Public Safety

North Liberty landscaper serving time in murder-for-hire plots dies in prison

Officials have not released a cause of death for Justin DeWitt, 39

Justin DeWitt
Justin DeWitt

A former North Liberty landscaper serving time for trying to hire a hit man to kill a family of four, and also for trying to hire a hit man to kill witnesses in that case, has died in prison, officials said.

Justin Lee DeWitt, 39, was declared dead at 12:38 p.m. Friday at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville, the Iowa Department of Corrections announced. The cause of death “is yet to be determined,” the department said in a news release, and an autopsy was to be performed by the Johnson County medical examiner.

DeWitt had been in state prison since July 27, 2018.

In the first case, authorities said he wanted to kill a rival landscaper and the man’s family, including two children.

DeWitt met with a person he thought was a hit man — but actually was an undercover officer — on June 27, 2016. He gave the man a $1,000 down payment and signed a contract to have the family killed for $8,000, police said.

While he was awaiting a trial in the first case, and being held in the Muscatine County Jail, DeWitt solicited another inmate to make arrangements to have three of the witnesses from the case killed so they couldn’t testify against him. The inmate alerted investigators.

DeWitt twice talked with someone who actually was an undercover officer to make arrangements for the hit. The conversations were captured on the jail’s video system.

DeWitt pleaded to lesser charges in the first case, and a jury took only 12 minutes to convict him in the second.

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