Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sheriff Says Person Was In Garage The Night Lebanon Family Was Murdered:

Todd and Sheila Johnson (family photo)

The case of a Lebanon family's murder yesterday (01-22-10) has taken another twist that has left investigators with more questions than answers.

Shortly before 8 a.m. Friday morning a family member of Sheila Johnson, 40, and Blake Johnson, 10, got an e-mail message saying that someone should go check on the family. Brent Johnson, who was on vacation in the Caribbean, called one of his employees and close family friend in Rogersville and asked him to go check on his brother and his family.

When the friend got to Todd Johnson's Goldenwood Road home, an eight year-old little boy answered the door. Sheriff Richard Wrinkle says the little boy asked him, "am I late for school... did we oversleep?” The family friend told the boy he needed to talk to his mom. The boy went upstairs and ran back down saying his mom was covered in blood."

The friend then told him to go check on Blake. Just down the hall the little boy found Blake in the same condition. "He came back and said his brother needed help," Wrinkle said.

The Johnson family are partners in the Excell Group that mange and operate several Sonic restaurants in the Lebanon area.




Johnson Family Home on Goldenwood Road (courtesy KJEL)


The employee that Brent Johnson called said that another Sonic employee had come to his home and told him that Todd Johnson had allegedly picked him up in his truck because he wanted him to burglarize his house.





Early on in the investigation cops said they were interviewing a person of interest in the case, and looking "for a family member to check his well being."

Turns out that the person of interest cops were talking to was the Sonic employee that Todd Johnson allegedly "hired" to steal his wife's jewelry and make it look like someone had broken into his home. When the employee told Johnson that he couldn't find his wife's jewelry, Johnson allegedly told the man that what he really wanted him to do was kill his family.

The employee that was asked to kill the Johnson family hid in the garage Thursday night/Friday morning, but couldn't go through with the murders.

Sources close to the investigation say that Johnson had told people that he was going to fire the employee and was, "afraid that he might follow him home one night." Investigators believe it was a set up, and that the man was also going to become a victim of Todd Johnson.

The employee that Johnson allegedly hired to burglarize his home left in his employers truck after he says he heard Johnson killing his family.


Laclede County Sheriff Richard Wrinkle




Todd Johnson fled the home to and was found dead in his vehicle that was at the bottom of a water filled rock quarry yesterday afternoon.

Some people who had been at a recycling center on Ginger Road hit a deer and got out to look at the damage to their car. "They saw fresh tire tracks that led off the side of the road, looked over the side saw a car in water and called us," Wrinkle says.

Today, medical examiners determined that Todd Johnson's cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head that is consistent with suicide. Investigators found a twenty guage shotgun in the wreckage that was bent from the impact of the crash.


Johnson crash photo courtesy Lebanon Daily Record

Wrinkle says that when Johnson shot himself in the head it caused his car to accelerate and fly off a berm before it dropped 100 feet to the bottom of the quarry and flipped into the water. The force of the impact ripped the aorta in his chest causing his lungs to fill with blood. "He wasn't dead when he hit the water...but he didn't live long after he hit hit it," the sheriff said.

Wrinkle says that at this point they are treating the employee as a witness in the investigation, "how much more convenient could it have been for Johnson to kill this guy that he was afraid of if he had come home and found him killing his family? I don't think Todd counted on him taking his truck that morning!"

Wrinkle says he will ask the Highway Patrol to reconstruct the crash scene to "make sure we've got it right. This investigation is nowhere near complete."

NOTE: When news was breaking, I was told that Sheila Johnson was 30, and Blake was 11. The ages in the story have been corrected to reflect their accurate ages.

Online court records out of Kansas show that Todd Johnson has a conviction for aggravated robbery, burglary and theft from 1985.

Eight year-old Bryce has been placed in the custody of his 22 year-old adopted sister. Funeral arrangements for the Sheila and Blake Johnson will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church in Lebanon; burial will follow at Mt. Rose Memorial Park.

Funeral services for Todd Johnson have been canceled. A private memorial service will be held at a later date. Arrangements are being handled by Butler Funeral Home in Bolivar.

Services are being handled jointly Holman-Howe Funeral Home in Lebanon and Butler Funeral Home in Bolivar.

An educational fund has been established for Brice Johnson, donations may be left at either funeral home or the

Bryce Johnson Educational Fund

c/o Heritage Bank of the Ozarks

1475 S. Jefferson Avenue

Lebanon, Missouri 65536

.

18 comments:

Mandy said...

Kathee, Brent was on vacation in Cozumel, Mexico, not the Caribbean.

