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Southern Missouri father suspected in murder of wife and son

Monday, January 25, 2010 | 9:13 a.m. CST; updated 10:33 a.m. CST, Monday, January 25, 2010

LEBANON — A southern Missouri man apparently killed himself on the same day his wife and oldest son were beaten and stabbed to death, authorities said.

The Lebanon Daily Record reported that authorities were looking for Todd Johnson as a suspect in the deaths of 30-year-old Sheila Johnson and 11-year-old Blake Johnson when his body was found Friday afternoon in a car at the bottom of a quarry.

Autopsies were conducted Saturday. Laclede County Sheriff Richard Wrinkle said homicide hasn't been ruled out in Todd Johnson's death, but he suspects Johnson shot himself before his car crashed into the water-filled quarry.

The last anyone heard from Johnson was in an e-mail the Sonic manager apparently sent to his brother after 5 a.m. Friday.

"'I'm in trouble, take care of the kids, here's where my insurance and financial records are,'" Wrinkle said, describing the content of the e-mail. "He named them — 'Take care of Blake and Brice' — and Blake had been dead for several hours."

His brother, who is on vacation out of the country, didn't retrieve the e-mail until after 7 a.m., Wrinkle said. When he did, he called a friend in Rogersville who works at a Sonic restaurant.

Wrinkle said a family friend was sent to the Johnson home north of Lebanon, where a younger son answered the door. The family friend asked the unharmed boy to rouse his mother and brother, but the boy said they were covered in blood, Wrinkle said. Authorities believe the child slept through the killings.

Wrinkle said the man who received the initial call from Johnson's brother had a friend "there with him" who had been at Johnson's house from around 10 p.m. Thursday to around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. Friday.

Wrinkle said it is believed that man was at the house when the killings took place and that Todd Johnson had brought the man there to steal jewelry so they could file an insurance claim. But Wrinkle doesn't believe the man was directly involved in the killings of Sheila and Blake Johnson.

The possible witness, who worked at a Sonic restaurant that Todd Johnson managed, has been interviewed by investigators several times and allowed his car to be searched.


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Comments

steve z January 25, 2010 | 6:10 p.m.

This case has me slightly puzzled at the speed it was solved and the fact that the father left one child alive?
And if the house was torn apart as I’ve seen in print how could the man that was at the house when the killings took place have not known and Todd Johnson had brought the man there to steal jewelry so they could file an insurance claim.
So where’s the jewelry and why would he arrange a theft or a possible murder with a witness there?
The pieces don’t add up contrary to official statements the why is important why didn’t Johnson just rob the restaurant?
The sheriff has dismissed this person assisting in the robbery even if it was a scam it was a robbery and 2 people are dead this person went there knowing he was committing a felony during this alleged felony 2 people where killed during the commission of a crime although the sheriff doesn't believe the man was directly involved in the killings of Sheila and Blake Johnson.
This person is or should be considered an accessory to during or after the facts.

When asked at the press conference about any known motive for the murders, Wrinkle said motive is not as important as it is on television.

“The why isn’t nearly as important as the how,” he said.

I believe in most investigations motive is the first thing a grand jury wants I know I do because if we get it wrong and the evidence doesn’t support the facts we may see a similar case again?

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley January 25, 2010 | 7:31 p.m.

The motive is more important than "the how". You get to "the how" by asking "why", and the answer to "why" is the motive.

You can have a man standing over a hacked up body with a bloody hatchet, and charge that man with murder but never get a conviction without showing a motive. This has actually happened before.

How does a white collar insurance fraud scheme turn into a violent murder of two people, one being an eleven year old boy? This just does not make much sense to me. Was there a history of abuse with Todd Johnson and his children?

Todd mentions both of his children's names in the email that was sent after 5:00 AM, as if he believed both children were alive at the time he sent the email. Yet, this article leads us to believe that the eleven year old child was dead before the email was sent:

************************************************************
"Wrinkle said the man who received the initial call from Johnson's brother had a friend "there with him" who had been at Johnson's house from around 10 p.m. Thursday to around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. Friday.

