1980s Olathe gang member suspect in Missouri deaths

BY KEVIN WRIGHT (kansascity.com)
Jan. 27, 2010

MISSOURI- A man who was part of a loose-knit gang that went on a crime-spree in the mid-1980s in Olathe is the main suspect in an alleged murder-suicide in Lebanon, Mo.

Todd A. Johnson, 43, was discovered dead from a gunshot wound Friday in a car that was found in a quarry outside Lebanon, which is northeast of Springfield, Mo. It was a violent death for a man, whom in 1985, committed a string of violent crimes with his brother and five other men in Olathe.

Investigators say they think Johnson shot himself after his car went off the road because an autopsy showed he was alive when he suffered injuries from the crash, Laclede County Sheriff Richard Wrinkle said.

The placement of a shotgun, found between Johnson’s legs, and the fatal wound were consistent with suicide, Wrinkle said.

Johnson’s body was discovered the same day the bodies of his wife and 10-year-old son were found in the family’s upscale home in Lebanon. They had been shot to death.

Investigators initially thought the deaths were part of an alleged insurance-fraud scheme, Wrinkle said.

According to the Lebanon Daily Record, Johnson was the manager of four Sonic Restaurants in that region. An employee whom Johnson had told people he had fired, actually told sheriff’s investigators he was not fired and that Johnson asked him to help in a robbery and insurance scam.

Authorities theorize that Johnson brought the employee to his house to take jewelry, but in the midst of the plot, the motives apparently changed and the wife and son were killed. Now investigators wonder whether the insurance scam was even the reason Johnson brought the employee to the house.

Wrinkle did say it appears the employee had nothing to do with the deaths of Sheila Johnson, 40, or Blake Johnson, whose bodies were found in separate bedrooms in the home. A younger son apparently slept through the killings and discovered the bodies when a friend came to check on the family.

Todd Johnson married Sheila in 1994 after he was paroled from a Kansas prison in 1991 and later released from parole in 1993. Johnson was 18 when he was convicted of aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery, burglary, felony theft and two counts of aggravated battery. The charges were in connection with two attempts to rob a Wells Fargo armored car, the robbery of an Olathe grocery store and an Olathe savings and loan, and the burglary of the former Lakeside Hills Golf Course in Olathe, according to Johnson County court records and newspaper accounts.

In those robberies, a guard was shot and another man was beaten in the head with a baseball bat.

Five other male accomplices, ranging in age from 17 to 20 from Olathe, Spring Hill and Gardner were convicted on various charges related to the crimes. Another man killed himself before the trial after authorities charged him for his alleged role in the crime spree.

One of the men convicted was Todd Johnson’s brother, Brent L. Johnson, whom prosecutors said was the leader of the gang. The Johnson brothers lived in Spring Hill at the time.

Todd Johnson was sentenced in Johnson County District Court to 14-to-50 years in prison. Under Kansas sentencing guidelines at the time, he became eligible for parole after 5 years. Brent Johnson was sentenced to 19-to-70 years and was paroled from a Kansas prison in 1993 and discharged from parole in 1995.

Brent Johnson was on vacation in the Caribbean when the killings occurred in Lebanon, but he received an e-mail from Todd asking him to take care of his sons. Brent Johnson called a family friend to check on his brother’s family.

The younger son, who is 8, answered the door and asked the friend if he was late for school, according to reports in the Lebanon Daily Record. The friend asked the boy to check on his mother and brother. The boy came back saying both his mom and brother were covered with blood and needed help.

The boy was not injured and is staying with family, authorities said. The investigation remains open and authorities continue to interview people in the case.

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