Anonymous said...

The Johnson's have a history of violent crime.

Anonymous said...

Kathee, care to comment on the sheriff's interview with KY3 and the substantial change in story coming out of that office? For example now saying the younger child had already discovered the bodies before visitors arrived and also that the employee in the garage left before any sign of trouble and that he had no idea murders were to take place? Also how then did the truck get to the nursing home?

Anonymous said...

Todd Johnson has a record from when he was just out of high school. He was involved with other people who committed a crime and yes, he was part of it, but that does not mean he has a "history of violent crimes" He did serve his time. This also makes him an easy target and a very believable suspect. It's really almost too easy. Not saying he didn't do it, but doubting it. There are too many things that do not add up in this case. If you had been to prison and knew you could possibly go back, why would you risk your whole life that you spent building for $130,00? Why would you so violently kill only part of your family? Why did the guy in the garage hear the murders, but little Brice didn't? If you were scared for your life, would you go back into the house to get keys to a truck to leave? How would you know which vehicles keys you grabbed? if your truck was a mile away, wouldn't you QUIETLY make a run for it? At least to a neighbors to call 911, especially if you were going to turn yourself in hours later? Or did this give you time to clean yourself up? Where are the bloody clothes? They have to be somewhere? You can't kill like that and not have bloody clothes? Why are we all so quick to judge the dad? Because he killed himself? IF he did that, maybe it was because he knew everyone would quickly assume it was him........Never even really check out anyone else! We are supposed to be guilty until proven innocent in this country. And no one is giving Sheila any credit here, she knew Todd when he was in trouble when we were groing up - she loved him through all of it and obviously stuck by his side. If she had any reason to think that her kids were in any kind of danger - she wouldn't have stayed with him!! She was a smart woman. Wouldn't she have at least said something to someone close to her about being worried about him (Todd) hurting her or the kids, if she were scared? I know that things are not always what they seem on the outside looking in. No one has a perfect marriage, but seriously. Does a murder that make? And how do you choose which child to leave behind? Wouldn't it be so much easier to wipe out the whole family if you were really going to do something like this? I've been involved in a murder investigation before, lost a very close friend. I wanted to tell you all to trust in your police department, they do have reasons behind what they do and say. But after reading some background on your town's past with crimes, I couldn't keep my mouth shut anymore. I cannot sleep - there are too many questions left unanswered. And if your sheriff really said the Why is not as important as the How - you all may be in trouble there. If he meant it and it wasn't part of the strategy behind the investigation. I pray that the truth be known. For your town, but mostly for Brice and Amber and the Millers and Johnsons!! This has left their hometown devastated, too! Sheila was very loved and thought of in wonderful ways. Its important to remember that Todd should not be slung through the mud automatically - he has a son who will be very affected by all the things said!! And as a mother, myself, it would just break my heart to have people thinking this of my son - that he could possibly do this to his family, especially his son. Please do make him guilty just yet - unless caught in the act, how can you solve a murder as easy as 1,2,3? It's almost too easy.... my sister always says, "If it seems to good to be true, it usually it......."
Good luck to your town. There are many you will never know praying for your town and mostly this family and the investigation.

Kathee Baird said...

To anon @8:36 a.m.:

All I can report is what my source with inside knowledge of the case said.

We will have to wait for the complete investigative report to be filed in a couple of months to have a comprehensive account of the investigation.

There are some details I know that I will not publish....that little boy has and will have a tough row to hoe!

Anonymous said...

isn't it strange that this employee knows the family so well, that he was the one called by brother, Brent? or is that a mistake? one report said this witness was at the house of the family friend when Brent called. Either way, he seems in pretty close with the family. Close enough to know things that others might not - if he drove his truck there and parked a mile away, how did he drive 2 vehicles? did this family friend help the witness? not saying he did, just throwing out other scenarios. what if one of them could get into Todd's email? there was someone in his house for hours..... the keys still bother me! you have to know where someone puts them when they walk in, which ones to grab BEFORE you go hide in the garage and listen to someone kill their family. This witness would also know what Todd's crime was back in 1985 or 86! So why not claim he wanted the witness to steal jewelry - that CANNOT be found. Too easy! And how interesting that this all happened when Brent was out of town. Why not any other time? Was it planned for this time? If so, whether the witness was directly involved, wouldn't it be premeditated and wouldn't he be an accessory? I'm glad to hear there really are pieces of evidence that we do not know of. The little boy would seem to be key in a few different ways. Was there any history of their father hurting anyone in the house? Flying off the handle at them, for no reason? Had he seemed different recently. Surely if you left your house that day, knowing you were going to committed these crimes, you would not be in your right mind. Todd would have had to have every little detail planned out - when to fire the employee, when to begin to "be afraid of him" in order to set the witness/employee up in a significant amount of time to be believeable. If this man had stolen from the store, why wouldn't he be just as likely as Todd to harm this family? More so, he had no emotional ties....
Is anyone else's head spinning??!!

