DA seeks death penalty
Man charged in stabbing death of his 6-year-old son in February
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against an Arapahoe County man accused of stabbing his 6-year-old son to death.
Brandon Johnson, 27, faces eight charges in connection with the death of Riley Johnson on the morning of Feb. 10. Those charges include first-degree murder after deliberation and first-degree murder of a victim under 12.
During a hearing Friday in the Arapahoe County courthouse, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler presented the paperwork to seek the death penalty.
During the hearing, the defense team said it would file a guilty plea if Brauchler did not pursue the death penalty.
“At the end of the day, the track we’re on now is going to give the public that’s represented by 12 members that’s picked by both sides the opportunity to decide what the appropriate sentencing here is,” Brauchler told reporters after the hearing.
Other charges stem from Johnson’s alleged sexual assault of his ex-girlfriend, whom he lived with on the same morning.
Arapahoe County sheriff’s deputies were called to a home in the 500 block of East Harvard Avenue at 5 a.m. on Feb. 10 after a woman reported that her former boyfriend had sexually assaulted her at knifepoint.
When deputies arrived, they found Riley dead from knife wounds and Johnson on the floor in front of him with self-inflicted knife wounds. A 2year-old in the home was not harmed. Riley was Johnson’s son from another relationship, and the assault victim was the 2-year-old’s mother.
During a preliminary hearing Friday morning before Chief Judge Carlos Samour Jr., Arapahoe County sheriff’s investigator Tara Mueller said the couple had broken up a couple of months before but lived together for financial reasons. The week before the attack, the woman had texted Johnson that she was seeing someone else.
Johnson slept in one room with his son Riley, and the woman slept in another with their 2-year-old son, Mueller said.
The woman told Mueller that Johnson woke her up in the middle of the night, made her go to the living room under threat of a kitchen knife and sexually assaulted her.
Johnson’s former girlfriend told investigators that he threatened to kill the kids if she screamed during the alleged rape.
After the assault, the woman told investigators that Johnson walked back to his room with the knife. She heard one loud scream from the 6-year-old boy and then nothing else.
She told investigators that she tried to call 911 from Johnson’s phone but didn’t know his pass code. She went to her room to try with her phone when Johnson entered and she dropped her phone.
She told investigators that Johnson walked away and said, “All I wanted was a family.”
When he went back into his bedroom, she left the apartment and went to a neighbor’s to call the police.
The woman told investigators that Johnson had become withdrawn after the breakup, mentioning depression and potential selfharm. She said he had also started drinking. She said Johnson never expressed any resentment toward Riley during that time.
“I don’t know what I want,” said the boy’s mother, Rachel Johnson, when asked about the death penalty. “I just want it to be over.”
Rachel Johnson was wearing a jacket that said Riley on the back.
Brandon Johnson appeared in court Friday wearing a blue button-up shirt and black slacks. His family comforted each other as details of Riley’s death were discussed. They declined to comment afterward, although a female family member said she would be praying for both mothers before entering an elevator.
Brauchler last sought the death penalty in July 2015 in the Aurora movie theater shooting case where 12 people were killed and 70 were injured. The jury convicted the shooter on all counts but chose not to sentence him to death. The defense team had said it would plead guilty if Brauchler did not seek the death penalty.
“This is Colorado’s law. This isn’t my law,” Brauchler said. “This is what Colorado has said makes for an aggravated murder, not what I’ve said.”
His office also is considering the death penalty for Kevin Lyons, who is accused of shooting and killing a doctor and wounding two women in an April rampage through his Centennial neighborhood.
The ACLU of Colorado sent out a statement objecting to Brauchler’s decision to pursue the death penalty against Johnson.
“The death penalty is expensive and arbitrary, and every costly trial perpetuates a broken, racially biased system that can and does make irreversible mistakes,” ACLU of Colorado executive director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley said. “Brauchler wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on the Aurora theater trial, a multimillion-dollar failure that resulted in the same life sentence that was on the table all along.”
There are three men on Colorado’s death row: Nathan Dunlap, Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray. All are black and committed crimes in Arapahoe County.
Brandon Johnson is accused of killing his 6-yearold son.