Estimated read time: 3 minutes

2019 update: Dustin Honken to be executed in January 2020, per DOJ.

This is a story I wrote after an exclusive interview with Dustin Honken. It’s republished here with permission.

Publication Name: THE GAZETTE
Publication Date: 10/12/2005
Edition: F
Section: A
Page: 8
Headline: Honken knows who killed 5 people but refuses to tell
Byline: Christoph Trappe
Source: The Gazette
Copyright 2005, The Gazette
CEDAR RAPIDS – Dustin Honken, 37, the first Iowan to be sentenced to death since 1963, says he regrets ever getting into drugs, says that he feels bad for his children and notes that at one time he dreamed of becoming a lawyer for a pharmaceutical company.

“Drugs have not done anybody good,” Honken said. “You will get caught eventually.”

Honken’s comments came in an exclusive interview with The Gazette on Tuesday morning in a holding cell at the federal courthouse less than an hour before his sentencing hearing. Honken said he didn’t take drugs until his early 20s when a man he worked with in Tucson, Ariz., introduced him to marijuana. He said he moved on to cocaine and methamphetamine.

The only time Honken’s voice rose during the interview was when he talked about the jailhouse informant who helped authorities find the bodies of the five people Honken was convicted of killing. Honken, originally from Britt in north-central Iowa, called the informant, Robert McNeese, “a weasel.”

“He doesn’t care about anyone but himself,” Honken said. Honken said he didn’t kill the five people but knows who did. He declined to say who. The five bodies were found in 2000, buried near Mason City, after Angela Johnson, Honken’s girlfriend, drew a map for McNeese while they were both being held in the Benton County Jail.

On Tuesday, Honken’s hands were tightly handcuffed to a chain around his stomach. His legs were shackled, and a stun belt, which marshals would use to shock him if he tried to flee or act up, was around his torso.

“Why would I fight anybody in here?” he asked. “And then get beat up by 20 (U.S.) marshals? You’d lose that fight.”
Honken said he’s “not worried about” the death penalty – “It doesn’t even faze me.”

“I’m not acting like I’m some kind of brave dude,” he said, adding he knows it will be years before he’s actually executed. He said he’s not putting much trust in his appeals to save his life. Honken has been in prison about 10 years and was already serving a 27-year sentence on a 1996 federal drug conviction when charged with the five murders.

Honken said he feels bad about not seeing or spending time with his children – Brandon, 15, whom he has treated as a son since birth; Ryan, 11, his first biological child; and Marvea, 11, his child with Johnson – but he doesn’t want them seeing him sitting in shackles in prison.

On Tuesday, Honken said he and Johnson “don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things” and are now at “extreme odds.”
In the 10 years he’s spent behind bars, Honken said he’s read a lot, played chess and studied. He said he had planned to get a degree in chemistry and then go to law school to become a lawyer, possibly for a pharmaceutical company, before he got into drugs.

Republished with permission by SourceMedia Group – 2014.

As of January 29, 2016, he was still awaiting his death sentence. Some of you asked so I asked the Bureau of Prisons. Here’s their email:


As of Feb. 2, 2016, no execution date has been set, according to the prosecution. 

More crime-related stories:

Social media helps law enforcement explain

Great stories paint a picture with words

Remembering the victims of unsolved homicides

Listen to my podcast