The trial begins today in the Scott County Courthouse in the 2017 homicide of an Iowa City cab driver.
Curtis Cortez Jones, 41, is being tried on first-degree murder charges for his alleged involvement in the death of Ricky Lillie.
If convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jones also is involved in a separate first-degree murder trial in the death of bail bondsman Jonathan Wieseler, who was found dead on April 23, 2017.
Officers found Lillie dead in the front seat of his cab on June 28, 2017, near Alexis Park Inn on the 500 block of Ernest Street in Iowa City. Yellow Cab, the company Lillie worked for, had called officers to check in on Lillie.
According to authorities, Jones got into Lillie’s cab and took an uninterrupted ride on June 27. Surveillance video reportedly showed Jones leaving the area in which Lillie was found dead, according to a press release from Iowa City police.
The Johnson County Medical Examiner’s Office said Lillie died from two gunshot wounds in his head, which indicated the death was a homicide.
“Rick was an experienced driver who was friendly to his passengers, supportive of his co-workers, and well-liked in our company,” a press release from Yellow Cab of Iowa City said. “He conducted himself with great professionalism and enjoyed his work.”
RELATED: Curtis Jones to appear in court twice more before trial
Officers identified Jones as the person of interest in the slaying on July 3, 2017, with the help of tips from the public. At the time, Jones was being held in the Keokuk County Jail on second-degree theft charges and a parole violation.
A warrant was issued for the arrest of Jones on the charge of first-degree murder on July 19, 2017.
In September 2017, Jones’ lawyer at the time, Quint Meyerdirk, requested a venue change and a delay to the trial, which was at the time scheduled for Oct. 16, 2017.
RELATED: Curtis Jones’ new public defenders withdraw pending motions
Jones’ defense accused the media of building prejudice against him and wanted his trial to be moved out of Johnson County. The defense contended that an unbiased jury would be impossible to find in the county.
Meyerdirk also said Jones was intoxicated when questioned about the slaying and had not been read his Miranda Rights. Jones involuntarily waived his rights, the defense said, because he admitted to taking Xanax and marijuana wax.
“Under totality of circumstances, the defendant’s statements made to police on June 30, 2017, were not the product of a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver of his rights and therefore should not be admissible,” Meyerdirk said in the document he filed.
Jones’ trial was moved to April 9 in the Scott County Courthouse after a judge granted the defense’s requests.
RELATED: Jones’ defense motions to move trial out of Johnson County
Meyerdirk then submitted a motion in late October 2017 to withdraw from Jones’ case due to a breakdown of communication between the two. Jones also personally wrote a letter to the court saying he was unhappy with his representation under Meyerdirk.
Douglas Davis and Nekeidra Tucker of the Linn County’s Public Defender’s Office were then appointed as Jones’ new attorneys.
Davis withdrew the pending motions previously filed by Meyerdirk in Jones’ case. These motions included the motion to suppress Jones’ testimony because of his intoxication.
The trial was then pushed back to today, when Jones’ lawyers asked for more time to prepare for trial.
In November 2017, Jones was also charged with the killing of bail bondsman Wieseler. He was questioned about both homicides in the summer of 2017, and authorities believe he shot Wieseler. That trial will continue on Jan. 11 in Polk County.