Roy Browning Jr. will plead to 2019 killing of his wife

Roy Browning Jr., who was charged with first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of his wife, JoEllen Browning, will plead to a lesser charge Wednesday.


Photo of Roy C. Browning contributed by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.

Cooper Worth, News Editor

Roy Browning Jr., who is accused of killing his wife in 2019, will plead to a lesser charge on Wednesday — avoiding the mandatory life imprisonment if convicted — and not go to trial.

The details of the plea bargain Browning agreed to is unknown as of Monday night. 

Browning, 70, is accused of stabbing and killing his wife, JoEllen Browning, who was a University of Iowa Health Care budget executive, on April 5, 2019, at their residence at 114 Green Mountain Drive in Iowa City. 

According to court documents filed in October 2019, the alleged murder was committed shortly before a meeting with a financial advisor who was going to inform JoEllen that Roy had taken out multiple loans and drained one of her savings accounts, which she was not aware of.

Documents show JoEllen had a retirement account and life insurance policy worth over $2 million, while her husband did not have a revenue source.

The final autopsy report released on April 10, 2019, shows JoEllen died of sharp-force injuries. According to court records, she was stabbed multiple times on the front and back of her torso and on her left hand. Her death was ruled a homicide by sharp-force injuries following the autopsy.

Roy Browning’s trial was moved six times and most recently was set to begin Nov. 1. 

The trial was moved from July to November 2022 after Browning’s team filed a motion to bar the prosecution from informing jurors that Browning either declined or stopped police questioning during an interview and requested an attorney.

Roy Browning’s team also requested that testimony be barred from witnesses regarding JoEllen Browning’s activities, relationships between Roy and JoEllen Browning, and statements about their financial condition. The document says that statements regarding their financial condition “represent mixed hearsay.”

Roy Browning’s team wants to barre any testimony regarding: 

  • His intent behind various financial transactions 
  • Possible motives for allegedly killing JoEllen Browning
  • Opinion testimony concerning Browning’s truthfulness 
  • Testimony arguing the truthfulness of the state’s witnesses 
  • Out-of-court statements from the state’s witnesses
  •  Evidence that a Johnson County Court judge allegedly agreed with the Johnson County Attorney’s recommendation that the defendant be charged

Browning was booked into the Johnson County jail on Oct. 28, 2019, on a $5 million bond, and has remained there since. His plea hearing is scheduled on Oct. 12, 2022, at 1:30 p.m. at the Johnson County Courthouse.