- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

CORALVILLE, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa man who had long been suspected in the 1985 slaying of his wife’s lover was charged with first-degree murder Thursday after investigators took a fresh look at the case.

Officers arrested Anthony Burtch, 57, at his Iowa City home after he was charged in the death of 22-year-old Lance Lee DeWoody. Burtch, a former Iowa City parking cashier, was being held at the Johnson County Jail pending a court appearance Friday. He faces life in prison if convicted.

DeWoody’s father and sister released a statement thanking law enforcement for arresting Burtch, saying that this was “the day we hoped and prayed for.”

The case “will not bring Lance back to us, but it gives us some solace to know that he is being held accountable for his actions,” the family said.

Burtch’s defense attorney, Clemens Erdahl, said his client has maintained his innocence in the death and would plead not guilty. He criticized investigators for holding a news conference outlining their case.

“It’s unfortunate that the police have contaminated the public perception,” he said. “I don’t want to make any further comment and compound the mistake they have made.”

DeWoody, who grew up in Olin and had moved to North Liberty, was found dead on the floor of a picnic shelter at the University of Iowa’s Oakdale campus in Coralville in August 1985. An autopsy determined that he was killed by two gunshot wounds to the head and face.

Burtch became a person of interest almost immediately because his wife had started a romantic relationship with DeWoody while the two were considering divorce. Investigators determined recently that “this is the time to put this together” after taking a new look at the case, Coralville Police Chief Barry Bedford said.

Police said Thursday they believe Burtch killed DeWoody shortly after his wife came home from spending the evening with DeWoody. Burtch left his home for about a 90-minute period that evening, they said, and told witnesses earlier that he wanted to kill DeWoody.

Burtch has claimed that he and DeWoody were being harassed by three men before the slaying and suggested they may have been responsible. But investigators said they have determined those men didn’t exist.

Police said they started putting the case together with the help of a retired detective beginning in 2013. More recently, a Division of Criminal Investigation agent had worked extensively on the case.

In a January interview with DCI, Burtch recanted his earlier claim that he was harassed by the men on the night of the slaying, investigators said. During that interview, police used a warrant to obtain Burtch’s DNA to compare to DNA found at the crime scene.

Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness declined to say whether those samples matched. But she said Burtch agreed in the interview that he would “get buried on the sciences of this thing.” Burtch divorced his wife in 2000, and she has recently been interviewed, Lyness said.

No murder weapon was recovered at the time. Lyness declined to say whether that has changed.

DeWoody grew up in Olin, where he played football in high school and the trombone. He was working in an Iowa City factory at the time of his death. His father, retired teacher Carl DeWoody, had long sought justice in his son’s death. His mother died in 2009.

Burtch worked for the city of Iowa City from 1994 until he was fired in 2007 as a result of disciplinary action, city official Karen Jennings said.

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