Former Iowa Med Student Headed to Prison for Murder-for-Hire Plot

Megan Brooks

September 19, 2019

A former first-year University of Iowa (UI) medical student has been sentenced to over 7 years in federal prison for selling guns to a felon and attempting to hire a hitman to kill a UI professor and a girlfriend's ex-boyfriend.

According to the US Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa, Department of Justice (DOJ), Steven Arce, 36, of Waterloo, Iowa, sold an AR-15 rifle and a second gun to a known felon. He asked the felon to murder Christopher Cooper, MD, associate dean of the Carver College of Medicine, in Iowa City, and a urologist at UI Hospitals and Clinics, according to the Gazette newspaper.

Former medical student Steven Arce.

Cooper wasn't involved in the medical school's decision to dismiss Arce, who was failing classes, but was merely the messenger, according to the newspaper.

The felon told Arce he would need to talk to someone more qualified, according to a DOJ news release.

Arce later met with a potential hitman, who was actually an undercover police officer. During the meeting, Arce told the officer he also wanted his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend killed but indicated that he might want to delay the hit on Cooper, because he was "pursuing an appeal regarding his expulsion from medical school," the DOJ said. Arce offered to give the hitman a machine gun as a down payment on the murder.

Police later arrested Arce and searched his Waterloo, Iowa, apartment. The search turned up two other guns as well as gun parts that an expert said could be assembled into a machine gun.

Arce was sentenced to 90 months in prison and must also serve a 3-year term of supervised release after the prison term.

According to the Gazette, Cooper, who spoke at Arce's sentencing, said he had no idea Arce was planning to harm him and felt "fear and disbelief" for himself and his family after learning of Arce's plans.

During sentencing, Arce said he was "ashamed" of himself and the pain he had caused and admitted to having mental health and addiction problems, the newspaper reported.

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