Material witness arrested in Highway 38 death investigation


Editor’s note: The following was submitted to the Advocate News by the Muscatine County Attorney.

On Jan. 11, Muscatine County Attorney Alan R. Ostergren announced that a material witness had been arrested in the investigation of the death of Lea Ponce. Ponce was found deceased on the shoulder of Highway 38 between Muscatine and Wilton in the early morning hours of Jan. 8, 2019.

Upon the discovery of Ponce's remains, the Muscatine County Sheriff's Office immediately commenced an investigation. They have been aided in the investigation by the Iowa State Patrol, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Muscatine Police Department, the Muscatine County Drug Task Force, the Coralville Police Department, the Iowa City Police Department, the Cedar Rapids Police Department, the Marion Police Department, and the Muscatine County Attorney's Office.

During the evening hours of Jan. 10, investigators arrested Douglas Joseph Foster, 35, of Marion, Iowa as a material witness to the killing of Ponce.

Under Iowa law a peace officer may take a material witness to a crime into custody when there is probable cause to believe the witness would not be available for the service of a subpoena to appear at a subsequent hearing or trial.

Foster is being held in the Muscatine County Jail on a $50,000 cash-only bond.

According to reports:

The Muscatine County Sheriffs Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation are investigating the death of Lea Ponce.

Ponce was found deceased on the side of Highway 38 at approximately 12:58 a.m. on Jan. 8, 2019. Investigation has revealed that Ponce was last seen alive at the Muscatine Walmart at 12:32 a.m. entering a white GMC pickup truck. This vehicle is associated with Foster.

Investigators discovered Foster's vehicle at 4857 10th Avenue in Marion, Iowa. The vehicle was parked behind a storage facility. Investigators received permission to search the facility from its owner. While inside, investigators discovered some of Ponce's personal property in an area where it appeared that Foster had been staying.

While examining the property, investigators found Foster hiding in an attic space among the rafters. Foster made statements during an interview he attempted to hide to avoid arrest on active out of state warrants.

Foster made post-Miranda statements indicating that he had picked up Ponce at the Muscatine Walmart but after a few minutes she insisted on getting out of the vehicle. Foster further claimed that he stopped the vehicle and Ponce got out. Foster then stated he returned to the Marion, Iowa area. While on the way back to Marion he claimed that he took a level "B" maintenance road and his vehicle became stuck.

Investigators have determined that Foster is wanted on a felony warrant out of the state of Texas. Based upon the forgoing your affiant believes that there is probable cause that Foster is a material witness to the killing of Ponce and that he would not likely be available for the service of a subpoena for an subsequent hearing or trial.