Army Health Care Specialist Jermaine Johnson has entered a guilty plea to murder for killing Myria Nicole Dunniphan-Silva last October.
Johnson entered into a plea agreement shortly before his court martial was set to begin today at Fort Leonard Wood. As part of the plea agreement, Johnson had to write out in his own hand exactly what happened the night that Myria Silva died.
Military judge Col. Charles Hayes heard the case as a bench trial because Johnson and his defense team opted not to have a jury hear the case.
Johnson said he met Myria Silva at the Rockin’ R Saloon, where she worked as a waitress. Johnson said that one night Silva came to him and told him she had something to tell him....that she was married.
Johnson told Judge Hayes that he was "destroyed" by Silva's revelation, but that he didn't want to let her got.
Johnson testified he was drunk at the time of the Myria Silva's murder, but knew what he was doing. He described to Col. Hayes how he beat Silva into unconsciousness on or about October 10, 2008, then drove her to a secluded area an hour west of the post.
Johnson says he stopped on the side of the highway and was contemplating killing himself when Myria began to wake up. Wanting her to "stay asleep," Johnson said he knelt over her and punched her as hard as he could with his left and and swung with his right.
It was what was in his right had that ultimately led to Silva's death. Johnson said he held a kitchen knife and that when he swung his right hand the knife sliced her throat. Johnson testified that he watched his lover die and had no legal justification for killing her. "It was not self defense," he said.
Silva's body was found stuffed inside a sleeping bag with her throat slit in an outbuilding of an abandoned farmhouse in Webster County on October 14, 2008. That farmhouse burned to the ground a month later.Johnson apologized to Silva’s family and friends, including her mother and husband.
Prosecutors reduced the charge from premeditated murder and agreed to drop all the other charges in exchange for the guilty plea.
Johnson, an Army reservist who was called activated to duty out of Mobile, Alabama, but he was raised in Iowa.
Myria Silva, 23, was the wife of Pfc. Benjamin Silva who was deployed to Iraq at the time of his wife's murder. Myria would have turned 24, four days ago was also the mother of two little girls.
At about 10:00 p.m. last night, Johnson was sentenced to thirty years in prison for Myria's death, according to her mother Katie Duniphan. Besides 30 years in prison, Johnson will be dishonorably discharged, forfeit all pay and benefits, and be dropped three ranks to the lowest rank of private E-1.
Duniphan doesn't understand why the military whittled down the charges for her daughters murder. Duniphan said, "he has totally changed my life. I only had one child...now I don't even get to see my grandbabbies. He took away everything I ever believed in."
Myria's stepmother, Nikki Middleton, isn't happy with the sentence either. Her father, Dave Middleton, tried to get on base at the post this week to leave a victim impact statement to be read at Johnson's sentencing. However, his wife says, "he was turned away at the entrance to the base."
Dave Middleton is on his way to Minnesota for work and his wife isn't sure how she is going to tell him what happened at the court martial. "I just can't believe it, Nikki Middleton said....I don't know how I'm going to tell her dad."
Myria's family has set up a website for her friends and family to leave messages and memories of her. You can link to it here.
A soldier from Fort Leonard Wood accused of killing the wife of a fellow soldier is due in a military courtroom tomorrow for court martial proceedings.
Army health care specialist Jermaine Johnson is charged with premeditated murder, assault and kidnapping in last October's beating and slashing death of Myria Silva.
Silva's body was found stuffed inside a sleeping bag with her throat slit in an abandoned farmhouse in Webster County on October 14th, 2008.
According to Myria's mother, Katie Duniphan, some of the original charges against Johnson were dropped because he wasn't read his rights when he was taken into custody for questioning the first time.
It appears that Johnson has agreed to a plea deal in the case.
Duniphan says the military has advised her that the court martial will get underway at 1 p.m. and could take a couple of days to complete.
If convicted of all charges, the maximum punishment for Johnson is life in prison without the possibility of parole.