MUSCATINE — A Muscatine County jury of five women and seven men began deliberations in the murder trial of Annette D. Cahill, charged last year with first-degree murder in the Oct. 13, 1992, death of Corey Lee Wieneke.
The jury was dismissed at 1:30 p.m. Monday afternoon and was unable to reach a verdict by 4:30 p.m. They will reconvene Tuesday morning to find Cahill either guilty of first-degree murder, as charged, the lesser charge of second-degree murder or not guilty.
After five days of trial proceedings, the prosecution and defense rested their cases and gave closing statements. For the prosecution, Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren walked the jury through four elements: motive, timeline, crime scene and confession.
The motive, Ostergren said, was "the oldest motive there probably is: jealousy."
Cahill, 56, of Tipton, Iowa, was charged last year with the crime. In its opening statement last Tuesday, the prosecution claimed Cahill, then Annette McCrabb, and Wieneke had a sexual relationship, and Cahill killed Wieneke with an aluminum bat over his involvement with other women.
Wieneke had sexual relationships with multiple women at the time of his death, including with a fiancée with whom he shared a home in rural West Liberty and another woman with whom in 1992 he fathered a child. In recorded interviews with law enforcement played for the jury, Cahill admitted to knowing Wieneke had other relationships, and his behavior made her angry. But she would sit with him, have a drink and the two would laugh about life together, she said in a recording.
“He was my best friend,” she said and she "loved him dearly."
In earlier testimony, Wendi Chamberlin, said she witnessed a conversation between Cahill and Wieneke the night before he was found dead. She said the three were at a bar, Wink’s Tap in West Liberty owned by Wieneke’s grandmother, where Wieneke and Cahill worked. Chamberlin said Wieneke took her home from the bar that night and when they left to go to his car, Cahill was already sitting in the car.
In an interview with DCI agent Jon Turbett, Cahill said she was drunk that night and Wieneke was going to give her a ride home. She said she was angry when she saw Wieneke and Chamberlin approaching the car. Cahill and Wieneke had plans the following weekend in Branson, Missouri, so Wieneke could look to purchase a bar. Cahill said the plan was for the two of them to move to Branson without Wieneke’s fiancée and the site of Chamberlin upset her.
Chamberlin said Cahill threatened to get out of the car while it was moving on the way to her home. Wieneke pulled over and he and Cahill had an argument on the side of the road before taking Chamberlin back to her car. Cahill said Wieneke came back to her house that night before leaving. She said that was the last time she saw him.
Jury sees photos
"Hurt, jealousy and anger can lead to murder," Ostergren told the jury. He also discussed inconsistencies in the timeline of events Cahill gave investigators and showed additional crime scene photographs of Wieneke's body, beaten and bloody, and his fractured skull.
Ostergren said Wieneke was beaten 12 times over his head, face and shoulders by a person that wanted to inflict pain. Wieneke was found beaten to death the evening of Oct. 13 by his fiancee Jody Hotz, now Jody Willier, and she described seeing blood on the walls of the room in her testimony.
In recorded interviews with investigators, Cahill said she stopped by Wieneke's house the day he died, and gave different times and reasons she visited.
Cahill's attorney Clemens Erdahl said the case is a small town murder with lots of gossip and lots of rumors. Cahill is also represented by co-counsel Elizabeth Araguas.
Defense: No physical evidence
Erdahl argued there was no physical evidence connecting Cahill to the scene or the murder weapon — an aluminum baseball bat. The bat was found on the side of the road, about a mile from Wieneke's rural Muscatine County home. The state must prove Cahill struck Wieneke with the bat for the jury to convict her of murder.
The defense said the state failed to do so. The bat tested positive for Wieneke's blood, but Cahill's fingerprints were not found on the bat nor at the crime scene. Red fibers were also found on the bat, but did not match the fibers from the car Cahill was riding in that day nor fibers from Cahill's coat. She also gave the shoes she was wearing to investigators for testing. There was no trace of blood evidence on her shoes. Testing also revealed Wieneke had cocaine and marijuana in his system.
Cahill did not take the stand in her defense, and was not required to.
The case was active for several years following the murder of Jim and Susan Wieneke's only child, and the defense said there were viable suspects at the time the investigation failed to discredit. Two men, Bob Morrison and Joey Brockert were mentioned during testimony as possibly being connected to the case. Morrison was a farmer near Wieneke's home at the time, and rumors went around about his wife Melissa "Missy" Morrison having a relationship with Wieneke. Morrison shot and killed his wife then himself in 1995. Brockert was in the West Liberty area at the time of Wieneke's murder and was later convicted in 1993 of killing a man by bludgeoning him to death.
Law enforcement actively sought Cahill as a suspect in 2017 after a woman came forward to agent Trent Vileta of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to say what she overheard weeks after the murder.
Jessie Becker, who was 9 years old at the time Wieneke was killed, told Vileta in 2017 she had overheard Cahill confess to killing Wieneke during a sleepover at the home of her friend's house. Becker said she saw Cahill pacing and lighting black candles as she and her friend, Kayla Hazen, Cahill’s neice, snuck down the stairs of the Hazen home where Cahill lived at the time.
Becker said she asked her mother at the time what lighting black candles means, and the two talked about the incident. Her mother, Cynthia Krogh corroborated her story, and said she didn't go to the police at the time because she was afraid of getting her child involved in the case.
Throughout testimony from law enforcement and witnesses, the relationship between Cahill and Wieneke was complicated. The two had initially met several years before the crime and developed a physical relationship the year before Wieneke died. He was 22 and Cahill was 29.
The case focused on Becker’s testimony of Cahill’s alleged confession and also recounted the events leading up to Wieneke’s death.
Erdahl said the jury was introduced to Becker as she is now, a charge nurse in the intensive care unit at University Hospitals in Iowa City and a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.
He said the brighter the child, the more active their imagination. He said when Becker talked to her mother about what she heard as a young child, her memory may have been tainted by implicit bias because her mother had to ask her questions about what she heard.
"We are talking about a statement by a 9-year-old," Erdahl said. "My client is on trial for first-degree murder. Not on the word of a 9-year-old a year or two later, but 26 years later."
Cahill may not be convicted of murder on the alleged confession that the child heard, Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Patrick McElyea said during his reading of jury instructions.
Prior to closing statements the defense formally asked for a mistrial citing the state intentionally or inadvertently withheld evidence. The evidence in question are photographs of the defendant Annette Cahill and her sister-in-law, Jacque Hazen, that were a part of a DCI report.
The defense became aware of the possibility of photographs Friday afternoon. But the prosecution said there’s no proof the photographs actually exist and the evidence came about through cross examination of law enforcement testimony.
Testimony revealed Hazen had been in Iowa City the day of the murder but investigators could not corroborate the claim that Cahill was with her that day.
McElyea denied the motion for mistrial citing the state did not withhold exculpatory evidence, or evidence favorable to the defendant.