Roy Browning Jr. pleads guilty to killing wife in 2019 through Alford Plea

Browning pleaded guilty to a lesser charge that includes a maximum of a 50-year sentence for second-degree murder.


Roy Browning Jr. and defense attorney Leon Spies at his plea hearing on Oct. 12, 2022. Browning pleaded guilty to second-degree murder through the Alford Plea at the Johnson County Courthouse. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Kate Perez, News Editor

This is a developing story, check back for updates. 

Roy Browning Jr., 70, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Wednesday for the killing of his wife in 2019.

Browning was originally charged with first-degree murder on Oct. 28, 2019, after being accused of stabbing and killing his wife, JoEllen Browning, on April 5, 2019, at their residence at 114 Green Mountain Drive in Iowa City. JoEllen was a University of Iowa Health Care budget executive.

Browning took a lesser charge, pleading guilty to murder in the second degree which brings with it a maximum sentence of 50 years; but he is maintaining his innocence through the Alford Plea. 

The Alford Plea, established by the Supreme Court decision in North Carolina v. Alford, allows the defendant in a criminal case to assert innocence but admit that the evidence presented by the prosecution would be likely to persuade a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness at the plea hearing for Roy Browning Jr. on Oct. 12, 2022. Browning entered an Alford Plea for the murder of his wife. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Browning will be required to serve 70 percent of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

The sentencing will take place on Dec. 2 at 1:30 p.m. at the Johnson County Courthouse.

Janet Lyness, Johnson County Attorney, said in an interview with The Daily Iowan that the prosecution was expecting the plea after discussions with the defense about JoEllen’s family’s wishes.

JoEllen was killed shortly before a meeting with a financial advisor on the morning of April 5, 2019, 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, according to court documents filed in October 2019.

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

JoEllen died of sharp-force injuries, according to the final autopsy report released on April 10, 2019.  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.