BRITT, Iowa — The federal government has been given the green light to resume executions following a justice department study of the death penalty. It was announced on Thursday that Iowa drug kingpin Dustin Lee Honken, who killed five people in the early 90s, has been scheduled to be executed 15 years after receiving his sentence.
One of his victims was Terry DeGeus, a former dealer who Honken feared would testify against him. DeGeus’ daughter Ashley was just 10 years old when he went missing in 1993.
“You had to grow up fast. If it was storming, I would wake up crying because I didn’t know if he was in the rain or snow; things like that. I didn’t realize I was dreaming about it,” said Ashley, who now goes by her married name, Henken.
Henken says things didn’t get any easier in the seven years before his body was found.
“I actually got made fun of in school for it. People would tease me and ask me if things that were in the ditch, if that was him. It was hard,” she said.
No one knew that her father, along with another informant Greg Nicholson, Nicholson’s girlfriend Lori Duncan, and Duncan’s two young children, Kandi and Amber, had been murdered by Honken and his girlfriend/accomplice, Angela Johnson. The bodies were discovered in 2000 after Johnson drew a map for a jailhouse informant detailing their location in graves outside of Mason City.
“You got to go on every day. Some days are harder than others. The older I get I think the harder it is without him. He didn’t get to pick my first car to make sure it was safe; you know, just all that stuff. I think maybe it’s harder because the older I get, it’s the smaller things you realize he’s not there for. I had to wear a picture of him on my ankle when I got married. That’s how he walked me down the aisle,” said Henken.
Now with children of her own, Henken says peace has been hard to come by. She works at a small golf course in the town of Britt and says her world was rocked when she got a call that Honken had been scheduled to die.
“I’m still processing it, I think. I don’t know if I just put it off and thought in my mind that it would never happen, so I don’t know if I ever faced completely how I felt about it,” said Henken. “I struggle with the fact that he has children, and those children have never done anything wrong. I never did anything wrong, and I lost my dad. I don’t think they should have to suffer,” she said.
Henken says it’s something she will have to come to terms with in the next few months but says nothing will make her whole again.
“Everybody keeps asking if I think justice is being served. In the courtroom, yes; for me and my family and our lives, no. It doesn’t make him come back,” she said.
Honken will be put to death on January 15, 2020 at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.