Heartland murder trial

Christopher Johnson

Updated - 12:30 May 6

At this hour, Christopher Johnson's fate is in the hands of a jury.

Prosecutor Laura Roan and defense attorney Tom Gaul both presented their closing arguments Friday morning.

Roan continued to argue to the jury that the only possible verdict for Johnson is First Degree murder.

Roans says the evidence in clear, that Johnson strangled his wife Anessa, leaving her immobile on the floor of their home. She says that Johnson then went to the kitchen, retreived a knife, straddled his wife and stabbed her six times and then watched her die.

Roan told jurors whatever caused Johnson to strangle his wife, he had plenty of time to calm down before he got the knife and fatally stabbed her, thus the necessary requirement for First Degree Murder, premeditation, has been met.

Roan reminded jurors that whatever Johnson did after he left the house, the multiple admissions of guilt and a suicide attempt are not relevant.

Johnson's attorney continued to argue that Anessa's death was a crime of passion, and that the state did not meet the burdern of proof for either First or Second degree murder. Gaul says nothing in Christopher actions in the immediate aftermath of the crime suggest he had planned the stabbing.

If jurors believe Johnson acted in the heat of the moment, the could convict Johnson of either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Whose version of the event on that summer day in June is now in the hands of an eleven woman, one man jury.

UPDATED - 2:38 p.m. / May 5.

A very eventful Thursday in the trial of Christopher Johnson.

Both the prosecution and defense rested their cases.

Early in the afternoon, District Court Judge Daniel Wilson sent the jury home so that closing arguments could be heard in the morning.

The case should be in the hands in the jury sometime tomorrow afternoon.

KTVO will continue to follow the trial.

UPDATED - 4:30 p.m. / May 4.

The defense in the First Degree murder trial of Christopher Johnson went on offense Wednesday afternoon.

Prosecutors are claiming that the June 2010 stabbing death of Johnson's wife Anessa was premeditated.

Defense attorney Tom Gaul says it was an act of passion that happened in the heat of the moment and that police don't even believe it was planned.

On cross examination Wednesday afternoon, Ottumwa Police Detective Steve Harris told Gaul he believed the crime was planned.

Gaul pounced on that statement and asked Harris to explain a statement he had made in a earlier deposition that seemed to suggest that Harris believed the crime was not planned.

Gaul announce to the court he had caught Harris in contridicting himself.

On redirect by Prosecutor Laura Roan, Harris said Gaul had taken the statement in the deposition out of context.

Harris explained what he had actually said in the statement was that the crime was not well planned or planned weeks in advance.

Harris also offered up testimony that seemed to confirm a fact of the case that had been alluded to throughout the trial.

Johnson was arrested in Burlington hours after the death of his wife after being involved in a one-car accident.

Harris says it looked like Johnson had intentionally driven his car into an embankment twice in an attempt to kill himself.

During many of the cell phone calls Johnson made to friends and family immediately after the stabbing, Johnson said he wanted to join his wife on the other side.

The Prosecution expects to rest its case Thursday morning.

UPDATED - 12:00 p.m. / May 4.

The prosecution continued its case Wednesday morning in the first degree murder trial of Christopher Johnson.

Assistant Attorney General Laura Roan offered evidence that in the 24 hour period immediately after the death of Anessa Johnson, Christopher voluntarily confessed to numerous people, including Ottumwa Police Lt. Tom McAndrew, that he killed his wife.

Roan also attempted to demonstrate that Johnson was searching for a story to mitigate his responsibility, telling some individuals that the stabbing happened after an altercation about money, telling others it happened after an intimate moment when the name of another man came up.

There was also testimony that Johnson told a Chaplin and a doctor at University Hospitals that he blacked out and didn't remember the murder.

Perhaps the most compelling testimony of the morning came from a co-worker of the couple.

Aaron Bogner told the jury that roughly a month before the murder, Christopher had said someone would find his wife dead and he would end up in jail.

KTVO will continue follow the trial.

UPDATED - 4:30 p.m. / May 3.

Testimony has began in the First Degree Murder Trial of Ottumwan Christopher Johnson.

Johnson is accused in the stabbing death of his wife Anessa Johnson in June 2010.

Anessa Johnson's father Harold Pherigo took the stand late Tuesday afternoon to describe the heartbreaking details of finding his daughter dead in her home.

Pherigo told jurors that he initally believed his daughter and fallen and hit her head. He described his desperate attempts to revive her.

He later testified that he did not know when he learned that his daughter had not fallen but, in fact, had been stabbed five times.

Before Pherigo took the stand, Iowa Assistant Attorney General Laura Roan laid out the state's case to 13 female and one male jurors and alternates.

Roan says the state will argue that Johnson meant to kill his wife and confessed as much to "half of Ottumwa."

Roan says it was only later that Johnson decided to change his version of events.

Defense Attorney Tom Gaul says he will argue that the act was not planned but the passionate result of a marriage that was rocky.

The trial resumes on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

UPDATE - 12:15 p.m. / May 3.

The court is halfway through the jury selection process. Prosecutors have finished asking questions in the voir dire process.

Several potential jurors have been released because they knew the victim or her family.

The defense will take up the selection process at 1:15 p.m.

Jury selection began Tuesday morning in the trial of Christopher Johnson. Johnson is charged in the stabbing death of his wife, Anessa Kay Johnson, 40, of Ottumwa. The alleged incident occurred in the 400 block of South Schuyler Street in Ottumwa, in late June of last year.

District Court Judge Daniel Wilson told jurors to expect a trial that lasts four days, ending on Friday.

Jury selection is expected to last through most of the afternoon.We will bring you updates as we have them. View previous stories....Man charged with fatally stabbing wife Murder suspect gets trial date