DA seeks death penalty

Man charged in stab­bing death of his 6-year-old son in Fe­bru­ary

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Danika Wor­thing­ton

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.

Pro­vided by Ara­pa­hoe County

Bran­don John­son is ac­cused of killing his 6-yearold son.

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