CEDAR RAPIDS — Nearly five years after James Booher went missing, three people have been charged in his death.
Matthew Robbins, 46, of Ely, and William L. Yancey, 43, and Danielle Busch, 29, both of Cedar Rapids, were charged in U.S. District Court on Wednesday in the robbery and death of the 51-year-old Marion man who went missing May 31, 2014.
Marion police in 2015 considered Booher a homicide victim but no charges were filed in his death until Wednesday. Federal prosecutors wouldn’t say what new evidence led to the charges, and authorities have not announced that they ever found his body.
All three face federal charges of robbery affecting interstate commerce, conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in murder, according to an indictment.
Busch pleaded not guilty Wednesday during an arraignment. Robbins and Yancey haven’t been arraigned yet but are already serving prison time for drug and firearm convictions. Robbins had been linked to Booher’s disappearance but was previously only charged with firearms and drugs offenses.
All three defendants are accused of robbing Booher of methamphetamine and money by force on May 31, 2014, according to the indictment. They are also accused of having a firearm during the robbery and fatally shooting Booher.
The indictment doesn’t detail if there was more than one gun involved or if only one of them killed Booher. The firearms charge is a “death constituting murder” charge under federal law, the indictment shows.
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Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Williams, during Busch’s hearing Wednesday, said this case was “capital death” eligible. To pursue the death penalty, U.S. Attorney General William Barr would have to approve it.
If convicted, all three face a mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to life.
Robbins was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2016 for being a felon and unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm. Evidence from Robbins’ first trial, which ended in a hung jury, showed Robbins knew Booher and had purchased meth from him.
Robbins and another man robbed Booher on June 1, 2014 — the day after police say Booher was last seen alive, according to court documents in Robbins’ firearms case. Robbins and a friend identified as Danielle Busch purchased meth from Booher on May 31, 2014.
Robbins and Busch used the meth and later contacted Booher to set up time to buy a larger quantity, according to court documents.
Booher went to Robbins’ home later that night and wasn’t seen after that visit, according to court documents. A day or two later, another person went to Robbins’ home looking for Booher and Robbins greeted him at the door holding a .45 caliber handgun, the document showed.
Booher was reported missing by his sister on June 3, and his truck was found abandoned June 9.
In May 2015, during the investigation into Robbins, a forensics team that specializes in identifying human remains set up a dig site at a rural Ely farmhouse where Robbins once lived to search for evidence in Booher’s death.
At that time, former Marion Police Chief Harry Daugherty said he couldn’t provide details, only that it involved a federal drug-related homicide investigation.
Court documents showed Robbins later moved out of the farmhouse on Nederhiser Road home, but before doing so removed carpet, furnishings and fixtures — which he burned behind the house.
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No human remains were found but federal agents did recover a shell casing from a .45 caliber brand of ammunition in the burn pile, according to court documents.
Busch remains in jail pending a detention hearing June 3.
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