Dustin Honken, Federal


Updated: Monday, January 13, 2020

Dustin Lee Honken was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, January 15, 2020, at Federal Correction Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.  His execution has been stayed. Fifty-one-year-old Dustin has been sentenced to death 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 had graduated from high school and attended a community college, where he was noticed 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, however, in April, Greg testified before a federal grand jury, and the state charges 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.


In 1995, Honken hired Dan Cobeen to help with the manufacturing. Dan went to the police and agreed to cooperate. With Dan’s help, police were able to obtain a warrant and obtained evidence to arrest and charge Honken. With charges pending, Honken plotted to murder Dan, police officers, and chemists, as well as destroy evidence. Honken’s partner, Cutkomp decided to cooperate with police and wore a wire, recording numerous conversations with Honken. In some of these conversations, Honken referred to eliminating witnesses in 1993, and described his current plan.


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.


Dustin Honken's execution has been halted by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who halted all federal executions scheduled throughout December 2019, and January 2020.  Judge Chutkan issued the stays of execution after arguments that the federal execution protocol is unconstitutional because it violates a 1994 federal statute that says federal executions shall be carried out “in the manner prescribed by the law of the State in which the sentence is imposed.”  In announcing the resumption of federal executions earlier this year, Attorney General Barr announced that the execution would be carried out using a single drug, instead of a three-drug process used in most states.  Judge Chutkan has found that simply using lethal injection does not satisfy that statue, but the a drugs and process need to also be similar.


The Justice Department appealed the stay of execution, which was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. While there were no dissents in the Supreme Court ruling, three of the Supreme Court Justices wrote that they believed the lower court should be able to resolve the issue within 60 days and urged the lower court to not delay in the case.


Please pray for the families of the Greg, Lori, Kandi, Amber, and Terry. Please pray for strength for the family of Dustin Honken. Pray that if Dustin is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Pray that Dustin may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.



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