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Floyd County jury convicts Adame of first-degree murder

Floyd County jury convicts Adame of first-degree murder
Armando Adame III and members of his legal defense team, along with prosecutors, listen to the judge during a hearing held last Tuesday before Adame’s trial on first-degree murder charges began on Wednesday. Pictured are, clockwise from foreground, Iowa Assistant Attorney General Douglas Hammerand, Floyd County Attorney Rachel Ginbey; and the defense team attorney Becky Wilson, Adame, and attorneys Parker Thirnbeck and Matthew Pittenger. A Floyd County jury returned a verdict of guilty Wednesday afternoon. Press photo by Bob Steenson
 By Bob Steenson, bsteenson@charlescitypress.com

A Waterloo man charged with killing a Grundy Center man in Floyd County over a fake drug deal has been convicted of first-degree murder.

A Floyd County jury deliberated for about two hours Wednesday before finding Armando Adame III, age 28, guilty on both counts he was facing — felony possession of a firearm or offensive weapon, in addition to the murder charge.

Judge Gregg Rosenbladt set sentencing for March 20. Conviction of first-degree murder in Iowa calls for a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Floyd County jury convicts Adame of first-degree murder
Armando Adame III

Adame was charged in January 2019 with killing Michael Bruce Johns, then age 28, of Grundy Center.

Johns had been reported missing by his mother in October 2017, and Grundy Center police and the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office asked for the public’s help in locating him, saying he may have been dropped off in the Charles City area.

On Dec. 1, 2017, a body was found by a farmer about 10 miles south of Charles City, in a ditch near the intersection of 290th Street and Shadow Avenue.

An autopsy by the state medical examiner’s office confirmed the body was that of Johns, and determined the cause of death was a head wound from a shotgun blast.

Evidence and testimony presented at the trial in Floyd County District Court showed the murder occurred on Oct. 25, 2017.

Floyd County Attorney Rachel Ginbey and Iowa Assistant Attorney General Douglas Hammerand presented evidence and testimony last Thursday, Friday and on Monday that Adame, Johns and a third man, Brandon Rathbone of Readlyn, were involved in an attempt to get drugs from a man in Marshalltown.

“They thought they had it arranged to get drugs from Rean Webb, who needed a ride from Marshalltown to Charles City,” Ginbey said.

“Once they arrived in Charles City, Rean Webb gave Michael Johns ibuprofen wrapped up in a newspaper instead of methamphetamine,” she said.

Things became very tense between Adame, Johns and Rathbone because they had been driving around all night for nothing, Ginbey said.

“The defendant believed that Michael Johns had played them and was in on the fake drugs,” Ginbey said.

Adame texted Rathbone, who was driving, to pull over on a gravel road, then Adame got out and had Johns get out. Adame got the sawed-off shotgun from the trunk and killed Johns, Ginbey said.

Cell phone records from Verizon Wireless tracked their trip throughout the night, showing the three phones going to Charles City. Only two phones made it back to Waterloo.

“Michael Johns’ last ping on his cell phone was off the Greene tower. His last phone call or text was at 6:08 a.m. on Oct. 25, 2017,” Ginbey said.

While investigating Johns’ disappearance, before his body had been discovered, law officers had learned that Adame, Johns and Rathbone had been together, and as a result of the investigation they served a search warrant on the residence where Adame was staying in Waterloo.

At that residence, they found a sawed-off shotgun and shells containing pellets that testing later determined were consistent with the shotgun pellets that had killed Johns.

A handprint was found on the shotgun that was identified as belonging to Adame, and Adame was charged with a federal charge of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon and possession of an unregistered destructive device.

On May 10, 2018, Adame pleaded guilty to those charges in U.S. District Court, and on Oct. 24, 2018, he was sentenced to serve 25 years in federal prison on the federal firearms charges.

The defense presented its case on Tuesday, then the jury began deliberations at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The jury of eight men and four women returned with the guilty verdicts Wednesday afternoon.

Adame was already serving time in prison on previous convictions, and will continue to be held without bail pending sentencing.

In a hearing last Tuesday before the trial began, Adame’s defense attorneys had argued that the jury pool available in Floyd County did not fairly represent the percentage of Hispanic people who live in Floyd County, but Judge Rosenbladt had ruled that the defense had not proved that Hispanics were underrepresented in the jury pool or that Hispanics were systematically excluded from the jury pool.

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