The ruthless investigator in Iowa, who killed five people, including two young girls, in 1993 to thwart his trial for drug trafficking, is to become the third federal inmate to be executed this week.
Dustin Honkin, 52, will become the first suspect in a case in Iowa to be executed since 1963 if he is executed as scheduled on Friday. Iowa abolished the death penalty in 1965, but federal prosecutors sought to execute Honkin for killing government informants and children.
Honkin is due to die in fatal injection in prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he has been awaiting execution since 2005 and two other men have been executed since Tuesday after a 17-year hiatus in federal executions.
“He deserves what he gets. I can tell you that.” Susan Torres, 54, who plans to attend the execution along with other relatives of the victims, said: “It was worth it a long time ago.”
The Hongken attorney filed an emergency request to halt the death sentence on Thursday. The judge did not immediately rule on the request, which claims the enforcement protocol was arbitrary and volatile.
Torres, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, was sister-in-law of Laurie Duncan before her brother and Duncan separated and was the aunt of Duncan’s daughters, 10-year-old Candy and 6-year-old Amber. Duncan, her new boyfriend, Greg Nicholson, and her daughters were kidnapped and killed by Honkin and his girlfriend in 1993, which was seven years before their bodies were found.
Mark Bennett, the federal judge who oversaw the Hunken trial, said he generally opposed the death penalty, but if anyone deserves the death penalty, it is Hunkin. He said the Honkin crimes deserve denunciation and that Hongkin has fair legal procedures, including talented lawyers who “have done a great job without anything to work with them.”
“I will not lose any sleep if executed,” said Bennett, who has since retired from the bench. “I usually did, but the evidence was overwhelming.”
Honken grew up in Brett, North Iowa as the bright son, but the deceiver of an alcoholic father was convicted of bank robbery.
Hongkin was dealing with marijuana and cocaine in the early 1990s, and he started cooking methamphetamine after studying chemistry at a community college. He and his friend moved to Arizona to produce the drug in the hope that they would become wealthy, and they distributed their product through two merchants residing in Mason, Iowa.
Nicholson, who was a trader, began to collaborate with investigators in 1993 after being suspicious. Honkin was arrested and charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine after Nicholson secretly recorded Honkin and testified before a grand jury.
Honkin informed the court that he would plead guilty. But days before he heard his call in July 1993, he and his girlfriend, Angela Johnson, went in search of Nicholson. They found him at home as he moved in Duncan and her daughters.
Torres, whose two daughters were classmates with Duncan’s girls, said that Duncan was unaware that Nicholson was a detective and was not involved in drugs.
“She was very innocent, innocent, chance she was in bad shape,” she told the Associated Press by phone.
According to the prosecution, Johnson pretended to be a cosmetic seller to enter the house. Honkin Nicholson, 34, was forced to register a statement declaring Honkin innocent of drug charges.
Nicholson and the Duncans were moved to a remote area, shot and buried deadly. Honkin retracted his guilt and gave his lawyer a Nicholson video.
As the investigation continued in Hunken, another Hunken dealer, 32-year-old Terry Digus, disappeared months after Nicholson and Donkans disappeared. Johnson Degus, who dated him before Hunkin, was lured to a place where Hunkin beat him with a bat and shot him.
Investigators found the bodies of Nicholson and Donkans in 2000 in a wooded area outside Mason City after Johnson tricked him into giving a hand-drawn map showing where they were buried to the prison laboratory. The adults were restricted, silenced, and shot several times. The girls were shot once in the back of the head. DeGeus’s body was found a few miles away, breaking his skull.
Bennett said that girls are still wearing swimwear when they were kidnapped on a hot summer day. “It is terrifying how they were slaughtered,” the judge said.
Honkin was convicted of murder in 2004 in a trial that included exceptional security measures, including an anonymous jury. Honkin was installed on the floor of the courtroom and wore a zapper belt under his clothes to prevent attempts to escape.
The jury recommended that Hongkin be executed for killing the girls, and Bennett agreed.
The father of the girls, John Duncan, who paid years for Hunkin’s execution, died in 2018 of stomach cancer.
Torres said: “He was very sad when he knew he would pass because he wouldn’t see that happen.” We assured him that we would be there. ”
Johnson was convicted in a separate trial and sentenced to death. Later, Bennett reduced her sentence to life behind bars, which she currently serves in a federal prison in Minnesota.
Hunkin did not respond to an interview request sent last year after the government announced plans to execute him.
Honkin has two children – one with Johnson and the other with another woman – and has a father figure for a third. He wrote in the 2006 journal that he felt “a hopelessly heavy burden” for their failure.
He wrote: “When these people finally roam around to kill me, they will only realize that my shells stayed, and my heart died long ago.”