Witnesses testified Tuesday about the last fare Cathy Stickley had in her cab before she was stabbed to death April 29, 2011.
Stickley was supposed to take a fare to a strip club but she made another stop first and didn’t log it in or inform dispatch of the extra stop, according to testimony.
The defense claims the stop shows Stickley was involved in some “drug activity” that may have given someone a motive to kill her that night, but a cab dispatcher said she didn’t break any rules and didn’t do anything unusual by not reporting the stop.
Ricky Prescott, Century Cab dispatcher, also said Stickley, his co-worker and friend, wasn’t involved with drugs, as her daughter testified to Monday.
Johnathan Mitchell, 35, of Cedar Rapids, charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery, is accused of killing Stickley, 55, that night during what started out as a robbery.
Stickley was found by police face down in a pool of blood by her vehicle in the 1500 block alley between 2nd and 3rd avenues SE, according to testimony. She died from 12 stab wounds to her neck and head.
The trial, which was moved to Story County District Court, continues 9 a.m. Wednesday. The prosecution may wrap up its case and the defense could start Wednesday or Thursday.
Ricky Prescott said Stickley went to pick up a fare at the Hy-Vee on 1st Avenue but she reported nobody came out. She then told Prescott she was taking a “walk up” fare, who approached her in the parking lot, to Dancer’s Ranch, a strip club, in Cedar Rapids.
Stickley went the opposite way, according to surveillance cameras and the GPS in the cab, but Prescott said it wasn’t uncommon for drivers to have a stop before the final destination and it wasn’t unusual that she didn’t write it down in the log. Some of the drivers don’t log it until they reach their ultimate destination, he said.
The GPS systems in the cabs don’t track exact routes or turns a driver might take – it only tracks speeds, Kevin Graybill, owner of Graybill Communications, the company which installed the systems, testified. The GPS shows Stickley was stopped from 9:34 to 9:42 p.m. but he said there can be a lag time in the system if it’s not refreshed by the dispatcher.
Prescott said April 29, 2011 was a busy night and he doesn’t know if he refreshed the screen to update her locations.
On cross, he said it was unusual for her to be in an alley. She specifically told him that she wouldn’t go down alleys.
Prescott admitted he questioned why she drove by the cab office after calling in saying she had the fare to the strip club but he couldn’t say she was doing something wrong.
Cedar Rapids Police officer John Gales, a former investigator with the department, said police attempted to drive routes Stickley might have taken, staying within the GPS coordinates, and one of the routes went by Mitchell’s house. That route was 3.2 miles and closely matched the fare receipt found near the alley. The fare total was $13.
Gales also said a call was made from Stickley’s phone at 9:38 p.m. to Benjamin Owens, a convicted drug dealer who the prosecution claims sold crack cocaine to Mitchell that night. The call lasted 10 seconds.
Stickley was in the parking lot at 9:34 p.m. of the Oakland Gardens Apartments on Oakland Road in Cedar Rapids, and four minutes later that 10 second call was made, Gales said.
“Isn’t it the simplest answer that Cathy Stickley made that call,” Sara Smith, Mitchell’s attorney, on cross asked.
Smith then asked Gales if he knew Mitchell was home at the time Stickley may have taken that route by his house.
Gales said he didn’t.
In other testimony, Mike Schmit, a criminalist with the Division of Criminal Investigation in Ankeny, testified about DNA evidence. None of Mitchell’s DNA was found on Stickley’s body or made a match to blood found in the cab.
Schmit said Mitchell’s DNA was only found on his clothing and shoes.
Smith said there wasn’t any DNA evidence linking Mitchell to Stickley or the crime but Schmit said on cross that Mitchell’s palm print was identified in Stickley’s blood in the cab.
Assistant Linn County Attorney Nic Scott asked how someone removes DNA from clothing or their body.
Schmit said by washing clothes and bathing.
Scott pointed out the Mitchell’s clothes weren’t confiscated until May 2.
“Do we always leave DNA,” Assistant Linn County Attorney Nic Scott asked.
Schmit said no.