Anonymous said...

I've heard they are calling a Coroner's Inquest. I was jurist on the last CI, and it was a joke. No real evidence, just what they wanted you to hear it seemed. There is so much more to this story. Why would Todd go to the middle of nowhere to kill himself? Why not right there in the house? If he planned all of this, then why wouldn't he want his "alleged" suicide to be seen as a homicide? I don't believe Todd was that ignorant. If he had life insurance, homicide pays, suicide normally doesn't. Where the hell are any bloody clothes. If the struggle and subsequent murders were by stabbing and beating, the killer had to have a fair amount of blood on him. Did he really position the shotgun between his legs and manage to pull the trigger with his finger....while fumbling under the steering column. Or, was he wearing shoes when discovered? I would think you would have to pull the trigger with a toe or something. Nobody in this town believes that Todd Johnson killed his family and himself. I appreciate that much has to be kept out of the media, but to sound like a bumbling ass on TV, radio and in the papers causes even more doubt in the Sheriff's Dept's actions.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 10:04 - What do you call it when someone gets shot in the commission of a crime? I would call that violent. What do you call it when someone get beaten with a baseball bat during the commission of a crime? I would call that violent.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the whole "suicide doesn't get life insurance" argument a number of times. That is seldom true. There is normally a one year exclusion for suicide, after that it pays regardless of suicide. Still doing it for the insurance doesn't make sense if you've already killed half your family.

Anonymous said...

Since everyone now knows Todd was a convicted felon and felons cannot own guns can the Feds please step in and relieve the boob in charge. I would also be interested in knowing how Bryce's name was spelled in the text message to Brent.

Anonymous said...

Todd and Sheila were coustomers at are salon. And I want everyone to understand. This man loved his Family. The picture you see above of he and his wife, was at Christmas, and thats how they always were. he always came to the shop to gring her a drink from sonic and would pamper her in any way. when the boys played sports, and other dads yelled at the kids, Todd never did, he was passive, positive, the type that would encourage his boys. We also know that Todd was Just in a looking forwards to his daugthers wedding, so proud coud'nt wait. we know the women at the Tanning Salon they go to they always go together always smiling and was in three day befor the murder and purchased a tanning package. So please Why so many plans for the future and and how does a man hear you killing your family in the garage but a child doesnt hear you in the next room. where is the garage from the bedrooms. Why if the did not know Todd was dead did they ask for the mom when the son came to the door why not call 911 on the way????? Does ignorance ever matter isent there a law. IF YOU HEAR SOMEONE KILLING THE FIRST PERSON, DO YOU NOT GET HELP OR THE SECOND, WHY IS HE NOT IN JAIL FOR NOT CALLING FOR HELP MAYBE HE LET THEM DIE.

Kathee Baird said...

To anon @ 4:46:

Only handguns apply to felons possessing firearms.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the stats on how often in a murder/suicide (like what they are saying happened here)the murderer, then suicidal individual leaves the scene and then kills himself? As opposed to just killing himself/herself at the scene of all the other killings? It just smells of a rat. This was not Todd.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Brent and his family very well but I have been around them enough to know that they are good people and extremely family oriented. (always about the kids) Todd would even take and watch his nephew to sporting events when his parents couldn't. (I didn't know Todd but he displayed interest and pride in his nephew) I pray that the person or persons that did this are swiftly caught, bound and executed. Pray for this family.

Anonymous said...

Amber was not adopted, she actually chose to live with the Johnsons. "The Village" seems to think they have it all figured out.
They are all in our prayers.

Anonymous said...

Has there been any information about the results of the polygraph test for the Sonic employee? I believe it was to have taken place last Mon. (25th). Has there been any information about if the Sonic employee had a criminal record?
Anything new at all?

Anonymous said...

I have known Todd for over 30 years. I have now doubt that his unending greed drove him to murder his family. The devil hides in plain site.

Anonymous said...

I am a family member, Amber was Sheila's sister's daughter and chose to live with Sheila "Pipi" because her mother could not give her proper care. Only the family and police know the entire story, and I believe the police are not telling the entire story. I do know Todd did the crime, and he will never be forgiven for the pain he caused for my family.