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MARION

Marion man convicted of killing woman dumped on roadside near Muscatine

21-year-old Lea Ponce found beaten to death in January

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A Marion man was convicted Friday in the killing of a 21-year-old Fairfield woman, whose body was found on the side of the road in Muscatine County.

A Muscatine County jury on Friday found Douglas J. Foster, 35, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Lea Ponce, according to the Muscatine Journal.

Ponce was last seen alive about 12:30 a.m. Jan. 8 in the Walmart parking lot in Muscatine.

Investigators said video surveillance showed Ponce was dropped off at Walmart at 12:27 a.m. Jan. 8 when she entered the store to use the restroom before returning to the parking lot and getting into Foster’s white GMC pickup at 12:32 a.m.

A search of Ponce’s phone records showed she made numerous calls and sent other communications in the late evening hours of Jan. 7 requesting a ride to Cedar Rapids, court documents show.

Ponce communicated “she was in danger” because an unidentified man — referred to as “Individual A” in the criminal complaint — “was going to kill her because (he) knew that Ponce had ripped him off,” court documents state.

Police said Individual A suspected Ponce had “taken a substantial quantity of methamphetamine from him.”

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The complaint states Individual A had “communicated to several individuals that (he) would pay a bounty (paid in the form of methamphetamine) for someone to locate Ponce.”

A search of Foster’s phone showed that about 30 minutes before picking up Ponce, Foster was arguing with a female via text message, during which he stated he was going to pick up a woman and indicated he was going to “turn her over” to “get beaten” to death.

The Journal reported Foster’s trial began Monday and that the juryheard testimony that Ponce died from blunt force injuries to the head and chest.

The prosecution contended that Foster beat Ponce with a .40-caliber handgun before throwing her from his fast-moving truck on Highway 38 between Muscatine and Wilton.

Conviction on a first-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

Foster’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 31 in Muscatine County.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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