Tag Archive for drugs

Murder in Iowa

Angela Johnson could have been the first woman executed by the federal government since December 1953 if the sentence handed down by jurors in her capital murder trial had held up on appeal. Instead she avoided the fate of Ethel Rosenberg after a federal judge declared that Johnson’s defense attorneys muffed the penalty phase of her trial. Her sentence was reduced to life.
 
Johnson was convicted in U.S. District Court in 2005 for her role in helping nerdy but deadly drug kingpin Dustin Honken murder three adults and two children in an attempt to fend off a federal drug probe in 1993. The jury recommended that she pay for her crimes with her life.
 
In 2004 Honken himself became the first person sentenced to death by Iowa jurors in 41 years.
 
Honken was a community college chemistry whiz who began manufacturing methamphetamine with his brother and a childhood friend in 1992. He sold several pounds of the deadly stimulant to two Iowa men, Terry DeGues and Greg Nicholson.
 
His drug dealing career didn’t last very long and Honken was arrested by federal authorities in March 1993. Over the spring and summer of that year, Honken and his attorney negotiated with the feds and Honken learned that Nicholson was cooperating with the government. Honken agreed to plead guilty to federal drug charges in July 1993.
 
However, the week before Honken was scheduled to appear in court for his plea, Nicholson disappeared along with his 32-year-old girlfriend Lori Duncan and her two daughters, Kandi, 10, and Amber, 6. Honken subsequently backed out of his guilty plea and with little evidence, the government was forced to drop its case.
 
In November 1993, DeGues also dropped off the face of the earth.
 
Although that case against Honken collapsed, he was nabbed again in 1996 and a year later pleaded guilty to meth dealing and got a 27-year prison sentence.
 
If he had been able to keep his mouth shut, Dustin Honken would have gotten away with murder. But behind bars, face is everything and Honken, a wussy little doormat of a con, had to talk tough to stay alive.
 
His first mistake was telling enough of the truth to other cons who immediately put it to their own use. Honken’s second screw-up was involving Angela Johnson in the killings.
 
Armed with Honken’s jailhouse confessions, authorities arrested Johnson on conspiracy and murder charges and put her in the Benton County, Iowa jail where she met Robert McNeese.
 
McNeese was on his way to prison to serve a life sentence for heroin delivery when Johnson began confiding in him that she was connected to multiple homicides. She wanted to kill one friend who had implicated her in the murders of the Duncans, DeGues and Nicholson, and was afraid that Dustin Honken was looking to eliminate her, as well.
 
On the stand at Johnson’s trial, McNeese admitted that he saw an opportunity to help himself by making believe he could help Johnson find someone else to take the fall for the crime.
 
“I told her I had been in prison a long time,” he said. “I knew a lot of people. I told her she would have to describe how the crimes were committed, what the people were wearing when they were killed and where the bodies were located.”
 
Johnson bit and provided all of the information McNeese wanted, including a map which led police to recover the bodies of Honken’s five victims.
 
When she learned she had been double-crossed, Johnson attempted suicide.
 
Eventually, Honken and Johnson would be put on trial and the truth about how their victims died would come out.
 
“I killed my rats,” Honken told federal prisoner Fred Tokars, who is serving life for murdering his wife.
 
Honken used Johnson to get to the victims. On July 25, 1993, she showed up at Duncan’s home posing as a cosmetics saleswoman who was lost. She let Johnson into her home and Honken followed, brandishing a handgun.
 
Tokars testified at Honken’s trial in 2004 that Johnson herded the Duncans into a bedroom while Honken forced Nicholson, who had worn a wire as a cooperating witness, to videotape a statement exonerating him.
 
The group was then tortured, bound, gagged and shot in the back of the head. Tokars testified that Honken told him in 1998 that Kandi and Amber Duncan saw their mother and Nicholson murdered. They were rats being raised by rats, Honken said.
 
A tape played at Honken’s trial, recorded by a cooperating inmate witness, reveals Honken enjoyed killing. “It’s like getting high,” he said.
 
The corpses were driven to a field southwest of Mason City and dumped in shallow graves.
 
Months later, Angela Johnson lured DeGeus to his death. Johnson called her former lover and asked him to meet her on Nov. 4, 1993, the last time he was seen. He was beaten to death with a baseball bat and shot several times.
 
During the penalty phase of Johnson’s trial, Lori Duncan’s brother recalled that his father blamed himself for his granddaughters’ deaths. The girls had wanted to stay overnight with him on July 25, 1993, but it was inconvenient for him at the time.
 
The man is haunted by the belief that “if he had watched the girls that night, they’d still be with us now,” his son said.

