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Iowa Supreme Court upholds cold case conviction of woman for beating death of man

DES MOINES – It took decades to bring her to justice for the brutal beating death of a playful Iowa bartender, and the Iowa Supreme Court wasn’t about to undo this murderer’s conviction.

In October 1992, a young man – 22-year-old bartender Corey Wieneke – was beaten to death with a baseball bat in his home just outside of West Liberty, Iowa. His fiancée discovered his body on their bedroom floor and called 911. An extensive investigation ensued. The defendant – Annette Dee Cahill – 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 Annette Dee Cahill was ultimately charged with murder and convicted.

Cahill sought a new trial. She argued 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.

The Iowa Supreme Court once again upheld her conviction, saying, “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.”

Cahill, now age 59, remains in the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women, serving her sentence of up to 50 years.

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