Roy Browning Jr. sentenced to 50 years for killing wife in 2019

Browning Jr. pled guilty via the Alford Plea in October.


Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette

Roy Carl Browning Jr, 70, and his attorney Leon Spies listen to his daughter Elizabeth Adrianse read her victim impact statement during a sentencing hearing on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City, Iowa.

Kate Perez, News Editor

This is a developing story, check back for updates. 

Roy Browning Jr., 70, was sentenced to 50 years in prison on Friday at the Johnson County Courthouse for killing his wife in 2019. 

The sentencing comes after he pled guilty to second-degree murder on Oct. 12 and took a lesser charge, pleading guilty to murder in the second degree and a maximum sentence of 50 years but keeping his innocence through the Alford Plea.

The Alford Plea, established by the Supreme Court decision in the case 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.

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 Iowa City residence at 114 Green Mountain Drive. JoEllen was a University of Iowa Health Care budget executive.

He is required to serve 70 percent of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole. At his time of eligibility for parole, Browning will be 102 years old. Browning will also be required to pay $150,000 in restitution to his and JoEllen’s two children.

Browning spoke at the sentencing about his late wife, saying JoEllen was beautiful and perfect while claiming his innocence.

“Jo will make heaven a better place,” he said. “I miss her and I love her so much.”

Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness also read victim statements at the sentencing from JoEllen’s family. Nancy Wall, JoEllen’s sister-in-law, described her as the physical embodiment of the word “home,” while JoEllen’s brother Larry Wall said his sister always had enough time for others but not for herself. 

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.

JoEllen’s sister Jane Wall remembered her sister as someone who “liked to make life fun” and that her memory will forever live on in her family and friends. The final victim statement came from her sister Barbara Gerend, who described her sister as having a “heart of gold” who she will continue to honor and remember every day.

Elizabeth Adianse, JoEllen’s daughter, also read a statement where she called her mother “a real-life Wonder Woman.” 

“I lost my whole heart,” she said.

Adianse described her mother as being “well-lived and well-loved”, and her kindness and love of family will be her legacy, not her death.