Today, December 11, 2018, in Muscatine County District Court a jury found JUSTIN LEE DEWITT, 38, formerly of North Liberty, guilty of three counts of attempt to commit murder. The trial began yesterday, December 10, 2018. The jury deliberated for approximately 12 minutes before returning a verdict of guilty on all charges.
The arrest of DEWITT was the result of an investigation conducted by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement - both divisions of the Iowa Department of Public Safety. Evidence introduced at trial showed that DEWITT had been an inmate in the Muscatine County Jail after having been arrested in Johnson County, Iowa for seeking to arrange the murder of four individuals including two children. While an inmate DEWITT solicited another inmate to make arrangements to have three witnesses in his Johnson County case killed in order to prevent them from testifying. That other inmate reported the information to authorities who began an investigation.
During the investigation DEWITT spoke on two occasions with an individual whom he believed was an associate of a contract killer. The person was in fact an undercover Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement special agent. The conversations occurred over the Muscatine County Jail's video visitation system. During the recorded conversations DEWITT identified the three people he wanted to be killed, identified the residence of two of the individuals and the motor vehicle of the third, and discussed the financial arrangements for the killings. DEWITT later made a phone call to an unwitting party seeking to have a down payment made for the killings. There was no evidence that the person DEWITT contacted was aware of the actual purpose for the payment of money which DEWITT sought. DEWITT also mailed the undercover agent a diagram of the residence of two of the individual he sought to have killed.
Attempt to commit murder is a class "B" felony punishable by imprisonment for a term not to exceed 25 years. There is a mandatory minimum term of 17.5 years before parole eligibility. It will be up to the sentencing judge to determine whether the counts will be served concurrently or consecutively with each other and with the sentence DEWITT has already received in Johnson County. DEWITT was previously sentenced to a total term of not to exceed 35 years with a 17.5 year mandatory minimum for his conduct in the original case.
"I would like to thank the jury for their efforts in this case" Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren stated. "This verdict was justice served. I would also like to compliment the special agents who investigated the case. They gave me the evidence I needed to make a compelling presentation to the jury," Ostergren added.
DEWITT will be sentenced January 18, 2019, at 9:00 a.m. He will be held in the Muscatine County Jail without bond pending sentencing.