Lance DeWoody

Lance Lee DeWoody (Courtesy Iowa City Press Citizen)

Lance Lee DeWoody

Homicide

ARREST MADE –- CHARGES DROPPED

Lance Lee DeWoody
22 YOA
Home residence: North Liberty, IA
Shot on Oakdale Campus
Coralville, IA
Johnson County
DCI Case # 85-04249
DATE OF CRIME: August 12, 1985

ARREST MADE: March 24, 2016
OBSTRUCTION OF PROSECUTION PLEA: January 31, 2017
MURDER CHARGES DROPPED: January 31, 2017
SENTENCING FOR OBSTRUCTION OF PROSECUTION: February 23, 2017
SENTENCE: Six months in jail with credit for time served

 

UPDATE

Cold case murder suspect released after plea deal

Anthony Burtsch

Anthony Burtch

The Iowa Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), in cooperation with the Coralville Police Department, arrested Anthony Burtch, 57, of Iowa City, on March 24, 2016, and charged him with Murder in the First Degree, a Class “A” Felony.

Throughout the investigation it was determined that DeWoody was dating the wife of Burtch. DeWoody and Burtch’s wife spent the evening of August 12, 1985, together and then Burtch’s wife returned home to Burtch. Shortly after her return, Burtch left for approximately an hour-and-a-half. Investigators believe that Burtch killed DeWoody during this time.

Burtsch was scheduled to face trial February 7, 2017, but in January 2017 he entered a guilty plea to obstructing prosecution, a misdemeanor, and the murder charges against him were dropped. Prosecutors recommended a six-month sentence with credit for time served, plus court costs and fees.

On Thursday, February 23, 2017, Burtch pleaded guilty to obstruction of prosecution and a judge sentenced him to six months in jail with credit for time served.


Case Summary timeline compiled by Jody Ewing

Lance Lee DeWoody, 22, of North Liberty, Iowa, was shot in the head and neck at a picnic shelter on the north side of the University of Iowa’s Oakdale campus in Coralville sometime between late Monday night, August 12, 1985, and early Tuesday morning.

Oakdale campus employees found DeWoody’s body shortly after sunrise Tuesday near the campus’ general hospital parking lot. He lay face up on the floor of an open-air park shelter, dressed in blue jeans, a blue jacket and tennis shoes. His pickup was found parked about 70 yards away.

Johnson County in Iowa
Johnson County in Iowa
Coralville in Johnson County Coralville in Johnson County

An Olin native, the outgoing DeWoody had been living north of North Liberty and working as a laborer in an Iowa City area plant.

His murder stumped authorities; family members said he didn’t have any enemies, and officials ruled out robbery as a motive. No murder weapon was found at the crime scene.

Police appealed to the public for information within a week of DeWoody’s slaying. One year later, with no suspects identified, his family posted fliers offering a $5,000 reward along with pleas for justice.

In a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated March 22, 1992, Sgt. Terry Koehn, a detective with the Coralville Police Department, said DeWoody’s murder was like so many other unsolved Iowa murders: officials had a prime suspect but not enough evidence to make an arrest. Koehn said the suspect knew DeWoody and lived in the Iowa City area, though information wasn’t released as to why investigators thought DeWoody died or how many times he was shot.

“Never get rid of your evidence, even when it seems hopeless…”

In a May 11, 2012 interview with the Iowa City Press-Citizen, DeWoody’s father, Carl DeWoody, said not much had changed in the 27 years since his son’s death.

Carl DeWoodyCourtesy photo Benjamin Roberts / Iowa City Press-Citizen
Carl DeWoody, 76, looks down at a photograph of his son, Lance, on Thursday, May 10, 2012, at his Olin home. “He had no enemies,” DeWoody said about his son in a Press-Citizen article published the following day.

“I think about it every day,” the 76-year-old retired school teacher from Olin told the Press-Citizen. “I sit here feeling like nobody gives a damn. It’s quite frustrating, and there’s nothing that I know that I can do about it. I just sit here and I just wait.”

Carl DeWoody said he hadn’t spoken with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) in several years, and wondered if the case file was sitting gathering dust on a shelf. His wife, Bernita, died in 2010 without seeing her son’s killer brought to justice.

“She would definitely have loved to have closure,” he told the Press-Citizen. “Of course, we’re religious people — I think she knows now what happened, but I don’t.”

He does have his suspicions, however. His son, he said, had been dating a woman who was separated from her husband. Lance had given the woman money to begin the divorce proceedings, but then was shot and killed before the woman’s divorce was finalized.

Coralville Police Chief Barry Bedford encourages families to never give up hope, and uses the Vicki Lynn Klotzbach murder in his criminal justice lectures at Kirkwood Community College.

The 22-year-old Klotzbach was killed four years before Lance DeWoody, just about a mile southwest from where DeWoody died. She’d been raped and shot dead, and officials believed her murder was the first in Coralville’s history.

Investigators traced a .45-caliber bullet found at Klotzbach’s crime scene back to the gun’s original owner, but even with their suspect identified, lacked enough evidence to make an arrest. While detectives worked on building a solid case, DNA testing methods advanced rapidly; in 2003, Richard Douglas Dodd was convicted after DNA definitively linked him to Klotzbach’s murder.

