Alicia Johnson made the mistake many battered women do, her attorney Danny Durham said Wednesday. She married her abuser because she thought she could change him.
Just months later, on July 21, 2010, Johnson, 38, stabbed David Lee Johnson to save herself, Durham said. She wouldn’t have needed a defense attorney but for the fact that initially – because she was scared – she lied about what happened that afternoon, he said.
Johnson was charged with murder in the death of her 23-year-old husband. On Wednesday in Richmond County Superior Court, Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. accepted a plea negotiation worked out by the attorneys: Johnson pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a 10-year probation sentence.
Blanchard agreed to sentence Johnson under the First Offender Act.
Assistant District Attorney Justin Jones said the Johnsons’ Sunset Villa apartment showed clear signs of domestic violence. In addition to neighbors and co-workers who gave statements that they had heard and seen her husband verbally and physically abuse Johnson, her home health care patients also witnessed the abuse and were willing to testify on her behalf, Jones said.
That last afternoon, Durham said, Johnson went home to rest between visiting patients. Her husband, who was outside cutting carpet, had “that look” that she knew meant trouble. She locked the front door and engaged the dead bolt but he kicked the door open and started beating her, Durham said. Johnson broke free and ran to the bathroom, barricading the door with a chair. The holes in the door were caused by her husband’s punches, Durham said.
He stopped and the apartment was quiet but Johnson waited 30 minutes before leaving the bathroom, Durham said. Her husband threw a vacuum cleaner at her with such force it broke open. Then he advanced on her with the carpet-cutting knife, Durham said. He was trying to stab Johnson but she was able to fight back, turning the knife so it stabbed him instead.
Afterward, Johnson told emergency workers and investigators that her husband tripped and fell on a knife.