Public Safety

Trial reset to October for Iowa City man accused of killing his wife

Roy Browning Jr.
Roy Browning Jr.

IOWA CITY — The trial for a man accused of fatally stabbing his wife, a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics budget executive, has been reset to October in Johnson County District Court.

Roy Carl Browning Jr., 67, is charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of JoEllen Browning, 65, on April 5 in their home at 114 Green Mountain Dr.

Leon Spies, Browning’s lawyer, asked the court to continue the trial because he had scheduling conflicts with other cases. This week, Spies finished a first-degree murder trial in Davenport. His client, Jerry Burns, 66, of Manchester, was convicted of killing 18-year-old Michelle Martinko of Cedar Rapids in 1979.

Spies, in his motion to continue, also said some evidence in the case needs to be reviewed, and further investigation by the defense is necessary.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Kevin McKeever reset the trial to Oct. 13.    

Court documents show Browning had taken out high-interest loans and was covertly moving money from the couple’s savings into his personal account without his wife’s knowledge.

That information apparently going to be revealed to JoEllen Browning the day her body was found on the floor of her bedroom with multiple stab wounds to her front and back torso and on her left hand, according to court documents.

Special Agent Derek Riessen of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, in a search warrant affidavit, said police responded to a 911 call placed by Roy Browning at 6:59 a.m. April 5, who reported his wife was “unresponsive.”

A forensic pathologist determined the cause of death was “sharp-force injuries,” and her death was ruled a homicide, authorities said.   

There were no signs of a break-in at the home, court documents show. Blood was found in the couple’s master bedroom and in the shower. Blood also was found on the right hand fingernail clippings of JoEllen. A blood analysis showed it belonged to her and her husband.

According to the affidavit, less than 1 out of 310 trillion of unrelated individuals would have the same profile.

JoEllen Browning had a retirement account and life insurance policy worth more than $2 million, according to the document. Her husband had no source of income, and there was evidence he was making financial transactions without her knowledge.

Investigators found photos of “apparent banking records” at the home. But when compared with known records, they found “numerous discrepancies” between the documents, including a nonexistent account in the photographed record.

A text message from JoEllen Browning to her husband showed they had scheduled a meeting at their financial institution at 8 a.m. April 5 — an hour before she was found dead, according to court documents. About 20 minutes after Roy confirmed via text message he was aware of the meeting, he was at a paint supply store buying rubber gloves and towels, documents said.

Roy Browning remains in jail under a $5 million bail. If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.

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

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