Well Organized and Extremely Violent

Marcellos “Cello” Anderson, a Memphis drug dealer, considered Tony Carruthers to be a close and trustworthy friend. As a result of his misplaced trust, Anderson, his mother, and a friend were buried alive in a city cemetery.
 
Carruthers was sitting in a Tennessee prison in 1993 serving time for aggravated arson, aggravated assault and battery, and armed robbery when he wrote to friend that when he got out he intended “to make those streets pay me” and pledged that “everything I do from now on will be well organized and extremely violent.”
 
Shortly before he was paroled, Carruthers was transferred to the Mark Luttrell Reception Center where he was assigned to a work detail digging graves at a local veterans cemetery. One day, after burying a body, he remarked to a fellow inmate, “that would be a good way, you know, to bury somebody if you’re going to kill them. If you ain’t got no body, you don’t have a case.”
 
Carruthers plotted with a friend and fellow inmate, James Montgomery, an armed robber and violent felon, to take over the streets of his neighborhood as drug-dealer-in-chief. To do so meant getting rid of Marcello Anderson and his main dealer, Andre “Baby Brother” Johnson.
 
Marcellos Anderson was a good target. He wore a gold-and-diamond ring worth more than $2,000 and was earning significant amounts of money dealing cocaine.
 
“He was not a choir boy,” State Prosecutor Jerry Harris said. “He had money, he had access to dope, he had a car and he had his badge – a big-time money ring full of diamonds.”
 
Upon his release from custody, Carruthers, a gangbanger with alleged ties to the Gangster Disciples, made good on his promise to be extremely violent and used his bright idea of burying his victims in a graveyard.
 
First, shortly after his release in November 1993, he met up with Cello and Baby Brother, who fronted him $200 to tide him over.
 
A month later, the inmate to whom he shared his plan to dispose of the bodies, was released from prison and alerted Cello and Baby Brother about Carruthers’s plan. They dismissed it, believing that their friend would not double cross them.
 
James Montgomery was released from prison on January 11, 1994. He immediately looked up Baby Brother and Cello, informing them that he, not them, was in charge of their neighborhood. It was not a pleasant meeting, according to Baby Brother.
 
“It was my neighborhood before I left, and now I’m back and it’s my neighborhood again,” Montgomery said. “You feeling now like I’m going to blow your motherfucking brains out. You need to get in line around here or we’re going to go to war over this neighborhood.”
 
Carruthers confirmed Montgomery’s claim, but tried to assure Baby Brother that he was not in danger.
 
“We already got our man staked out,” he said. “You all right. If it’s any problem, we’ll deal with it later.”
 
On February 23, 1994, Cello borrowed a white Jeep Cherokee from his cousin. Around 4:30 p.m. February 24, witnesses saw him and 17-year-old Frederick Tucker riding in the Jeep along with James Montgomery and his brother, Jonathan. A half-hour later, the four men showed up at the house of the Montgomery brothers’ cousin. The quartet went into the basement.
 
A few moments later, James Montgomery came up and told his cousin to leave so he could “take care of some business.” The cousin returned later that evening, found Carruthers had joined the group. The only other person she saw there was James Montgomery. They asked her to leave once more and she did. The Jeep was gone at that time.
 
When she returned, the woman was told to go upstairs to her bedroom and stay there until James told her he was leaving. When he did so, she went downstairs and saw James Montgomery, Carruthers, Tucker and Cello leave in the Jeep.
 
Contacted later by police, she told them that Tucker and Cello had their hands tied behind their backs, but on the stand during the trial of Carruthers and James Montgomery, she claimed that statement was false. However, she also told police that Carruthers had threatened her life.
 
While Carruthers and James Montgomery were with Tucker and Cello, Cello’s mother, Delois Anderson, was at the home she shared with her son. Her niece called about 8 p.m. and someone picked up the phone but said nothing. The niece tried several more times, but received no answer. When the niece showed up around 9 p.m., Delois Anderson was missing. Her dinner was on the table and it was clear she had been interrupted while eating.
 
Carruthers and James Montgomery took Tucker, Cello and Delois Anderson to the Rose Hill Cemetery in south Memphis where the open grave of an elderly woman was waiting for her funeral the next day. The grave was located near the cousin of the Montgomery brothers.
 
At the side of the grave, the three victims lay on the ground, their arms bound, and unsuccessfully pleaded for their lives.
 
Early the next morning, the white Jeep Cherokee was discovered across the state line in Mississippi. It had been destroyed by fire. The owner was contacted by fire officials and from there talked to Delois Anderson’s cousin. She filed a missing persons report with police.
 
