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Dustin Honken, Federal

Dustin Honken, Federal

July 17, 2020

Dustin Lee Honken was executed by the federal government on Friday, July 17, 2020. He was pronounced dead at 4:36 pm local time, inside the execution chamber at the Federal Correction Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. Dustin was 52 years of age. He was executed for murdering 10-year-old Kandace “Kandi” Duncan and her sister, six-year-old Amber Duncan on July 25, 1993, in Mason City, Iowa. Dustin has spent the last 15 years on death row in a federal prison.

Dustin graduated from high school.  He went on to attended a community college, where he was noted for his chemistry skills.

Dustin Honken began manufacturing his own methamphetamine in Arizona in 1992, along with his friend Timothy Cutkomp. The drugs made by Honken and Cutkomp were given to Greg Nicholson and Terry DeGeus, both from Mason City, Iowa, to sell. Honken also met Terry’s then-girlfriend, Angela Johnson. Angela broke off her relationship with Terry and quickly began dating Honken, with whom she would have a child.

In 1993, law enforcement began to investigate Greg, who agreed to cooperate with them. Following a meeting with Greg, in which methamphetamine was discussed, and Honken paid for past deliveries, Honken and Cutkomp were arrested. Following his arrest, Honken moved from Arizona to Mason City, Iowa.

Honken was initially charged with state drug offenses.  In April, Greg testified before a federal grand jury, and the state charges against Honken were dropped in favor of federal charges. Honken notified the court that he intended to plead guilty and a plea hearing was scheduled for July 30, 1993. Honken was released on bond until his hearing.

During June and July of that year, Honken and his girlfriend, Johnson, would often leave their baby with a baby sitter, while they searched for Greg. Honken also bought a gun. In July, Greg was introduced to Lori Duncan, who had two young daughters, Kandi and Amber. Greg was soon staying with them at the Duncan’s home.

On July 24, 1993, Honken and Johnson left their child with a babysitter, from whom they also borrowed a car. Honken and Johnson did not return until approximately five o’clock the next morning – five hours after they usually returned. On July 25, Greg, Lori, Kandi, and Amber were all reported missing.

On July 30, 1993, Honken arrived for his plea hearing and decided to not plead guilty. He told his lawyer that he had heard Greg “skipped town,” and also provided his lawyer with a VHS tape of Greg saying Honken was not guilty of the charges against him.

After the government learned Greg was missing, and they were unable to locate him, they issued a warrant for his arrest. They also continued their investigation, focusing on the other dealer, Terry.

On November 5, 1993, Terry asked his mother to watch his daughter because he was going to briefly meet his ex-girlfriend, Johnson. Terry never returned to pick up his daughter.

Honken continued manufacturing methamphetamine, and because Greg and Terry could not be located, the case again Honken was dismissed.

This evidence spurred the court to revoke Honken’s pretrial release, and Honken was incarcerated until his trial. While incarcerated, Honken told several inmates about the murders he committed, in great detail. Honken also made plans to carry out the murders of Dan and Cutkomp, asking a fellow inmate to kill Cutkomp and provided the inmate with directions to Cutkomp’s home. Honken also planned with another inmate to escape, with the help of Johnson, however the escape plan was foiled when jailers found the hole.

On June 2, 1997, Honken pled guilty to drug charges and was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

In 2000, the babysitter hired by Honken and Johnson went to the police, telling them about the search for Greg, and the later discovery of a gun in the closet. In July 2000, Johnson was arrested and charged with the murders of Greg, Lori, Kandi, Amber, and Terry.

While in prison, Johnson became friends with an inmate who convinced her to have an inmate already serving a life sentence take responsibility for the murders. However, Johnson would need to provide that inmate with proof. Johnson gave the inmate maps of the locations of the bodies and notes about the crimes. This information was turned over to law enforcement.

Law enforcement used the maps to discover the bodies of Greg, Lori, Kandi, and Amber, all buried in large hole in a wooded area outside Mason City. The two girls had each been shot once in the back of the head, while Greg and Lori had been bound, gagged, and shot multiple times. Terry’s body was discovered a few miles away. He had been shot at least once, and his skull was severely fragmented.

Honken became convinced he was going to be charged with the murders and made significant plans to escape custody and kill more witnesses, law enforcement officers, and a federal prosecutor. Honken and other inmates took many steps to prepare for their escape, including martial arts training.

In August 2001, Honken was charged with several counts of murder. His trial began one year later. Due to his previous threats and escape attempts, Honken was designated a serious security risk, and was forced to wear a stun belt and be shackled and bolted to the floor during the trial. Special precautions were taken to ensure that the jury remain unbiased, such as not moving Honken in their presence, not allowing the shackles to make noise, and allowing enough chain for Honken to move freely. Additionally, the shackles were hidden from view.

On October 27, 2004, Honken was found guilty for all five murders. He was sentenced to death for the murders of Kandi and Amber. He was given life sentences for the murder of Greg, Lori, and Terry. Johnson was also sentenced to death, however her sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

Honken was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, January 15, 2020. That execution was stayed by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who issued the stay due to questions of legality over the planned method of execution. The stay was appealed and the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit lifted the stay of execution, allowing the execution to be rescheduled.

Please pray for the families of the Greg, Lori, Kandi, Amber, and Terry. Please pray for strength for the family of Dustin Honken.

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