- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa man acknowledged Tuesday that he lied during the investigation of the 1985 killing of his estranged wife’s paramour, under a plea agreement that drops a murder charge against him.

Anthony Burtch, 58, entered a guilty plea Tuesday to obstructing prosecution, a misdemeanor. Prosecutors have agreed to dismiss a first-degree murder charge against Burtch in the slaying of 22-year-old Lance DeWoody, who was found shot to death on the University of Iowa’s Oakdale campus in 1985.

The plea agreement calls for Burtch to receive credit for six months he served in jail after his arrest last year, and be released under probation without electronic monitoring. He had been facing life in prison if convicted on the murder charge.

Authorities arrested Burtch at his Iowa City home in March after the Division of Criminal Investigation and Coralville police took a fresh look at the 31-year-old case. But they offered little new evidence that wasn’t available in 1985, when Burtch was suspected but never charged in DeWoody’s killing. New DNA testing of a cigarette found at the crime scene, which investigators hoped would implicate Burtch, actually excluded him as a contributor.

Citing the lack of new evidence, a judge ordered Burtch released from jail in September pending trial, an unusual move in a murder case.

Burtch has long been the main suspect because his then-wife had started a romantic relationship with DeWoody while the two were considering divorce. DeWoody was killed shortly after spending the evening with Burtch’s wife. Several witnesses told investigators that Burtch had said previously that he was going to kill DeWoody, a laborer who grew up in Olin and moved to North Liberty.

But Burtch told police in 1985 that he and DeWoody had been harassed by three men in the months before the killing and claimed they may have been responsible for DeWoody’s death. A witness said Burtch had given DeWoody a piece of paper with their three names written on it, which investigators found at DeWoody’s property.

Investigators said the men didn’t actually exist. When Burtch was interviewed by police again last year, he denied having been harassed by the men until the night of the killing and said he couldn’t identify them.

In the plea agreement, Burtch acknowledged that the second story was false and was given “in order to avoid prosecution.”

Defense attorney Clemens Erdahl, who has represented Burtch since 1985, praised prosecutors and police for helping come to a reasonable resolution in a difficult case.

Johnson County prosecutor Jude Pannell said that DeWoody’s relatives have been briefed on the agreement, and “are relieved to have some closure.”

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