What happened in the Laclede County murders? An inside look

What happened in the Laclede County murders? An inside look

Lebanon : MO : USA | Jan 24, 2010 at 7:12 AM PST
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Sheriff Richard Wrinkle

By Kathee Baird
Sentinel Staff Writer

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, 30, and Blake Johnson, 11, 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. The little boy and the family friend went to his mom's room where they found her beaten with her throat cut. Just down the hall, they found Blake in the same condition.
The Johnson family manage and operate several Sonic restaurants in the Lebanon area.
The employee told Brent Johnson that another Sonic employee had come to his home and told him that Todd Johnson had allegedly picked him up in his truck and wanted him to burglarize his house.
Early on in the investigation police said they were interviewing a person of interest in the case, and looking "for a family member to check his well being."
It 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, he told the man that what he really wanted him to do was kill his family.
Police believe that the employee that was supposed 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.
The employee that Johnson allegedly hired to burglarize his home left in his employers truck after he says he heard Johnson killing his family.
Todd Johnson fled the home too and was found dead in his vehicle that was at the bottom of a water filled rock quarry yesterday afternoon. Today, medical examiners determined that his cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head that is consistent with suicide.
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. 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."

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Todd and Shelia Johnson
Todd and Shelia Johnson in happier times.
ozarksentinel is based in Shell Knob, Missouri, United States of America, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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