IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A parolee charged with killing an Iowa City cab driver in June is also responsible for the April shooting death of a bail bondsman in the city, police said Monday.
Both homicides occurred just months after Curtis Cortez Jones left prison following a decision by the Iowa Board of Parole to grant his release in November 2016, years early on a robbery sentence. The board paroled Jones despite assessments that warned he was a high risk for committing additional violence and the fact that he had recently escaped after being fired from a work-release job for credit card fraud.
Jones, 41, was charged with first-degree murder Monday in the April 22 death of 34-year-old Jonathan Wieseler. Police said Jones robbed Wieseler and shot him in the head with a small caliber firearm at Lederman Bail Bonds, where he worked near the Johnson County Courthouse and jail and was found dead the next day.
Jones has been in custody since July, when he was charged with first-degree murder in the June 28 death of 46-year-old Ricky Lillie. Police say that Jones took a ride from Lillie across Iowa City, then robbed the driver and shot him to death inside his cab outside a motel.
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Jones has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial in Lillie’s death. He’s scheduled to make his initial court appearance Tuesday in the Wieseler case. Nekeidra Tucker, an attorney representing Jones, didn’t immediately return a phone message. A conviction in either case would carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Jones, a father of 12 with a history of violence dating to his teenage years, had been a suspect in Wieseler’s death for months. He was charged after forensic testing found Wiesler’s DNA co-mingled with the DNA of Jones on evidence seized from a vehicle that Jones was seen on surveillance video driving near the crime scene, police said.
The deaths of Wieseler and Lillie were part of a trio of homicides in the past year in Iowa City, which is “well over” what the quiet college town of 75,000 normally experiences, said Police Chief Jody Matherly.
“Crimes of this nature and frequency are absolutely unacceptable,” he said at a news conference, adding that the department’s entire staff worked on solving them.
Jones received a 40-year prison sentence after robbing a motel and grocery store in Iowa City while brandishing a pellet gun in 2005. During the robberies, he tied up a hotel clerk and struck a grocery store employee in the head with his gun.
Jones was placed at a Coralville halfway house in March 2016 and given a work-release job at a hotel. After one month, Jones was accused of stealing a customer’s credit card information and making fraudulent personal purchases. The hotel fired him. Jones then absconded for two weeks, ignoring pleas to turn himself in before eventually surrendering. The Department of Corrections terminated Jones’ work release and sent him back to prison.
In October 2016, Jones scored a high risk to be returned to prison for committing a new violent or property offense within three years, according to parole board assessments. Nonetheless, the board granted Jones’ release a week later based in part on a recommendation from the Department of Corrections, which said Jones had two job offers and a place to live with an aunt upon his release.
Within months, however, records show he was unemployed and missing appointments with his parole officer.