Man charged with murder in death of woman found near Muscatine

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MUSCATINE COUNTY, Iowa — A man who was previously arrested as a “material witness” is now being charged with the murder of a woman whose body was found in Muscatine.

Douglas Joseph Foster, 35, of Marion, was charged with first-degree murder on January 15, according to an affidavit from Muscatine County.

On January 7, Lea Ponce called and messaged several people looking for a ride to Cedar Rapids. Her messages showed she was afraid of getting killed by someone the affidavit is calling “Individual A.”

The report states that “Individual A” thought Ponce had stolen meth from a hotel room. The individual knew she had taken the drugs and told several people there was a bounty, which would be paid in meth, for anyone who could find her.

Ponce made arrangements with Foster, who she already knew, according to the affidavit. Surveillance video shows Ponce got into Foster’s white GMC pickup truck at 12:32 a.m. at the Muscatine Walmart. This was the last time she was seen before her body was recovered along the side of Highway 38, just outside of Muscatine.

Before picking her up, the affidavit shows that Foster was talking about harming someone he was planning to pick up in a text argument with a female acquaintance. He texted that he would “turn her over to get (expletive) beaten have (sic) to death.”

Phone records show that Foster called “Individual A” at 12:47 a.m.  and had a conversation that lasted almost two minutes.

The affidavit shows that on January 9, the term “muskatine  (sic) news” was searched on his phone around 9 a.m. and the term “muskatine (sic) murder” was searched at 6:45 p.m.

A news release was issued in the afternoon on January 8 which indicated investigators were looking into what happened but “at no time did law enforcement refer to the death of Ponce as a murder until Foster was taken into custody as a material witness,” read the affidavit.

An autopsy shows Ponce died from blunt force trauma to the head. Her injuries indicate she was struck by a vehicle, dragged by a vehicle and was thrown or jumped from a vehicle.

Foster was arrested on Jan. 10 in Marion, Iowa.

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