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With a population of under 4,000, West Liberty, Iowa is the kind of place where everyone knows each other, and neighbors leave their doors unlocked at night. That’s why it came as such a shock when Corey Wieneke was beaten to death with an aluminum baseball bat inside his home in 1992.
Born in 1970, Wieneke was known around the community for his amiable, outgoing personality.
“Corey was just like a big brother to everybody in the whole neighborhood,” his father, James Wieneke, told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
A football player for the West Liberty High School Comets, Wieneke made it all the way to the state championships, and it was around then that he started dating Jody Hotz. Friends and family thought she was a good influence, and the couple was completely dedicated to each other — or so it seemed.
In his spare time, Wieneke worked at Wink’s Bar & Grill, a restaurant owned by his grandparents that is run by the family to this day. He started out cleaning and filling the coolers, and when he turned 18, he started bartending. The gregarious ex-high school football star soon became Wink’s most popular bartender.
By 1992, Corey and Jody moved to a farmhouse outside of town owned by her father. She worked at a bank in Iowa City during the day, and he bartended at night. That fall, they announced their engagement.
The idyllic future they had planned, however, came to a crashing halt on Oct. 13, 1992, when Jody placed a frantic call to 911 around 6 p.m.
“I think my fiancé is dead,” she said in a recording of the call obtained by “Snapped.” “He’s all bloody, and he’s not breathing, and he’s cold.”
When first responders arrived at the scene, they found Wieneke’s body on the floor in his bedroom.
“You could immediately tell this was a blunt force trauma type of crime and the beating had taken place,” Muscatine County Sheriff C.J. Ryan told “Snapped.”
Investigators surveyed the crime scene and soon ruled out the possibility of a robbery or home invasion.
“The house wasn’t burglarized. There wasn't [sic] chairs or tables overturned, so I think the motive was very specific and was there to do harm,” Muscatine County Sheriff’s Captain Quinn Riess told producers.
Hotz told investigators she had last seen Wieneke asleep in bed when she left for work that morning at 8 a.m. When she got home, she was surprised to find their dog outside and Wieneke’s car in the driveway because he was supposed to be at Wink’s.
Speaking with Holtz’s co-workers, investigators were able to confirm her alibi, and they quickly eliminated her as a suspect.
The next morning, local media converged on the couple’s home, and a reporter notified authorities of a bloody aluminum baseball bat he had spotted on the road nearby.
“The blood was primarily on what you would consider the striking end of the bat,” Riess told “Snapped.”
The bat was recovered and sent for forensic testing, and it was later confirmed to be the murder weapon, according to the Des Moines Register newspaper. Unfortunately, no fingerprints or useful DNA evidence were retrieved from the bat.
A farmer who lived in the vicinity told authorities he had driven up and down the road near Wieneke’s house on the morning he was killed. He said the bat appeared on the road between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., narrowing down the time when the murder occurred.
In talking with Wieneke’s co-workers, investigators learned he was last seen leaving Wink’s at closing time on the morning of October 13 with his friend Wendi Marshall.
Authorities interviewed Marshall, who said when they left the bar, they were confronted by 29-year-old Annette Hazen, a regular and sometimes bartender at Wink’s. Marshall said that Annette was inebriated and that Wieneke offered to drive her home.
Annette became agitated during the car ride, at one point jumping out of the vehicle to argue with Wieneke. He then drove Marshall back to Wink’s, where she got in her own car. He then drove Hazen home, and later that night, he met up with Marshall.
Before authorities could even bring Annette in for questioning, she showed up at the police station to give a statement. According to Annette, she and Wieneke were having a casual sexual relationship.
She claimed they were supposed to hook up on October 13, and when she saw him come out of Wink’s with Marshall, she became jealous. She said, however, that she and Wieneke later made up and had sex.
Annette claimed she spent the next day working a roofing job with her sister-in-law, who corroborated her story. She said she stopped by Wieneke’s that morning to pick up a book she had left there, but he didn’t answer the door.
Authorities asked Annette to take a polygraph test, and the results showed “she did not display any indications of guilt,” Ryan told “Snapped.”
For 25 years, the murder investigation went nowhere, and authorities didn’t get their first big break until December 2017, when a woman named Jessica Becker approached agents with the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation to tell them about a disturbing memory from her childhood.
Becker told the agents she was friends with Annette’s niece, and when she was 9 years old, Becker attended a sleepover at her house, where Annette also lived.
In the middle of the night, Becker claims she came downstairs and heard Annette crying. "She was lighting black candles and apologizing to Corey, and she said, ‘I'm so sorry, Corey. I never meant to hurt you. I loved you Corey. I never meant to kill you,’” Becker later testified, according to Iowa ABC-affiliate WQAD-TV.
Becker told her mother, Cynthia Crogh, but they were too scared to report the incident to police. "The main reason I was scared was because of the brutality of the murder," Crogh later said, according to WQAD.
Investigators tracked down Annette, who remarried and was now known as Annette Cahill, to Tipton, Iowa. Annette was asked to meet with Iowa DCI agents, and she told them a different version of events than she had in 1992.
She claimed Corey was the love of her life and that they had planned to buy a bar and start a new life together.
“We had talked about skipping town,” she told investigators in video footage obtained by “Snapped.”
On a second occasion, Annette met with investigators at her home and told them she knew Wieneke would never leave his fiancé. When confronted with Becker’s statement, she became belligerent.
“Leave. I’m calling my lawyer,” she can be heard saying on an audio recording obtained by “Snapped.”
Annette was arrested on May 31, 2018 and charged with first-degree murder. The following year, Annette went on trial for the murder of Wieneke, and prosecutors contended that she had murdered the 22-year-old bartender in a jealous rage because of his relationships with other women.
Although Becker recounted the confession that she said she overheard when she was 9, there was no physical evidence linking Annette to the crime. After deliberating for six hours, the jury was deadlocked, and a mistrial was declared, according to WQAD.
By the time of Annette’s second murder trial six months later, prosecutors had a new witness — Scott Payne. A drug buddy of Annette’s brother, Payne claimed he saw Annette burning “blood-stained" clothing on the day of the murder.
When asked why he didn’t notify police, Payne told the jury, "I tried to avoid the police as often as I could," according to the Muscatine Journal newspaper.
Annette was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Wieneke on Sept. 19, 2019, reported the Quad City Times newspaper. The jury deliberated for 16 hours, at one point telling the judge they were deadlocked, before ultimately delivering a unanimous verdict.
Annette was given the maximum sentence of 50 years in prison, according to the Muscatine Journal. Now 57, she is currently incarcerated at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women. She continues to maintain her innocence and has filed an appeal of her conviction.
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