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Brutality set Johnson case apart

When Joe Buice took office in 2005, he was the fourth sheriff to inherit the massive Donna Johnson murder file. His predecessors, Frank Monaghan, Chuck Keadle and Larry Waller, had tried in vain to solve the now 26-year-old mystery. Buice and his investigators were struck by two things: the brutality of the killing and that the same old leads had been pursued time and time again during previous administrations. There is no arguing the brutality of the crime. ’This wasn’t about sex or money. Any detective would agree. It was overkill. The perp wanted her to suffer. He ran over her while she was still alive. She was sexually violated with a foreign object. That makes it personal. The brutality is the biggest piece of proven evidence. It narrows the field of suspects,’ the former sheriff said. Buice felt many of the old leads were red herrings dangled in front of the noses of law enforcement in an effort to pull them off the trail of the real killer. ’The real reason there has been no trial in this case is because too many mistruths and rumors have overwhelmed investigators in the past. Each of those leads were followed, thoroughly investigated and proven false but they still kept going back to them,’ Buice added. Buice and his team quickly dismissed the age old theory Johnson encountered a random killer at the dumpster. The crime was too brutal and the car had been wiped clean of all prints, a highly unlikely sequence of events on a roadside in broad daylight. They felt – and still feel the scene at the dumpster was staged. Instead of chasing drug dealers in Florida and the strange notion a serial killer may have wandered into the area at the time of the murder, they kept the investigation close to home. The interview recordings they turned over to the GBI in early 2006 were of Johnson’s widower, Jimmy Johnson, and his kin: Jan Johnson, Mike Johnson, Linda Johnson, Johnny Johnson and Eric Johnson. Two others interviewed were Versie Hill and Peter David Grubb. All live or lived within five miles of the murder scene. Grubb resides at 162 Holly Lane in The Rock and is currently on the GBI’s sex offender list for Pike County following a July 15, 2008 conviction for obscene internet contact with a child. Buice said he has heard more about the Donna Johnson case in recent weeks than at any time in recent memory. ’The community as a whole is eternally grateful to know someone still cares about Donna Ogletree and refuses to let her memory die. The exhaustive efforts of The Herald-Gazette will help bring the person responsible to justice. People want to know the truth. Donna was more than a number in a forgotten file. She was a living, breathing human being who was loved by all who knew her. She deserves justice,’ he said.

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