MUSCATINE — A quarter century after a West Liberty man was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, a new tip to authorities set off a chain of events that led to the arrest Thursday of his one-time lover, a Tipton woman now 55.
The suspect, Annette D. Cahill, made her initial appearance Friday in Muscatine County District Court after she was arrested without incident at her home on suspicion of first-degree murder in the 1992 beating death of Corey Wieneke, 22.
She is being held on a $1 million cash-only bail and is set for a preliminary hearing June 11.
Cahill long has been known by investigators as a person in Wieneke’s “orbit,” as Muscatine County Attorney Alan R. Ostergren said Friday. But it wasn’t until a tipster in 2017 gave new information that helped the case gain enough steam to press charges.
The tipster — who had never spoken to authorities before — said Cahill a few weeks after the killing made statements implicating herself, according to a criminal complaint.
“It was very important,” Ostergren said about that tip in propelling the case. “Ultimately, a jury is going to decide how important it was. But we thought it was important. It was meaningful. And it helped us very much.”
Officers found Wieneke dead Oct. 13, 1992, in his rural Muscatine County home outside West Liberty. An autopsy found he died of blunt-force trauma.
Investigators determined Cahill — whose maiden name was Hazen — had been in a sexual relationship with Wieneke and admitted going to his home the day of his death, according to records. But she denied seeing him at that time.
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Throughout the investigation, Cahill offered conflicting accounts of her whereabouts during the early morning of Oct. 13, 1992 — when investigators believe the crime occurred, according to court documents.
She also, at one point, told another person that Wieneke had died by baseball bat bludgeoning before that information was known to investigators — or even before the murder weapon was found, the criminal complaint shows.
Police believe Cahill got into a heated argument with Wieneke early that day about his involvement with another woman. Wieneke’s fiance, Jody Hotz, also of West Liberty, told police she found his body in his bedroom about 6 p.m. that evening.
West Liberty police, the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation pursued the case. And although it went cold, they never closed it, according to Ostergren.
“We were always working on this case,” he said. “Fortunately those efforts came together in about the last six months where it led to what happened yesterday.”
Even though the tip was a long time coming, Ostergren urged, “It’s never too late to say what you know to law enforcement.”
The tipster, who was not publicly identified, gave authorities more information on why he or she chose to come forward with the information now, but Ostergren declined to elaborate.
Shortly after the arrest, Muscatine County Sheriff C.J. Ryan said authorities met with Wieneke’s family, who were “very grateful for the fact that law enforcement never gave up.”
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The victim’s mother, Susan Wieneke, told The Gazette she’s happy for the arrest, but feels too emotionally overcome to talk — as the arrest has brought the case back to life for her.
After the crime, KCRG-TV reporter Mike Wagner found the aluminum bat believed to be the murder weapon when his vehicle broke down by the side of the road. He walked to Wieneke’s house and told authorities, who collected and processed the bat as evidence.
“You always wonder if crimes that go unsolved this long will ever be solved,” Wagner, who no longer works at KCRG, said Friday. “I’m pleased the family will finally have some kind of closure.”
In the decades between the 1992 crime and her arrest, Cahill got married and had children and grandchildren, according to social media posts. In an application for a public defender, she reported working for the Police Law Institute based in North Liberty.
On LinkedIn, Cahill wrote she’s an office assistant and proofreader for the enterprise, which offers online courses aimed at keeping officers “informed and safe,” reducing their risk of civil liability.
She reported on her counsel application she lives with a spouse. A man who answered the phone at her home Friday would not comment.
Former colleagues said Cahill and her husband for years worked in the production department at the Iowa City Press-Citizen newspaper.
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