Public Safety

Testimony: Iowa City cabdriver's body appeared to have been moved after shooting

Medical examiner testifies in Curtis Jones murder trial

Curtis Jones appears in for a September hearing in Johnson County District Court. His trial on a first-degree murder charge, in the 2017 shooting death of Iowa City cabdriver Ricky Lillie, 46, is underway in Scott County District Court in Davenport.  (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Curtis Jones appears in for a September hearing in Johnson County District Court. His trial on a first-degree murder charge, in the 2017 shooting death of Iowa City cabdriver Ricky Lillie, 46, is underway in Scott County District Court in Davenport. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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DAVENPORT — Testimony in the Curtis Jones first-degree murder trial went slowly Thursday, with only two witnesses before the jury was sent out on a 90-minute break while the judge and lawyers took up a legal issue.

The issue was argued two weeks ago in a pretrial hearing, but the defense wanted it entered into the trial record.

Curtis Jones, 42, of Mount Pleasant, is on trial in Scott County District Court this week in the fatal shooting of Ricky Lillie, 46, an Iowa City cabdriver, on June 27, 2017.

According to Wednesday’s testimony, Lillie was shot once “point blank” in the face and the back of head.

His body was found in a “contorted position” in the his cab, according to testimony.

The trial was moved out of Johnson because of extensive news coverage.

Clayton Schuneman, the Johnson County medical examiner administrative director, testified most of Thursday morning about the protocols and procedures taken before removing Lillie’s body from the cab because of how the body was positioned.

Schuneman said he and the police investigators had to come up with a plan on how to remove the body while preserving any other evidence in the cab such as DNA or fingerprints.

Schuneman identified some photos of the body, noting it appeared as if Lillie’s body had been positioned in this “unnatural” way.

Lillie’s head was pressed between the side of the passenger seat and door. His head was lower than the rest of his body and his left knee was propped on the dashboard.

Schuneman said a portion of Lillie’s shorts were cut in the back, along with his belt, making it appear someone may have used the belt as a “handle to move the body.”

He said someone being shot and “slumping over” wouldn’t land in such a position.

Robert Hartman, an Iowa City police officer and crime scene investigator, testified about what he found in the cab.

Hartman identified the items found in the cab — a tablet, an open briefcase with smeared blood inside as if someone had gone through it after the shooting, and Lillie’s cabdriver identification badge. Items not found in the cab was Lillie’s wallet, a gun and shell casings.

The legal issue arose Thursday when Hartman started testifying about processing another vehicle that authorities thought Jones had stolen.

The defense argued it could be prejudicial to Jones in this case, so the testimony about the vehicle was limited.

The trial is expected to continue through next week.

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

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