MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — New information from a witness who waited 25 years to come forward led to the arrest of an Iowa woman in the unsolved 1992 beating death of one of her sexual partners, investigators said Friday.
The witness told police last year that Annette Cahill confessed she was responsible for the October 1992 slaying of Corey Lee Wieneke, weeks after the 22-year-old bartender's fiancée found him dead on his bedroom floor in rural West Liberty. That information set into a motion a chain of events that allowed police to make the surprise arrest of Cahill, now a 55-year-old who has had no serious legal trouble, Thursday at her Tipton home, prosecutor Alan Ostergren said.
It's unclear what prompted the witness, who had never spoken previously to police, to come forward with what investigators called significant new information. But Ostergren said the case shows "it's never too late" to help, and that he hopes it inspires others who may have knowledge of other unsolved homicides to do the same.
Cahill made a brief initial court appearance Friday via video from the Muscatine County Jail, where she's being held on a $1 million bond. She wasn't asked to enter a plea at the hearing but told the judge that she was arranging to be represented by a private lawyer. Attorney Leon Spies said he was in talks with Cahill to represent her, but that he was not "formally on board" and couldn't comment.
A criminal complaint filed Thursday alleges that Cahill was in a sexual relationship with the engaged Wieneke, and that they had a "heated argument" about his involvement with another woman in the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 1992.
Investigators believe he was seen by his fiancée around 8:15 a.m. that day alive, and she discovered his dead body when she returned home from work that evening. An autopsy found that he died of blunt force trauma. Investigators soon recovered the alleged murder weapon, an aluminum baseball bat with blood on it, in the middle of the road roughly a mile away after it was spotted by a television news reporter.
Ostergren, who is the Muscatine County attorney, said that Cahill was among many people who had previously drawn scrutiny in the case because of her relationship with Wieneke. Cahill "offered conflicting accounts" as to her whereabouts on the day of the homicide, and also told another individual that Wieneke had been killed with a baseball bat before that was public knowledge or the weapon had been recovered, the complaint says.
Muscatine County Sheriff C.J. Ryan, who was among the first officers on the crime scene in 1992, and other investigators met with Wieneke's relatives Thursday to notify them of the break in the 25-year-old case. He said they showed a "big sense of relief."
"They were very grateful that law enforcement never gave up on this case," he said. "They never lost faith. The meeting was about a very tragic and bad situation but at the end of the day it was a good outcome."
Ryan said help from agents with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation who specialize in unsolved cases was essential in developing the new information. He said that it was "a quite exhaustive investigation" in which many people were interviewed and looked into over the years.
An aunt and cousin of Wieneke attended Friday's court hearing but declined to speak with reporters. Ryan said that Wieneke's fiancée no longer lives in the state of Iowa.
If convicted, Cahill would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. A trial date hasn't been set.
This version corrects that the bat was found in the middle of the road, not the side of the road.