Missouri Supreme Court Case Number: SC86689
Case Facts: A six-year-old girl disappeared in July 2002 from her Valley Park home after Johnny Johnson stayed the night in the home. That morning, Johnson awoke to find the girl standing near the couch on which he had been sleeping. He took the girl, still in her nightgown, to an abandoned glass factory nearby that is surrounded by wooded areas and a series of trails. He took the girl into a pit with walls more than 6 feet high, exposed himself, tore off the girl’s underwear and forced her to the ground. He attempted to rape her and then hit her in the head with a brick multiple times. Eventually, he knocked her to the ground and fractured the right side of her skull. Because she still was moving, Johnson lifted a basketball-sized boulder and brought it down on the girl’s head and neck. She stopped breathing soon after. Johnson buried the girl with rocks, leaves and debris from the pit, then went to the nearby Meramec River to wash blood and other evidence from his body. Police found Johnson and took him to the police station, where he was identified by a witness who had seen him carrying the girl earlier in the morning. He signed a waiver form after being advised of his rights and told police he wanted to make a statement.
After several hours of denying seeing or being with the girl that morning, Johnson ultimately told police the girl was in the old glass factory and that she had died in an accident. Before police were able to find the girl’s body, a private citizen who had joined the search for the girl chanced upon her body in the pit. A detective who investigated the scene told Johnson he did not believe the girl’s death was an accident. Johnson told the detective that he had exposed himself to the girl and had pulled down her underwear and killed her only after they both began “freaking out.” He did not admit that he intended to take the girl, rape her or kill her before entering the pit. Around 11:30 that night, while Johnson was awaiting booking, he began discussing the Bible and eternal salvation with another police detective. Johnson admitted he had not been completely honest to that point, returned to police headquarters, again waived his rights, and made verbal and audiotaped statements in which he admitted that he intended to take the girl to have sex with her and then kill her. An autopsy showed the girl died from blunt force injuries to her head.
At trial, Johnson did not deny killing the girl but disputed that he deliberated before doing so. He also presented a diminished capacity defense asserting that he could not deliberate because of schizo-affective disorder that caused command hallucinations telling him to rape and kill the girl. The jury convicted Johnson of first-degree murder, armed criminal action, kidnapping and attempted forcible rape. It recommended a sentence of death for the murder conviction, finding all three statutory aggravating factors presented by the state. It recommended life sentences for the remaining convictions. In accord with the jury’s recommendations, the court sentenced Johnson to death for the murder and, as a persistent offender, to consecutive life sentences for the other crimes.
This summary is not part of the opinion of the Court (11/7/06). It has been prepared by the Communications Counsel for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court and should not be quoted or cited. The opinion of the Court, which may be quoted, follows the summary.