DES MOINES, Iowa -- A group of five convicts has been scheduled for lethal injection and will be the first to be put to death by the federal government since 2003. One of those men, Iowa native Dustin Lee Honken, was convicted of murdering three adults and two children in 1993.
Honken started out as a drug kingpin, building meth labs in Arizona and Northern Iowa during the early 90s. What wasn't known until later, however, was that Honken had murdered two of his former dealers who had turned FBI informants: Terry DeGeus of Britt and Greg Nicholson of Mason City.
Honken also killed Nicholson's girlfriend Lori Duncan and her two children, 10-year-old Kandi Duncan, and 6-year-old Amber Duncan.
The five went missing in 1993 but weren't discovered until 2000 after Honken's former girlfriend and accomplice, Angela Johnson, drew a map for a jailhouse informant leading to the bodies. They were found dumped in two shallow graves near Mason City. All were found to have been shot to death. The murders shocked Northern Iowa.
“I think being a mother and a grandmother, that's what got to me more. I was hoping that for their sake that they would find him guilty for that,” said a woman Channel 13 interviewed at the time.
In 2004 he was. Those in the community were conflicted over the sentence he should receive.
“I don’t know, maybe the death penalty, that might be the easy way. I'm not really sure for this guy, I don’t know what's right, I'm not sure what justice is in this case,” said a man Channel 13 interviewed in October of 2004.
In 2005 he was sentenced to death in federal court. Lengthy appeals stalled the execution all the way until 2014 when the Obama Administration informally halted federal executions after one was botched in Oklahoma.
“That really bothered him, so he asked his justice department to study the death penalty both in terms of the lethal injection process and also other issues like racial disparity, and people who are innocent who might be executed,” said Drake Law Professor David McCord.
The study is now finished and attorney General Barr has ordered executions to resume using a single drug as opposed to a previously used three-drug cocktail. McCord says in a state without the death penalty, Honken's case serves as a good example for both sides of the argument.
“If you're a supporter of the death penalty you would certainly say this is like a poster boy case for the death penalty. If you are opposed to the death penalty you would say even somebody who did something that bad should not be executed,” said McCord.
Honken has used up all his legal appeals and is scheduled to die on January 15, 2020.