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Dexter Lashun Meeks, 22, known to his friends as “Big Ham,” was shot in the early morning hours on Sunday, June 26, 2011, near the front door of his apartment building at 211 15th St. SE in Cedar Rapids.
Shortly before 3 a.m., police responded within seconds to a call of multiple shots fired.
“Get me an ambulance, and get me additional units,” an officer said over the radio after finding Meeks.
Meeks was transported to St. Luke’s Hospital where he was pronounced DOA.
Meeks’ shooting took place just across the street from Cedar Rapids’ last homicide, that of 54-year-old cab driver Cathy Stickley on April 29, 2011. Stickley was stabbed to death after dropping off a fare. Johnathan Dewayne Mitchell, 33, was charged with first-degree murder in her death, but on Oct. 23, 2013, a Story County jury acquitted him of both first-degree murder and first-degree robbery charges.
Meeks’ slaying also fell on the two-year anniversary of Dominique Mosby’s murder; Mosby, also 22 years old, was shot several times at the Cedarwood Hills apartment complex in northeast Cedar Rapids while playing dice outside on a patio with a group of men. Mosby’s 2009 homicide, as well as Stickley’s, remains unsolved.
As word traveled about his murder, family and friends gathered outside Meeks’ home to remember the big-hearted young man many called “Big Ham.”
“I was out here when I heard the gunshots. Then his brother banged on the door,” Shonte Jefferson, Meek’s girlfriend of the past four years, told KCRG-TV9. “I was hysterical. I couldn’t think straight. I didn’t know what to do.”
She recounted the last thing she’d said to Meeks. “I love you and have a good time.”
“When I heard it, I just started crying,” Meeks’ friend Sherita Matthews told Channel 9. “He used to come over play cards. He always kept laughing. He always kept me up on the new music.”
“He would make me laugh. He has a big heart. He was my big teddy bear,“ said Jefferson.
Tips trickled in within the first few days following the shooting, but police said information about Meeks’ whereabouts earlier Saturday evening were still unclear. Witnesses were reluctant to get involved.
“There have been some uncooperative witnesses, and I know that has been frustrating for the investigators,” Officer Melissa Henderson, a police spokeswoman, told the media. “That’s not uncommon with a case like this.”
Henderson said investigators were working very diligently as the followed up on leads.
In December 2011 when Cedar Rapids police arrested and charged Donovan Ross, 19, for the November murder of Andre Herron, 30, Meeks’ mother, Rochelle Johnson, expressed frustration that the investigation into her son’s death was approaching the six-month anniversary and no arrests had yet been made. She also said investigators hadn’t been keeping her up to date with any progress being made on her son’s case.
“I cry most every day because my son’s life was taken and the person who did this to him has not been caught, and I feel if he did this to my son he would do this to someone else,” Johnson told the Cedar Rapids Gazette in a story published December 16, 2011.
The family had moved from the 15th Street SE house where Meeks was shot and into a new home, where they had a wall of photographs and mementos to celebrate Meeks’ short life.
Cedar Rapids Police Dept. spokesperson Sgt. Cristy Hamblin said other victims’ family members share the same frustration, but reasons existed as to why police couldn’t share everything they knew.
“If we tell too many things, we’re not going to be able to hold them (criminals) accountable because they clam up and distort the facts,” Hamblin told the Gazette. Families, Hamblin said, can let sensitive information slip out even if they don’t mean to.
Johnson said she’d received an anonymous call after her son’s death from someone who said they’d seen what happened. The caller promised they’d go to police, but Johnson said they never did.
Meeks’ stepfather, D.J. Masters, said family members were encouraging people to talk to police. “They ought to just step up to the plate, because if they don’t, somebody is going to do it to a member of their family,” he told the Gazette reporter.
It’s always the hardest: the one-year anniversary of a crime — particularly a murder — that remains unsolved.
Despite frustration and daily tears, Meeks’ family chose to spend the day holding a celebration of life cookout.
“I think about him every day. I cry every day,” Meeks’ mother told KCRG TV-9 in a June 26, 2011 news report.
“He took care of me when I was a little baby and he’ll always be my good brother. I just love him,” said Meeks’ 7-year-old brother Michael Williams, Jr.
Meeks’ grandmother, Irene Lucky, had some advice for the killer. She told Channel 9 news:
“You can’t hide. You might as well give yourself up. If you were man enough to pull that trigger, be man enough to face what you’ve got to face.”
He’s not here, but he’s not forgotten, Johnson added.
Dexter Meeks was born Oct. 1, 1988 in Illinois.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department currently has two Cold Case Unit volunteer investigators who work exclusively on unsolved homicides. These investigators work closely with other investigators from both the Cedar Rapids Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.
The current investigator assigned to the Cold Case Unit is J.D. Smith, a retired Agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
If you have any information about Dexter Meeks’ unsolved murder please call the Cold Case Unit at (319) 286-5919 or email Investigator J.D. Smith.
Linn County Crime Stoppers accepts anonymous tips, and rewards for information may be available. Crime Stoppers may be reached at 1-800-CS-CRIME (319) 272-7463.
News Report from KCRG TV-9 Cedar Rapids – Airdate June 26, 2012
News Report from KCRG TV-9 Cedar Rapids – Airdate June 27, 2011