State v. Cahill, 19-1981

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMANSFIELD, Justice.
Citation972 N.W.2d 19
Parties STATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Annette Dee CAHILL, Appellant.
Docket Number19-1981
Decision Date25 March 2022

972 N.W.2d 19

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Annette Dee CAHILL, Appellant.

No. 19-1981

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Submitted February 23, 2022
Filed March 25, 2022


Elizabeth A. Araguás (argued) of Nidey Erdahl Meier & Araguás, PLC, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven (argued), Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Mansfield, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which all justices joined.

MANSFIELD, Justice.

972 N.W.2d 21

I. Introduction.

In October 1992, a young man was beaten to death with a baseball bat in his home just outside of West Liberty. His fiancée discovered his body on their bedroom floor and called 911. An extensive investigation ensued. The defendant was considered a suspect. Her potential motive was clear: she had been romantically engaged with the victim and had been spurned by him the night before. But with no eyewitnesses and no physical evidence, law enforcement could reach no conclusion as to the killer's identity. The case went cold.

Over twenty-five years later, a woman happened to meet a cold-case investigator while at work, and she told him about a murder confession she witnessed while having a sleepover at her friend's house as a nine-year-old girl. She recounted sneaking downstairs after bedtime and seeing the defendant with black candles burning, tearfully apologizing to her deceased lover: "I'm so sorry. I never meant to kill you .... I love you." A fresh investigation commenced with this new revelation, and the defendant was ultimately charged with murder and convicted.

The defendant seeks a new trial. She argues the prosecution failed to timely disclose that the four human hairs found on the victim's hand had been determined unsuitable for standard DNA testing. She seeks to compel another form of DNA testing. She also asserts that the twenty-six year delay in prosecution violated her right to due process because it was unreasonable and diminished her ability to present a defense. Additionally, she claims that the main prosecution witnesses, including the woman who came forward to the cold-case investigator, were too "unreliable and incredible" to be allowed to testify. And, she contends the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction.

We believe the defendant received a fair trial. The defendant could have sought DNA testing prior to trial but chose not to. Also, the defendant may still pursue specialized DNA testing in a postconviction proceeding pursuant to Iowa Code sections 81.10 and 81.11. On the matter of delayed prosecution, we find no actual prejudice to the defendant's ability to make her case and no bad faith on the part of the prosecution. Finally, the district court did not err in allowing the jury to scrutinize the credibility of witnesses, and there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find the defendant guilty of second-degree murder. For these reasons and those that follow, we affirm the defendant's conviction and sentence and the decision of the court of appeals.

972 N.W.2d 22

II. Background Facts and Proceedings.

In October 1992, Cory Wieneke lived with his fiancée, Jody Hotz, in a house on a gravel road just outside of West Liberty. Wieneke worked nights as a bartender; Hotz worked during the day for a bank in Iowa City. On Tuesday, October 13, Jody left for work around 8 a.m. while Wieneke was still asleep in bed. When Jody returned home around 6:30 p.m., things were out of place. Their dog was outside unchained, and the screen door was left open. She expected Wieneke to be at work, but his car was still there. Jody went inside and found the lifeless body of Wieneke still in his underwear, bloodied and battered, lying face-down on the carpeted floor next to their bed. The sheets and comforter were mostly off the bed, still around his legs. Blood was spattered on the bed, the floor, and the wall.

A forensic pathologist later testified that the cuts and bruising on Wieneke's body indicated he had sustained thirteen separate blunt-force injuries, seemingly inflicted by a bat or a pipe. Four of those wounds were to his head. The fatal blow had split open the back of his skull and left a large H-shaped laceration.

Before his death, Wieneke tended bar at his uncle's business, Wink's Tap in West Liberty. He had a reputation around town. As a witness at trial put it, "[H]e was a fun guy. He was friendly, outgoing, charming, everybody was his friend. I mean, I didn't know anybody that didn't like Corey." Wieneke drove a conspicuous older-model blue Cadillac. In addition, Wieneke had a reputation for relationships with women. At the time of his death, Wieneke had ongoing sexual relationships with at least three women: Hotz; a woman named Wendi Marshall; and the defendant, Annette Cahill. Also, a fourth relationship was rumored.

Cahill had married and divorced at a young age. Sometime after the divorce, Cahill moved with her two children to live with her brother, Denny Hazen, and his wife, Jacque Hazen, in their farmhouse near Atalissa. Through living together in the Hazen home, Cahill and Jacque Hazen became friends.

