Public Safety

Man who killed Iowa City bondsman gets second life sentence

IOWA CITY — A grieving mother Tuesday said she can’t comprehend the loss of her “thoughtful, witty son,” who was her best friend — a “source of joy.”

After the sentencing of Curtis Jones, who was convicted in the April 2017 fatal shooting of 32-year-old Jonathan Wieseler, Linda Wieseler said losing her son like this shouldn’t have happened. She blamed the parole board that released Jones in 2016 several years early on a robbery conviction despite assessments he was likely to reoffend.

If the board hadn’t released Jones early, maybe her son and Ricky Lillie, who Jones was also convicted of killing, might still be alive, she said.

Jones, 42, of Mount Pleasant, was found guilty of first-degree murder in January by a Polk County jury in Wieseler’s death. The trial was moved out of Johnson County because of pretrial publicity.

He was convicted of fatally shooting Wieseler, a bondsman in the Lederman Bail Bonds office in downtown Iowa City. Wieseler was shot three times in the head during a robbery at the office, where he was working and living at the time.

In November, Jones was convicted in the June 2017 fatal shooting of Lillie, 46, an Iowa City cabdriver. Lillie was also shot in the head, according to testimony.

Lillie’s mother, Peggy Armstrong, and his cousin, Lucy Miller, attended Tuesday’s sentencing in support of the Wieseler family.

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Jones was sentenced to life in prison without parole for Lillie’s death by a different judge in January, and 6th Judicial District Judge Lars Anderson sentenced Jones Tuesday to another life term, running it consecutively to the other.

Jones, who represented himself at both trials, argued for a new trial during Tuesday’s hearing, saying the verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence. He said there was no evidence proving he fired the gun, and the gun was never found. There also wasn’t any direct evidence — it was all circumstantial, he said.

He also said the “all white jury” found him guilty based on prejudices and biases, and he said the jailhouse informant who testified that Jones talked about the deadly assault lied during the trial.

Anderson said he believes Jones had a fair trial, and he didn’t think race had anything to do with the verdict. He called it a “violent and senseless offense.”

“The verdict wasn’t contrary to weight of evidence,” Anderson said. “Circumstantial evidence, according to Iowa law, is same as direct evidence.”

Anderson suspended court costs and fines but ordered Jones to pay $150,000 in victim restitution to Wieseler’s estate or heirs.

In other victim impact statements, Sharon Vander Meer, Wieseler’s aunt, and Harmony Hauser, his fiancee, talked about his “compassionate and giving heart.”

Hauser said he had an “amazing impact” on so many.

“He was the gentlest, kindest person on the planet,” Hauser said, tearing up at times. “Our wedding plans changed into funeral plans. We wanted to have children and grow old together.”

The couple planned be married in June 2017.

“Jon was the kind of man that made the world a better place,” Hauser said.

He still lives on, as does their love, she said. She is grateful for the time she had with him.

“I will always love him,” she said.

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

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