Dustin Lee Honken began manufacturing methamphetamine in Iowa in 1991. By 1993, his business had grown large enough for him and his associate, Tim Cutkomp, to move to Arizona and develop a network of distributors in Iowa and elsewhere.
With that growth, also came increasing exposure to criminal liability. A dealer who had previously worked for Honken and Cutkomp cooperated in a federal investigation that led to their arrest. Out on bail and facing federal prosecution, Honken and his girlfriend, Angela Jane Johnson, developed and carried out a plan to kill a dealer who had worked for him who was planning to testify against him.
On July 24, 1993, Johnson posed as a saleswoman to gain access to the Mason City, Iowa, home of Greg Nicholson, that former dealer. Once inside, Johnson and Honken kidnapped Nicholson, his girlfriend, Lori Duncan, and her young daughters, Kandi and Amber, drove them into the woods, and shot and buried them.
On November 5, 1993, Honken and Johnson carried out a similar scheme, in which Johnson approached Terry deGeus, a former boyfriend of hers who was also planning to testify against Honken, gained his confidence and lured him into the woods where he was shot and killed.
Without witnesses to testify against them, the charges against Honken and Cutkomp were dropped.
However, the pair were arrested again as part of a new investigation in 1996. Honken again made plans to kill the cooperating witness. This time, however, Cutkomp agreed to testify against Honken. With that information, police arrested Johnson and Honken.
Prosecution of the new case against Honken resulted in a guilty plea and a sentence of 324 months in prison in 1997.
In 2000, prosecutors charged Johnson with five murders. While in jail awaiting trial, she confided in a fellow inmate the details of the killings, including the location of the bodies. That inmate was cooperating with federal authorities.
With that information and the victims’ bodies, federal prosecutors were ready to pursue capital charges against Honken and Johnson. Though Iowa had abolished the death penalty in 1965, federal authority for the prosecution of Honken and Johnson was provided by the Continuing Criminal Enterprise provisions of the “drug kingpin” statute enacted in 1988, that provided federal capital jurisdiction for murders occurring as part of a continuing criminal enterprise, the same statute under which Juan Garza was executed in 2001 and Cory Johnson in 2021.
Honken and Johnson were tried in U.S. District Court. Honken was convicted on October 14, 2004. He was sentenced to death on October 27. In separate trials, Johnson was also convicted and sentenced to death.
Johnson’s death sentence was overturned in 2012 based on judicial questions about her mental state. She was resentenced to life imprisonment.
Honken’s conviction and death sentence were upheld on appeal. Dustin Lee Honken was executed by lethal injection at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on July 17, 2020.