Public Safety

Medical examiner testifies on cabdriver's injuries in Curtis Jones trial

Woman tells of seeing Jones in Iowa City night of slaying

Curtis Jones is show in September 2017 in Johnson County District Court in Iowa City. He is being tried on a first-degree murder charge in Davenport, accused of shooting Iowa City cabdrivers Ricky Lillie on June 27, 2017. The trial continues Monday.  (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Curtis Jones is show in September 2017 in Johnson County District Court in Iowa City. He is being tried on a first-degree murder charge in Davenport, accused of shooting Iowa City cabdrivers Ricky Lillie on June 27, 2017. The trial continues Monday. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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DAVENPORT — A forensic pathologist testified Friday that cabdriver Ricky Lillie could have died from either of the two gunshots fired at his head last year.

One gunshot to the right side of Lillie’s head, below the ear, indicated the gun’s muzzle was pressed against his skin, Dennis Firchau, a University of Iowa clinical assistant professor of pathology and deputy Johnson County medical examiner, testified.

The other shot to his face, in the upper lip area, was fired at close range, Firchau said during testimony Friday in the first-degree murder trial of Curtis C. Jones, 42, of Mount Pleasant.

Jones is accused of fatally shooting Lillie, 46, on June 27, 2017, when he was a passenger in Lillie’s cab.

Prosecutors say Jones killed Lillie during a robbery while the cab was parked near the Alexis Park Inn motel in Iowa City.

The defense is arguing Jones was a passenger in Lillie’s cab that night but didn’t shoot the cabdriver.

The trial, which started Monday in Scott County District Court, was moved out of Johnson County because of extensive news coverage. The trial is expected to continue another week- and-a-half in Davenport.

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Firchau also testified the shot fired against Lillie’s head fractured the right side of his skull, going through the brain, which caused hemorrhaging.

“This (gunshot) wound could have been independently fatal,” Firchau said, as was the shot to Lillie’s face.

Lillie, he said, also had bruising on his ears and on the left side of his scalp, which were blunt force injuries caused before his death, Firchau said.

Lillie also had bruising on his nose and around his eyes that may have resulted from the gunshots, he said.

In identifying photos for the jury, Firchau said the indentation on the top of Lillie’s head resulted when Lillie’s body was moved inside the cab.

According to previous testimony, Lillie was found lying across his cab’s passenger seat with his head near the floorboard and one of his legs across the steering wheel and dashboard.

In other testimony Friday, Cassalie Wollrab testified she had been working out at the University of Iowa Recreation Center and was getting gas for her vehicle at the Kum & Go store when she saw Jones sometime around 10:30 p.m. that evening.

Jones, she said, was wearing a green backpack and a green du-rag on his head. He was pacing back and forth and walked around her vehicle, Wollrab said, and then started talking to her and asked for a ride to Hy-Vee.

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She described his behavior as “suspicious” and said he’d made her feel “uncomfortable.”

When she didn’t offer him a ride, Jones said he would get a cab and then she heard him asking other people for a ride.

She said she recognized Jones from a Facebook post Iowa City police put up after Lillie’s death and reported the encounter.

In other testimony, Lillie’s mother, Peggy Armstrong of Burlington, said her son loved driving a cab, which he had done since graduating from high school. Lillie had developmental issues — “he was slow” — but Armstrong said her son had many friends and enjoyed talking to people.

Armstrong, tearing up, said she was in shock when she learned her son had been fatally shot.

Two men who lived at the Alexis Park motel also testified about what they had seen the night Lillie was killed.

One of them, Jacob Feltner. said he was walking his dog around 11 p.m. when he saw a cab parked down an alley and a person looking underneath the cab. The person, whom he couldn’t identify as male or female, was on hands and knees looking under the cab, he said.

As he was returning to his room, that same person passed him, walking quickly or “with a purpose.” Feltner said the person was a black man, wearing dark clothing. He just assumed it was the person he’d seen earlier.

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

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