When Cahill first met Wieneke, he was sixteen years old. Wieneke was significantly younger than Cahill. They "messed around" but did not have sex at that time. Three years later, they started an "off and on" relationship for at least a year. But things got more serious in 1992. According to Cahill, during the months leading up to Wieneke's death, they had sex several times a week, whenever the opportunity presented itself. Cahill worked in the bar with Wieneke and they would have sex at the bar, in vehicles, in an apartment above the bar, at the Hazen farmhouse, or elsewhere. Drinking and cocaine use were also a part of their relationship.

By October 1992, Cahill and Wieneke had plans to "skip town." According to Cahill, they had made arrangements to go to Branson, Missouri together to look for a bar to purchase. Cahill wasn't interested in owning a bar, but she loved Wieneke and planned to start a new life with him. By this time, Cahill was twenty-nine and Wieneke was twenty-two.

In addition to Wieneke's relationships with Hotz and Cahill, he had also fathered a child with Wendi Marshall. Marshall's child was born in July 1992, when Marshall was twenty years old. Marshall later testified that she loved Wieneke and had hoped for a future with him. Hotz, Cahill, and Marshall all knew of each other and, at the very least, had heard rumors of Wieneke's relationships with the other women.

On Columbus Day, October 12, the day before Wieneke's death, Cahill and Wieneke

972 N.W.2d 23

each worked a shift at Wink's. Cahill opened the bar in the morning and then stayed at the bar while Wieneke worked the evening shift. Cahill planned to get together with Wieneke after the bar closed at 2:00 a.m. on the 13th. While Wieneke closed up the bar, Cahill got into the front passenger seat of Wieneke's blue Cadillac and waited for him. She was planning to leave for Branson with him the following weekend.

Wieneke, however, didn't arrive at the car alone; instead, Marshall was with him. Wieneke was planning to drop off Cahill and then go with Marshall. Cahill was furious. She later admitted she was "incredibly mad" and described it as a "fish or cut bait" moment.

Not long after the car started moving with the three of them in it, Cahill tried to open the door and acted like she was going to jump out. Wieneke stopped the car, and Cahill had a heated discussion with him outside the vehicle. Eventually, Cahill and Wieneke got back in the Cadillac, and Wieneke drove Marshall to her car. Wieneke told Marshall in Cahill's presence that he would go to Marshall's house after dropping Cahill off.

Wieneke took Cahill to the Hazen farmhouse where Cahill lived. Wieneke remained long enough so the two of them could have what Cahill described as "angry sex," and then left. Wieneke did eventually show up at Marshall's house, possibly around 3 or 4 a.m. He woke her, and they talked for a bit, but he didn't stay long. Sometime after that in the early morning hours, Wieneke went home, got in bed with Hotz, and fell asleep. When Hotz left for work at 8 a.m., her fiancé, Wieneke, was still asleep.

On the morning of October 13, Cahill surprisingly appeared at a roofing jobsite in West Liberty. The roofing jobsite was run by Lester McGowan, another man with whom Cahill had previously had a sexual relationship. McGowan had picked up Cahill around 7 or 7:30 a.m. and brought her to the jobsite. Her arrival was not expected by Lester Walker, who was one of the regular workers. McGowan introduced Cahill to Walker and told Walker that Cahill would now be helping him. Cahill had never done roof work before, and she didn't know what she was doing. Walker was told to teach Cahill how to tear off a roof. Cahill did a poor job of removing shingles for about an hour to an hour and a half. At that point, Jacque Hazen showed up in her car. Cahill got into that car and departed, never to return to the jobsite.

A local farmer drove past the Hotz/Wieneke house that morning while on his way into West Liberty. He recalled seeing two people and a stopped vehicle outside the house at 9 a.m. or a little later. He didn't...

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1 practice notes
  • State v. Huntley, 21-1244
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Iowa
    • December 7, 2022
    ...conviction for each of the four offenses. "We review sufficiency-of-evidence claims for correction of errors at law." State v. Cahill, 972 N.W.2d 19, 27 (Iowa 2022). "[W]e are highly deferential to the jury's verdict. The jury's verdict binds this court if the verdict is supported by substa......
1 cases
  • State v. Huntley, 21-1244
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Iowa
    • December 7, 2022
    ...conviction for each of the four offenses. "We review sufficiency-of-evidence claims for correction of errors at law." State v. Cahill, 972 N.W.2d 19, 27 (Iowa 2022). "[W]e are highly deferential to the jury's verdict. The jury's verdict binds this court if the verdict is supported by substa......

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