Friday, July 1, 2005

Johnson's family expresses dismay at her lack of remorse for slayings

Family recommends permanent imprisonment

Express Staff Writer

Matt Johnson told his sister that she "took his two best friends" from him. He asked the court to impose the maximum sentence. Photo by Willy Cook

In comments to the court Wednesday afternoon, Sarah Johnson's family asked the court to lock her up forever.

Johnson was convicted in March of murdering her parents, Alan and Diane Johnson, at the family's Bellevue home on Sept. 2, 2003. On Thursday, 5th District Judge Barry Wood sentenced her to two life terms without the possibility for parole.

Matt Johnson, Sarah Johnson's brother, said he wrote his sister a letter but left some things out. He attempted to fill in some gaps.

"Of all the things I miss, I miss their hugs. I miss their bear hugs," he said. "I think some honesty needs to come out of you. Otherwise, I'm going to have to ask the judge for the maximum."

He turned to the judge.

"I feel that she has no remorse," he said. "I feel she would do it again today, only she would do better planning. She would try to get away with it."

Lynn Murrill, Alan Johnson's sister, recommended a 55-year sentence but said she would "actually prefer that she never be released from prison."

"She is a spoiled, rotten brat who thinks of no one but herself," Murrill said. "I shudder of—if she gets out, she could go after Matt or other family because she thinks they deserted her. If she's capable of killing her parents, she's capable of killing someone else."

Pat Dishman is Sarah Johnson's grandmother and Diane Johnson's mother. In slow, deliberate words, she addressed her granddaughter.

"Sarah, I'm not talking to the court. I'm talking to you. I haven't talked to you since you were arrested. I need to talk with you now, Sarah," she said. "We have been absolutely devastated by the deaths of your mom and dad. This is most difficult, Sarah, because we all loved you. We all loved you.

"I still love you, Sarah, and I pray for you every day. I pray that you will come to terms with what you have done and that you will make your way back to God."

Lorna Kolash is Sarah Johnson's godmother. She, too, told Johnson that she loves her.

"If I could say to her: I love you still," Kolash said. "You are a lovely young woman. You had so much potential. How could you throw it all away? You have to pay for what you've done. I hope your heart softens, and you will be able to tell us why. That will haunt me forever. Why?"

Johnson was not without her supporters, however. Her adoptive family, Patricia and Neasha Alder, said they would be there if she ever were to be released from prison.

"She's been painted as this selfish monster. I see her as this loving, compassionate person," said Neasha Alder. "She's been an exemplary member of this community up to this event and, in my opinion, after this event."

Patricia Alder said she raised Johnson "from infancy" as a day-care provider.

"Yes, I'm very close to her. I love Sarah very much," she said.

Patricia Alder said she has not seen violent tendencies in Johnson.

"Not to my knowledge, no" she is not someone who's dangerous, not someone who society must be protected from, Patricia Alder said. She then addressed the family of Alan and Diane Johnson.

"I am very sorry for the tragedy you have suffered. I pray every night you will find some way, some comfort. Beside you not standing behind or beside Sarah in this ordeal, I still love you."

But the number of family members seeking Johnson's permanent imprisonment far outnumbered those seeking her eventual release.

Debbie Davis, Diane Johnson's sister, said she loves Sarah, too. But she also misses her sister.

"What's left now is a very large hole in our family, too large to fill," she said. "I would give almost anything just to talk with my sister and tell her I love her and put my arms around her just one more time."

Then she addressed Johnson.

"I hope the image of your father looking at you before you shot him will be burned in your mind forever," she said. "I don't hate you, Sarah. I'm just confused."

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