Investigators believe alleged Iowa City murder could have been financially motivated

Roy Browning, Jr., 67, of Iowa City (Courtesy: Johnson County Jail)
Roy Browning, Jr., 67, of Iowa City (Courtesy: Johnson County Jail)(KCRG)
Published: Oct. 29, 2019 at 4:17 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

The alleged murder of a woman by the man to whom she was married for 42 years may have been related to money problems, according to court documents.

Prosecutors in Johnson County charged 67-year-old Roy Browning, Jr., of Iowa City, with first-degree murder in the death of JoEllen Browning, 65. This comes nearly seven months after she was found dead in their Iowa City home in April. Investigators concluded JoEllen died from multiple stab wounds and later ruled the death a homicide investigation.

Police arrested Roy on Monday night and he is currently being held at the Johnson County Jail on a $5 million bond.

According to the criminal complaint filed by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, money problems could have been a factor in the crime. The DCI alleged it has evidence to prove Roy was in over his head financially.

Court documents allege that Roy had been lying to his wife about money. In one example, the DCI cited a time when he created a fake bank statement that showed a joint account between JoEllen and Roy with a balance of $97,830.17 in it. According to official statements, however, that account actually only had $88.76 left in it.

According to the criminal complaint, Roy took out separate loans for $4,000 on four separate occasions from an Illinois area title and loan company, all of which carried an interest rate of 304.17%. The DCI reports the last loan was paid off on April 2, 2019, and that Roy instructed the title company in February 2018 "they were not to contact his wife... regarding the title loan."

The DCI said Roy moved money into an account that only he controlled. When JoEllen noticed that had occurred when "preparing for tax season," she scheduled a meeting with their financial institution. That meeting was supposed to take place on April 5 at 8 a.m., according to court documents. That was the same day Roy called 911 and reported her unresponsive.

The DCI said a bank representative was prepared to tell JoEllen one of their joint bank accounts was depleted, that Roy had taken out loans she was not aware of, and that the account she thought they had together never existed.

The day before that meeting was supposed to happen, the DCI said Roy bought rubber gloves and towels at a local paint supply store. Video confirmed him in the location of the store, and the DCI said after multiple searches of the Browning residence, vehicles, business and person, they never found those items Roy purchased April 4.

The DCI said credit card records for JoEllen showed a balance of $17,643.86 as of April 6. The next statement showed a payment for the exact amount made by phone on April 12 from Roy's individual checking account, with the card still being used after JoEllen's funeral on April 11.

The Iowa DCI Laboratory in Ankeny examined the blood under JoEllen's nails, and they found DNA that was not hers; they identified DNA belonging to Roy in the test. The report said "the probability of finding this profile in a population of unrelated individuals, chosen at random, would be less than one out of 310 trillion."

If convicted of first-degree murder, Roy faces a mandatory life sentence without a chance of parole. His next court appearance is on November 8.