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Jury finds husband not guilty in wife's death

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The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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After deliberating nearly 20 hours over three days, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury Monday found Johnnie Johnson not guilty of charges related to the death of his wife.

Johnson, 42, of 2030 Ashland Ave. was charged with two alternate counts of murder for the strangulation death of his wife, April Nicole Johnson. Ms. Johnson, 24, had been found unconscious and unresponsive in a central-city alley on May 23. She died four days later.

After the verdict, Judge Linda Jennings released Johnson from custody. He was led from the courtroom by deputies who transferred him back to the jail, where he was to be released.

Defense attorney Myron Duhart was out of town and unavailable for comment. Assistant county prosecutors Andy Lastra and Rob Miller declined comment.

Julie and Roger Bradford, Ms. Johnson's mother and stepfather, were angry and distraught after the verdict and declined to comment.

Several witnesses testified during the trial, including law enforcement officers, medical personnel, and residents of the neighborhood around the alley near Bancroft and Fulton streets, where Ms. Johnson's body was found. Ms. Johnson died of complications caused by strangulation.

Assistant prosecutors presented a case of opportunity, saying that Johnson was the one who had the chance to cause the injuries based on witness statements. The defense countered that Ms. Johnson was a known drug user and prostitute who was known to ply her trade in the alley where she was found.

Mr. Duhart asked about the many other people Ms. Johnson could have encountered as part of her dealings with drugs and prostitution. He asked jurors to question the state's case and consider the "other side of the story," which included Johnson looking for his wife on the night she was attacked and finding her unconscious in an alley.

The jury of seven women and five men began deliberating Thursday afternoon and worked late Friday before returning yesterday to reach the verdict.

The trial was the second time Johnson put his fate before a jury. Judge Jennings declared a mistrial Feb. 25, on day three of the trial after it was discovered that a piece of evidence had mistakenly not been given to the defense prior to the trial's start.

After the mistrial, Mrs. Bradford shared some thoughts about her daughter, saying there was more to the young woman than what was heard in court. Acknowledging her daughter had problems with drugs and had been "influenced by bad people," she said Ms. Johnson was someone who did not care for material possession but instead cared about helping others.

"[April] is a kind and gentle person," Mrs. Bradford wrote in a statement she had hoped to read one day to the judge. "She loved everyone unconditionally and everyone that knows her loved her."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.

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