Wrinkle said it is believed that man was at the house when the killings took place and that Todd Johnson had brought the man there to steal jewelry so they could file an insurance claim. But Wrinkle doesn't believe the man was directly involved in the killings of Sheila and Blake Johnson."
************************************************************

So, Todd Johnson and his "friend" go to the house, and are there from 10:00 PM Thursday to about 4:00AM Friday. Then approximately one hour later Todd Johnson writes an email that indicates that he believes that both of his children are alive? Where was this email sent from?

Motive IS important here! Why would Todd Johnson kill his wife and child just to orchestrate a theft so he could defraud his insurance company? I hope this Sheriff is not such a "dipstick" that he is not asking this question. Why would Todd indicate that believed that both of his children were alive in that email, if he had already killed one of them? Something is just not right here......

I suppose motive is not important if you don't care about who gets convicted for this crime, or whether or not they are actually guilty of the crime....?

Rick.

(Report Comment)
Todd Anderson January 28, 2010 | 2:03 a.m.

There is a lot that does not make sense. Why did he need to take someone with him if he only wanted to steal jewelry? I've read where some think he planned to pin the murders on the witness/employee. I'm assumming he killed both in their beds while they were asleep. Why did he kill the 11 yr old? Very convenient for the brother to be out of the country at the time of the crime. I'm sure all are aware of the crime spree that landed both these privaleged brothers in the pen previously. Will be interesting to see the shake out. I just can't handle the murder of a child and the appearence that it likely was done by his father.

(Report Comment)
melody bowman January 30, 2010 | 9:52 p.m.

I would like to know the spelling of Bryce's name in the email to Todd's brother. In the news aricle its spelled Brice but that's wrong.

(Report Comment)
Sherry Reyes April 25, 2010 | 11:17 a.m.

Did you know that this case is still open and that Todd's body is still frozen? Don't you think it's strange how this case is still open, but there has been no mention of any other details since January 28 (six days after the murders)? Hmmm... if the community knows the case is still open then the community thinks the case is being worked on. There are so many weird twists and unanswered questions to this case. I knew Todd and Sheila for many, many years. They completely loved each other. Todd was very open about his past in the 80's and never tried to hide it. He wanted people to know what he had done and to know that he knew his actions then were wrong. This was a man who adopted wife's niece to give her a better life. This was a guy who for many years prior to being a partner in Sonic, had a dream of being a partner in Sonic. This was a good guy that law enforcement has apparently already convicted due to his past of 25 years ago.

Let's see, an employee who Todd said he had fired and was scared of claims that Todd drove him to his house to steal Sheila's jewlry valued at $130k. I knew Sheila very well - she was not a jewlry person. She liked jewlry and had some, but $130k I think would be stretching it! So why would Todd take this guy to his house at 10:30 at night to steal jewlry. How was the guy suppose to get back home if he got there in Todd's truck? Why did the employee sit in a garage for SIX hours? Try sitting in your own garage for six hours... Some reports say the employee heard Todd killing his family, if he did why didn't he call the police? If he didn't hear anything, then again, why did he sit in a garage for SIX hours? Why was the employee not arrested for grand theft auto when he took Todd's truck without his permission? Why was the employee not arrested for attempt to commit a crime? I find it very interesting that the brother (leader of the 80's gang) was out of the country when the murders occurred. The brother is who was contacted via email/text from Todd. Yet the brother contacted a friend in Rogersville who just happened to be in the presence of the Sonic employee who was at Todd's house for SIX hours (during the time of the murders). Todd's email/text said take care of my BOYS then named them. Yet by the time this message was sent one of the boys was already dead. Statistics prove that the majority of suicides in a murder/suicide case occur at the crime scene. Authorities say that Todd shot himself and that he died by the one shot. What makes Todd different from statistics? Why would he drive many miles away from the crime scene to kill himself? How does someone hold a shot gun and blow their head off while the truck is still in drive? Now I realize that Lebanon is a small community and investigations cost money, but this was a family who was murdered. If I lived in that community I would want something more than hypothetical answers before I would feel safe again.

(Report Comment)

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