Linn County Metro

Man charged in 2016 Cedar Rapids homicide to plead guilty to lesser charges

Onyale Hughes faces 37 years in prison in March 2016 death of Robyn Furmanski

Onyale Vantress Hughes
Onyale Vantress Hughes

CEDAR RAPIDS — A man charged in the death of Robyn Furmanski, who was beaten and then left in her burning home on March 31, 2016, will plead guilty to lesser charges next week in Linn County District Court.

Onyale V. Hughes, 44, of Cedar Rapids, originally charged with first-degree murder, first-degree arson and first-degree robbery, will plead guilty next Monday to first-degree arson, voluntary manslaughter and misdemeanor animal abuse.   

Assistant Linn County Attorney Rena Schulte said Furmanski, 62, was beaten unconscious and left in a fire started in her condominium about 2:42 a.m. at 1218 Oakland Road NE. Furmanski was pulled out by Cedar Rapids firefighters when they arrived and taken to a hospital, but she never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead.

Furmanski died of blunt force head injuries, smoke inhalation and thermal injuries, according to the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office.

Schulte said the animal abuse charge was added because a dog belonging to Furmanski’s daughter also died in the fire that day. Schulte declined to provide more details of the investigation, including a motive. More details will come out at sentencing, she said.  

According to Iowa law, a person commits voluntary manslaughter when he or she causes the death of another person under circumstances, which otherwise would be murder, but the person causing the death acts out of “sudden, violent and irresistible passion resulting from serious provocation.”     

Hughes faces 25 years on the arson charge, 10 on manslaughter and two for animal abuse. Schulte will ask the court to run the sentences consecutively for a total of 37 years in prison.

After Hughes was charged, police said evidence connected him to Furmanski’s death, but officials never provided further details or a motive, only that they knew each other.

A search warrant affidavit previously filed shows there were witnesses who placed Hughes in Furmanski’s home less than two hours before the fire was reported. He was seen again less than 20 minutes after the fire, according to court documents.

When investigators responded to the fire, they discovered Furmanski’s black 2012 Cooper Mini was missing from the residence, the warrant affidavit shows. An attempt to locate the vehicle was issued and officers found the car in the 1200 block of Maplewood Drive NE, being driven by Daniel E. Ray, Jr., 49, of Cedar Rapids. Ray told police that he and Hughes had been drinking with Furmanski at her home until about 1 a.m.

Ray also said he left when Hughes told him to “get some weed” for them, court documents show. Ray then took Furmanski’s car and left.

Hughes’ uncle, John Hughes, told police his nephew had been staying with him for a couple of nights and had returned to the home around 3 a.m. that day.

Police said while investigating Hughes, they discovered Furmanski’s prescription medications on him. An analysis of his clothing also turned up samples of Furmanski’s blood, but it was unclear whether a murder weapon had been identified at that time.  

Hughes has a lengthy criminal history, with convictions for assault with the intent to injure a police officer, burglary, theft, forgery, drunken driving, driving while barred, possession of a controlled substance, contempt of court and violating his probation.

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