Michigan man pleads no contest to killing 3 teens


Posted on 6th March 2009 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 3/6/2009

Associated Press Writer

MARINETTE, Wis. (AP) — A man faces life in prison after he pleaded no contest Thursday to gunning down three youths and trying to kill six others in a river ambush near the Wisconsin-Michigan state line last summer.

Scott J. Johnson, 38, of Kingsford, Mich., withdrew his not guilty pleas earlier Thursday and pleaded no contest to 10 felonies. Marinette County Circuit Judge Tim Duket convicted him of three counts of first-degree intentional homicide, six counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and one count of second-degree sexual assault.

Johnson’s plea spares him a jury trial that was set to start March 16. Duket told Johnson that he could face a maximum of three life terms plus 445 years. The judge will decide at a May 21 hearing whether Johnson will be eligible for parole.

Prosecutor Gary Freyberg said he had no doubt Johnson would have been found guilty at a trial.

“We are delighted that the victims don’t have to go through the trauma of a trial,” Freyberg said. “They have suffered tremendously.”

Johnson’s lawyer, public defender Shannon Viel, said it was Johnson’s decision to change his plea and that there were no plea negotiations Thursday.

“He understands his situation,” Viel said. “He is not hiding anything. He is not in any denial.”

Johnson dropped an insanity plea in January, and reports filed by court-appointed psychologists who examined him in the fall have not been released.

Prosecutors said Johnson, an unemployed Army veteran and divorced father of two, fired at a group of youths at a popular swimming spot along the Menominee River in July, killing Tiffany Pohlson, 17, of Vulcan, Mich.; Anthony Spigarelli, 18, and Bryan Mort, 19, both of Iron Mountain, Mich.

Daniel Louis Gordon, 21, of Kingsford, Mich., also suffered a superficial back wound from shrapnel.

Johnson, wearing camouflage, hid in the woods overnight and turned himself in the next day.

The criminal complaint said Johnson thought about committing a random shooting for four or five years. He told investigators he stashed weapons in the woods for at least a year in preparation.

Johnson also was convicted of sexually assaulting a 24-year-old woman near the river the day before the shooting. He told investigators he knew police would be looking for him after the assault and that he plotted to kill as many officers as he could, then wound up shooting the youths when four of them started climbing toward where he was hiding, the complaint said.

His mother, Judy Johnson, has described her son as despondent since his wife left him in 2001 and took their children to Ohio. Johnson served five years in the Army and was honorably discharged in 1994, she said.

David Mort, the father of a victim, said he was relieved there would be no trial. His son was killed near a train bridge between state lines, and he has pushed for Johnson to be tried in federal court in Michigan, where a death penalty would be possible.

Viel and prosecutors declined to comment on the possibility of federal charges, referring questions to Michigan prosecutors. After-hours messages left at U.S. attorney’s offices in Lansing, Mich., and Marquette, Mich, were not immediately returned Thursday.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Drifter gets 55 years in Wis. torture-slay case


Posted on 11th November 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 11/11/2008

PORTAGE, Wis. (AP) _ A member of a gang of drifters was sentenced Monday to 55 years in prison for helping to kill another woman in the group and torturing the woman’s 11-year-old son.

Candice L. Clark, 24, pleaded no contest to being party to second-degree reckless homicide and guilty to charges including child abuse. She was also sentenced to 45 years of extended supervision and must serve about 47 years before being eligible to apply for early release.

Clark’s attorney did not return a message seeking comment.

Court records list multiple spellings for the defendant’s names, with her first name spelled Candice and Candace and her last name Clark and Clarke.

She was among three drifters charged in the death of 36-year-old Tammie Garlin, whose body was found buried last year behind a Portage home. Garlin’s then-11-year-old son also was found naked, severely beaten and burned in a locked closet.

Investigators believe the gang crisscrossed the country, running financial scams and stealing identities to support themselves.

Police found the group in Portage in June 2007 while looking for Clark’s 2-year-old daughter, whom she had kidnapped from foster parents in Florida.

They found the kidnapped girl there, along with Garlin’s son who was locked in a closet streaked with blood. Garlin’s body was found buried in a shallow backyard grave.

According to a criminal complaint, the boy told detectives the gang had burned him with hot water and whipped him with an extension cord as punishment. Doctors had to amputate several of his fingertips and three of his badly burned toes.

The case spurred an outpouring of sympathy for the boy and forced the Florida Department of Children and Families to assign specific workers to track missing children.

Two other group members were charged in the torture and killing.

Michaela Clerc, 22, is serving 37 years in prison.

Michael Sisk, 26, was found guilty in August of second-degree reckless homicide. He also pleaded guilty or no contest to nine other charges. His sentencing date has not been determined.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.