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Suspect in Tarrence Newman killing faces unrelated robbery charge

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The man charged in the 2017 slaying of Terrance Newman is facing additional, unrelated felony charges in connection with a year-old robbery.

James N. Johnson, 31, is charged with first-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony. He and Malik Muhammad, 21, are accused of robbing a store clerk at knifepoint at El Mercadito, 700 First Ave. NW, about noon April 9, 2018.

During the robbery, Johnson “acted to divert the clerk’s attention, directed Muhammad to the cash register and acted as a lookout during the robbery,” the criminal complaint states.

At the time, Muhammad “displayed a knife and jumped over the counter to take cash from the victim. Muhammad also struck the clerk in the face,” the complaint states. The clerk was a 62-year-old woman, officials said.

According to the complaint, Johnson and Muhammad were tied to the crime using video surveillance footage. Police said Johnson’s fingerprints were also found at the scene.

Johnson was charged March 24 with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the death of Newman, 40, who was found shot to death on Nov. 12, 2017, in front of his home in the 1500 block of D Avenue NE.

Johnson was the third person arrested in the killing. According to a criminal complaint, his DNA was found at the crime scene.

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In that case, Johnson is accused of going with co-defendants Rayshaun Friend, 29, and Don Harris, 31, both of Cedar Rapids, to Newman’s house to rob Newman of drugs and money. Court documents identify Harris as the shooter.

Friend and Harris are each charged with first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and going armed with intent.

Muhammad also faces another charge.

Police said Muhammad was charged in March with first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery and false use of credit cards/ATM cards. He is accused of torturing a 57-year-old man with an electric iron and robbing him at gunpoint during a hotel meetup Feb. 7.

According to the criminal complaint, Muhammad met the man at the Econo Lodge on 33rd Avenue SW. When the man entered the room, Muhammad was armed with a handgun and ordered the man to lie down on the bed. The man was then restrained with duct tape and a belt and gagged with a pillow case, police said.

Muhammad then pressed “a hot iron against his skin while demanding the victim disclose the PIN number to his debit cards,” according to the complaint. Police said Muhammad took the man’s cash and debit cards.

Court records show Johnson and Muhammad were in the Linn County Jail when this week’s charges were filed.

• Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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