Material witness arrested in death investigation of woman found along highway

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A material witness was arrested Thursday in the death investigation of a woman found dead along an Iowa state highway earlier this week. 

Muscatine County Attorney Alan R. Ostergren announced that Douglas Joseph Foster has been arrested in the investigation of the death of Lea Ponce. Ponce was found deceased on the shoulder of Iowa Highway 38 between Muscatine and Wilton on Tuesday in the early morning hours.

Foster, 35, of Marion, Iowa was arrested Thursday evening 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.

The allegation that an individual is a material witness is not an allegation that the individual has committed a crime. As with any allegation made by a law enforcement officer or prosecutor, a person alleged to be a material witness has the right to a determination of the allegation’s merit in a court proceeding.

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.

EARLIER UPDATE: The woman found dead along an Iowa state highway has been identified.

Authorities identified the victim as 20-year-old Lea Renae Ponce of Fairfield, Iowa. 

Muscatine County deputies spotted her laying by the side of the Iowa Highway 38 just north of the intersection with 155th Street. 

There’s no determination of any foul play.

EARLIER UPDATE

A woman was found dead early Tuesday on the side of Iowa Highway 38 just north of the intersection with County Road F70.

The Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office received a call around 1 a.m. about a woman on the side of the road.

When deputies arrived, the woman was dead. Iowa 38 was shut down for an investigation.

The woman’s identity is not being released at this time. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Iowa State Patrol, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Muscatine County Attorney’s Office are assisting the investigation.

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