on the University of Iowa’s Oakdale Campus. Investigators also recovered DNA at the crime scene, but have not elaborated on it.

In an order Monday, Sixth Judicial District Judge Paul Miller said the DNA evidence doesn’t match Burtch “but rather excludes him as a contributor to the DNA profile” found.

Authorities have said DeWoody was in a relationship with Burtch’s then-wife. DeWoody and Burtch’s wife were together the night of Aug. 12, 1985. She then returned to her husband, but he left for about 90 minutes. Authorities believe he fatally shot DeWoody during that time.

DeWoody’s body was found at the picnic shelter Aug. 13, 1985, records show. He had been shot in the head and face.

Burtch initially told investigators he and DeWoody had been harassed by a three men in the months leading up to DeWoody’s death, but an investigation revealed those men didn’t exist.

After subsequent reviews of the cold case over time failed to lead to an arrest, authorities took another look in 2013. In January, an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent met with Burtch, who denied his earlier story about being harassed by the men. Authorities then obtained a DNA sample from Burtch.

In his order, Miller said he understands that at the time the Johnson County Attorney’s Office filed the trial information, its officials believed that advancements in DNA technology would lead to a match and place Burtch at the scene of the killing back in 1985.

“It also appears to this court that the state is now relying upon, essentially, the same evidence that they felt was insufficient 30 years ago to charge this defendant,” Miller wrote. “The state indicates they are investigating several additional leads. However, (the) defendant has been held in custody since March 24 while this investigation continues.”

Assistant Johnson County Attorney Jude Pannell said Tuesday the case still is going forward, but declined additional comment.

Clemens Erdahl, Burtch’s attorney, wasn’t immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Miller said he was setting reasonable conditions of release to assure Burtch would appear in court as required and to safeguard the public.

Burtch has been in jail on a $1 million cash bail. He was still in jail as of Tuesday, according to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.

When he’s released, Burtch will be under supervised release and responsible for the costs, Miller wrote. Burtch will live at a friend’s home and be restricted there, except for travel to and from court, medical appointments and meetings with his attorney.

Burtch also will be required to wear an electronic monitoring device.

If Burtch is convicted of murder, he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

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