“Never give up. Never get rid of your evidence, even when it seems hopeless, because technology and science may bring something up around the bend,” Bedford said in the Press-Citizen’s May 11 story.

2006-8-19-crg-unsolved-eastern-iaCourtesy Cedar Rapids Gazette
An August 19, 2006 story published in The Gazette provided some of eastern Iowa’s still active unsolved murders.
Tackling Unsolved Murders

In December 2006, police chiefs in Johnson County told the Gazette they wanted to create a part-time cold case unit to dig into new leads that could help solve old murders. Officials were looking at ways to blend resources without taking away the time needed to investigative newly emerging cases.

We need partners. We can’t do it by ourselves,” Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said in the Gazette story published December 12, 2006. “All of the departments are committed to it. It’s just a matter of when we’re going to be able to do it.”

Hargadine said he’d proposed assigning one investigator from each involved Johnson County department and the DCI to a team that would work for a set period of time — perhaps three months — in a rented office away from their regular departments to avoid distractions. There, Hargadine said, they could review evidence and crime scene photos, reinterview officers and investigators, revisit witnesses and see whether evidence, such as blood, could be reviewed for DNA or other forensic clues.

“Whatever it takes to shake new leads loose,” Hargadine told the Gazette. “Most of the cases I’ve seen go this route were pretty close to the guy all along. It turns out they did interview the guy, they just didn’t have enough to focus in on him. It’s amazing how close you come sometimes, but don’t realize it.”

In Coralville, Chief Bedford said a cold case team could be used to examine Lance DeWoody’s unsolved murder, and that though his department supported creating the new team, finding resources for it would be difficult.

When the DCI established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Lance DeWoody’s murder was one of approximately 150 cases listed on the Cold Case Unit’s new website as those they hoped to solve using latest advancements in DNA technology.

Although federal grant funding for the DCI Cold Case Unit was exhausted in December 2011, the DCI continues to assign agents to investigate cold cases as new leads develop or as technological advances allow for additional forensic testing of original evidence.

The DCI remains committed to resolving Iowa’s cold cases and will continue to work diligently with local law enforcement partners to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice for the victims and their families.

Bedford may have said it best in the Press-Citizen article.

“I would say in almost every case that I’m aware of, I think law enforcement has a real good idea who did it,” Bedford said. “And if they do bring it to fruition, it’s usually that same person. But the evidentiary criteria is so high, as it should be, that you may know who did it but you’re trying to have the evidence to support it. And you only get one shot at this, so you want to be careful you’ve got everything you can get.”

Iowa DCI, Coralville PD Make Arrest in 1985 Cold Case

The longtime suspect in Lance DeWoody’s 1985 murder has been arrested.

According to an Iowa Department of Public Safety press release dated March 24, 2016:

CORALVILLE, Iowa – The Iowa Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), in cooperation with the Coralville Police Department, arrested Anthony Burtch, 57, of Iowa City, on March 24, 2016, and charged him with Murder in the First Degree, a Class “A” Felony.

Anthony Burtsch
Anthony Burtch

On August 13, 1985, at approximately 7:15AM, the body of Lance DeWoody, 22, was found on the floor of a picnic shelter at the University of Iowa Oakdale campus in Coralville, Iowa.

An autopsy was performed on the body of Lance DeWoody and the cause of death was determined to be two gunshot wounds to the head and face and the manner of death was ruled homicide.

Throughout the investigation it was determined that DeWoody was dating the wife of Burtch. DeWoody and Burtch’s wife spent the evening of August 12, 1985, together and then Burtch’s wife returned home to Burtch. Shortly after her return, Burtch left for approximately an hour-and-a-half. Investigators believe that Burtch killed DeWoody during this time.

In the time leading up to the homicide of DeWoody, witnesses recall Burtch stating that he was going to kill DeWoody.

Burtch told investigators that a trio harassed him and DeWoody for months prior to the murder. A witness claims that Burtch provided DeWoody a piece of paper with the names of those men. Investigators were able to locate that piece of paper during the investigation and later determined the men non-existent.

In January, during an interview with a DCI Agent, Burtch denied having been harassed by the trio of men prior to the night of the murder of DeWoody. During that same interview, DCI Agents were able to obtain a sample of Burtch’s DNA to compare to DNA found at the crime scene, which is when Burtch agreed that he would “get buried on the sciences of this thing.”

Burtch was arrested without incident this morning and is being held at the Johnson County Jail on $1 million cash or surety bond.

Complaint & Affidavit

Media Contact: Iowa DCI Special Agent in Charge Richard Rahn at (515) 370-5109
Note: A criminal charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Download the Press Release

Further Updates

Murder Suspect to be Released Pending Trial

In an order filed Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, Sixth Judicial District Judge Paul Miller ordered Burtch to be released under supervision pending his upcoming trial, saying new evidence has not emerged to justify his incarceration, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported Sept. 20, 2016.

Burtch, who has pleaded not guilty, has been held in the Johnson County Jail since his March arrest.