Because James and Jonathan Montgomery were two of the last people seen with Tucker and Cello, they became the focus of the police investigation. Jonathan proved to be the weakest link. He was brought in for questioning while police ran down other leads. They weren’t hard to find.
 
One man, who had known the the Montgomerys since junior high school, told authorities that around 8:45 p.m. on February 24, Jonathan Montgomery paged him. Jonathan said, “Man, a nigga got them folks.” When asked, “What folks?” Jonathan replied, “Cello and them” and said something about stealing $200,000. Jonathan arranged to meet his friend in person. Jonathan arrived at the man’s home at about 9:00 p.m. and told him, “Man, we got them folks out at the cemetery on Elvis Presley, and we got $200,000. Man, a nigga had to kill them folks.”
 
While Jonathan was at his friend’s home, James called him. Jonathan then asked to borrow the man’s car after he refused to drive Jonathan to the cemetery.
 
When the car was not returned, the man called James Montgomery’s cellphone at around 11 p.m. James told its owner that he did not know where Jonathan was, that Jonathan did not have a driver’s license, and that the car should be returned by 4 a.m.
 
When it was returned, the car was very muddy. The man drove James Montgomery and Carruthers to Montgomery’s mother’s home and then drove away with Jonathan Montgomery, whom he described later as “paranoid and nervous.”
 
Jonathan repeatedly told the friend that “they had to kill some people.”
 
The Montgomery brothers and Carruthers subsequently took the car to a carwash, and James Montgomery paid an unidentified elderly man to clean the interior and the trunk of the car.
 
After Jonathan Montgomery abruptly left the carwash, Carruthers and James Montgomery asked the car’s owner what Jonathan had told him, but the man replied nothing.
 
Several days later James Montgomery came to his home and offered him an AK-47 assault rifle because Montgomery said he had heard that the man “was into it with some people on the street.” James Montgomery told him the rifle had “blood on it.” At Montgomery’s trial, the man testified that he interpreted this statement to mean that someone had been shot with the weapon.
 
The man was correct in suspecting that someone had been shot, but it turns out that the AK was not responsible for killing the Andersons and Tucker.
 
On March 3, 1994, about one week after a missing person report was filed on Delois and Marcellos Anderson, Jonathan Montgomery directed detectives from the Memphis Police Department to the grave at the Rose Hill Cemetery on Elvis Presley Boulevard.
 
The casket of the woman who had been buried there was exhumed and the authorities discovered the bodies of the three victims buried beneath the casket under several inches of dirt and a single piece of plywood.
 
The body of Delois Anderson was lying at the bottom of the grave and the bodies of the two male victims were lying on top of her. The hands of all three victims were bound behind their backs. Frederick Tucker’s feet were also bound and his neck showed signs of bruising caused by a ligature. A red sock was found around Delois Anderson’s neck. Marcellos Anderson was not wearing any jewelry.
 
The pathologist testified that Delois Anderson died from asphyxia caused by several factors: the position of her head against her body, dirt in her mouth and nose, and trauma from weight on her body. Frederick Tucker had received a gunshot wound to his chest, which would not have been fatal had he received medical care. He had also suffered injuries from blunt trauma to his abdomen and head resulting in broken ribs, a fractured skull, and a ruptured liver.
 
He testified that Tucker was shot and placed in the grave, where the force of compression from being buried produced the other injuries and, along with the gunshot wound, caused his death.
 
According to the medical examiner, Marcellos Anderson had been shot three times: a contact wound to his forehead that was not severe and two shots to his neck, one of which was also not serious. However, the gunshot causing the other neck wound had entered Anderson’s windpipe and severed his spinal cord, paralyzing him from the neck down. This wound was not instantaneously fatal. Anderson had also suffered blunt trauma to his abdomen from compression forces.
 
The ME opined that each victim was alive when buried.
 
After implicating his brother, Jonathan Montgomery then fled to Milwaukee, where he was captured and returned to Memphis. While awaiting trial, Jonathan hanged himself in jail.
 
Carruthers and James Montgomery were indicted and went on trial in 1996.
 
Six court-appointed defense lawyers represented Carruthers prior to his trial, and all six succeeded in being relieved after complaining of noncooperation, harassment and threats from Carruthers. The judge ordered him to act as his own attorney.
 
“Enough is enough,” Judge Joseph Dailey said.
 
Both men were convicted and sentenced to death, but Montgomery’s conviction was overturned on appeal when the court ruled that the two cases should have been tried separately.
 
He subsequently pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder and received parole in 2015. His trip from death row to the streets of Memphis stirred some controversy when the family of the victims complained they had not been notified of any parole hearings.
 
The county prosecutor responded that it was not his job and the state noted the family had not signed up for notification.
 
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