12/10/08 — Suspect in Iowa murders caught in Pikeville

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Suspect in Iowa murders caught in Pikeville

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on December 10, 2008 1:46 PM

Atiba Spellman

PIKEVILLE -- Police in Iowa are still investigating the motivation of Iowa State University student and former Pikeville resident Atiba Spellman, 33, who is wanted in connection with the murder of a former live-in girlfriend and a man she knew.

Spellman was captured late Monday afternoon outside Pikeville, where he reportedly has family, after Iowa authorities contacted the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.

Ames, Iowa, police Cmdr. Jim Robinson said he contacted state authorities in Iowa after receiving information that Spellman could be in Pikeville.

Wayne County Sheriff's Office deputies spotted Spellman driving in the Pikeville area around 3:40 p.m. and officially released information about his capture Tuesday.

The Ames Police Department, which serves a city of about 50,000 that includes Iowa State University, started its investigation on Dec. 6 at 2:17 a.m., after receiving a call that a man -- later identified as 32-year-old Michael Odikro of Ames -- was lying on the ground on a city street.

Officers found blood on the ground that led to a nearby apartment complex, where they found the second victim, identified on Dec. 8 by Ames police as Shakena "Amy" Varnell, 34, of Garden Road, Ames, Robinson said.

Spellman was identified as the only person of interest in the investigation almost immediately after police investigated the scene, a full two days before the victims were identified.

"It's still an active investigation," Robinson said. "We know that there had been a domestic-type relationship between the suspect (Spellman) and the female victim."

Robinson described the relationship between Spellman and his alleged victim as rocky.

"They had lived together on and off throughout the years, and their actual relationship leading up to the death is something we're still trying to determine," he said.

Robinson added that both victims were connected to Des Moines Area Community College in nearby Boone, where male victim Odikro was a student.

Ms. Varnell had been employed at the community college, he said.

The Iowa State University student newspaper reported that Spellman was a sophomore majoring in computer engineering at the school.

The student newspaper reported that Iowa court records show that Ms. Varnell and Spellman had been involved in more than one domestic abuse cases, and that Ms. Varnell had filed several protective orders against Spellman.

Spellman was still in Wayne County Jail on Tuesday evening, being held on a $2 million bond, according to Sheriff's Office officials.

The former Pikeville resident faces two counts of first-degree murder, which are Class A felonies, the most severe that Iowa law describes.