Miller said Burtch was to be released under supervision by the Iowa Department of Correctional Services and will be monitored by a GPS device. Burtch will live in the area at the home of a friend, and Miller said he would be required to stay at the home except for medical appointments, court appearances and meetings with his attorney.

Burtch’s trial was scheduled to begin Feb. 7, 2017. Full Story at Press-Citizen

Murder Charges Dropped

Burtch later admitted to lying during investigation under a plea deal that drops the murder charge against him.

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, he entered a guilty plea to obstructing prosecution, a misdemeanor. The guilty plea to obstructing prosecution drops the first-degree murder charge against Burtch in DeWoody’s 1985 slaying.

The three-year statute of limitations for the obstructing prosecution charge has expired, but Burtch waived his right to a statute of limitations defense to take advantage of the plea, which spares him the mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for first-degree murder. Burtch had pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, wrote Stephen Gruber-Miller in an Iowa City Press-Citizen story published Jan. 31.

According to Associated Press writer Ryan J. Foley, the plea agreement calls for Burtch to receive credit for six months he served in jail after his arrest in 2016, and to be released under probation without electronic monitoring. Burtch had faced life in prison if convinced on the murder charge. Wrote Foley in the Jan. 31, 2017 AP story:

Authorities arrested Burtch at his Iowa City home in March after the Division of Criminal Investigation and Coralville police took a fresh look at the 31-year-old case. But they offered little new evidence that wasn’t available in 1985, when Burtch was suspected but never charged in DeWoody’s killing. New DNA testing of a cigarette found at the crime scene, which investigators hoped would implicate Burtch, actually excluded him as a contributor.

Citing the lack of new evidence, a judge ordered Burtch released from jail in September pending trial, an unusual move in a murder case.

The charges of first-degree murder and carrying weapons are to be dismissed at Burtch’s Feb. 23, 2017 sentencing in Johnson County District Court. The plea also stipulates that Assistant Johnson County Attorney Jude Pannell will recommend a six-month jail sentence with credit for six months served, the Gazette reported Jan. 31. The Gazette also reported:

In the plea, Burtch admits he gave different statements to law enforcement officials regarding people he claimed harassed him back in 1985. Police said Burtch initially told investigators that he and DeWoody had been harassed by a trio of men in the months leading up to DeWoody’s death, but an investigation revealed those men didn’t exist.

Clemens Erdahl, Burtch’s attorney, said his client maintains his innocence and said Burtch agreed to the plea deal to avoid going to trial on the murder charge and possibly facing life in prison if convicted. Erdahl, the Gazette reported, also said cold cases are difficult because so much time has passed and in the defense’s case, five or six witnesses they wanted to have testify were dead.

Judge Miller noted that the prosecution was relying on the same evidence it felt was insufficient 30 years ago to charge Burtch at the time.

The Sentencing: On Thursday, February 23, 2017, Burtch pleaded guilty to obstruction of prosecution and a judge sentenced him to six months in jail with credit for time served.

About Lance DeWoody
lance-dewoody-gravestoneCourtesy photo Iowa Gravestone Project
Lance DeWoody was laid to rest at the Olin Cemetery in Jones County.

Lance DeWoody was born November 9, 1962, to Carl Lee and Bernita Lee (Houston) DeWoody. He graduated from Olin High School in 1981, where he’d been a member of the high school football team and also played trombone. He lived in a trailer on a farmstead near North Liberty while working at the Iowa City manufacturing plant. His father said he often drove through the Oakdale Campus traveling to and from Iowa City.

In addition to his parents, Lance was survived by a sister, Carrie DeWoody Fortin. His mother, Bernita DeWoody, passed away on July 17, 2009.

Lance was buried at the Olin Cemetery in Jones County, Iowa.

Information Needed

If you have any additional information about Lance DeWoody’s murder please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, email dciinfo@dps.state.ia.us, or contact the Coralville Police Department at (319) 248-1800.

Sources:

 

8 Responses to Lance DeWoody

  1. Im very sad. This breaks my heart.

  2. Carl Lee DeWoody says:

    carl dewoody here. still waiting to hear from anyone at the DCI to tell me that they are still trying to work on my son’s murder case. you would think they could call at least once a year and update us even if nothing new happened.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Mr. DeWoody, I am so sorry for your loss, and also sorry that officials haven’t kept you posted on a semi-regular basis about any updates (or lack thereof) in your son’s case. Losing the funding for the DCI’s Cold Case Unit was one of the greatest setbacks for many Iowa families who still await answers in loved ones’ deaths.

      I’ve sent you an email offlist and am hoping we can generate more interest in Lance’s case as soon as possible. I would hate to see the 30-year anniversary of his death come and go this August without any further insight into what might have happened that night.

      All my best to you,

      Jody at Iowa Cold Cases

  3. Paul Anderson says:

    Made an arrest after all these years.Show’s you that criminal’s better keep looking ovet shoulders because one day they might get knock on their door with police coming to arrest them.I prsy for Lance Dewoody’s family and justice br served.

  4. Clarence E. Lendt says:

    Was Lance killed with his own gun? Was the guy arrested the husband/boyfriend of the girl Lance was dating around the time of his murder?

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