Johnson guilty of First Degree murder

UPDATE- 4:15 MAY 6

The family of Anessa Johnson released the following statement after the conviction of Christopher Johnson for first degree murder.

"The family of Anessa Johnson is grateful for the decision reached by the jury in this case. The jury verdict proves that our system of justice works and that justice can be done. While this decision will not bring Anessa back to our family, it brings a great deal of relief to her family and peace to Anessa's memory. We would like to thank law enforcement for thier investigation into this terrible tragedy and prosecutore Laura Raon for bringing justice to this senseless loss."


It took a Wapello County jury only three hours to come to a verdict in the murder trial of Christopher Johnson.

The 11 woman, one man jury found the Ottumwa man guilty of First Degree Murder in the stabbing death of his wife.

Johnson show no visible reaction in court as the clerk read the verdict.

Judge Dan Wilson scheduled Johnson's sentencing hearing for June 27. Ironically, that is exactly one-year to the day when Johnson stabbed his wife Anessa to death in their home on the south side of Ottumwa.

It won't be official until the 27th, but First Degree Murder carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison without parole in the state of Iowa.

Johnson will be held in the Wapello County Jail until he is sentenced.

The jury apparently did not buy the defense argument that the crime was one of passion and the Johnson deserved to be found guilty of manslaughter, a charge that carries significantly less jail time.

Friday began with Assistant Attorney General Laura Roan and Defense Attorney Tom Gaul making their closing statements.

Roan argued to the jury that the only possible verdict for Johnson was First Degree murder.

Roan said the evidence was 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, had 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.

Complete coverage of the Johnson trial