Man Accused of Killing Taxi Driver Makes Initial Court Appearance

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A 33-year-old Cedar Rapids man accused of the brutal murder of a woman cab driver during robbery attempt made his initial court appearance Wednesday in Linn County District Court.

Johnathan D. Mitchell, 33, is charged with first-degree murder and a $1 million cash only bond was set today. Mitchell didn't speak during his video appearance from the Linn County Jail.

Mitchell is accused of killing Cathy Stickley, 54, a mother of four and a taxi driver for Century Cab, who was found dead lying face down near the driver's side door of her vehicle Friday night in the 1500 block alley between 2nd and 3rd avenues SE, according to a criminal complaint. She died of multiple stab wounds to her neck and head.

Mitchell had been out on a $10,000 bond pending trial for an assault last September. He was charged with willful injury causing bodily injury and was set to plead guilty May 13.

None of Stickley's family members were present but two friends were in the courtroom for the hearing. Stickley's family made a statement Tuesday, saying they were relieved an arrest was made.

There were also family members or friends of Mitchell's in the courtroom.

Mitchell was arrested Tuesday after nearly 20 officers in SWAT gear raided his home, 416 15th St. NE.

According to the criminal complaint, a witness identified Mitchell making contact with Stickley where she was found murdered and officers identified Mitchell's bloody left palm print on the driver's side door.

Stickley's purse, a bank bag and other personal effects were found at short distance from the vehicle, according to the complaint.

Chris Petersen, Stickley's son who now lives in Wisconsin, applauded Cedar Rapids Police for the arrest but said his family is still reeling from the unexpected attack. In a statement Tuesday, Petersen said the family worried for their mother's safety working as a cab driver and said they had recently urged her to move from Cedar Rapids.

"And I'm sure that is the case," Petersen wrote in the statement. "One bad person does not make a neighborhood. Many good people do."

Mitchell's lengthy criminal record includes convictions for theft, domestic assault and drug possession. He was charged with forgery last December and the willful injury charge Sept. 25. His residence is about five blocks from where Stickley was killed.

Mitchell grew up in Wellington Heights and attended Cedar Rapids Washington, records show. Mitchell, along with his brother, were heralded by the Cedar Rapids Fire Department as heroes in 1994 after they rushed into an apartment building in the 1500 block of Second Ave. SE and woke several sleeping tenants and got them out of the burning building.
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