People who knew father David Wayne Johnson, 50, described him as “an excellent employee who took an active interest in his son.” That “active interest” resulted in him beating the boy to death.
On Monday, March 4, 2002, Johnson received a call from one of his son’s teachers at Prarie Heights High School. The teacher wanted to touch base because he was concerned about Kyle’s performance in class, particularly since the freshman had recently moved in with his father and even transferred schools in an attempt to raise his grades. Apparently, the boy’s efforts had failed to meet expectations—with horrifying results.
After an altercation that went on for hours, David Johnson called 911 later that same night, explaining that he and Kyle had “a little fight.” Although the boy was unresponsive, David claimed he “didn’t hit him hard,” and his son was “just a 15-year-old kid who doesn’t want to go to school and doesn’t want to do homework and he laughs at everything I say.”
Kyle was airlifted to a local hospital, but it was too late. He was DOA.
His father later confessed to slapping, kicking and punching Kyle. He further admitted that, after Kyle had been knocked to the ground, he rolled the boy onto his stomach, sat on his back, and punched him in the back of the head. A ligature of some kind was used to choke the teen. An autopsy would eventually determine his cause of death was a lascerated liver caused by blunt force trauma and strangulation.
David Johnson was initially offered a plea deal by LaGrange County Prosecutor Tim Cain which could have resulted in the killer serving only five years with time off for good behavior. Judge George E. Brown rejected that plea as too lenient, and Johnson was subsequently offered another deal. On November 6, 2002, he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for a sentence of twenty years in prison.
“I don’t think he meant to kill Kyle,” the teen’s mother, Terry Stephenson, said after her ex-husband’s appearance in court. “But he did.”
1. Stoner, Andrew E. Notorious 92. Bloomington, Rooftop Publishing, 2007.