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Johnson admitted that he began a series of cover-ups: He called his mother-in-law, dismembered his wife, cleaned up afterward and drove his wife’s car to a park-and-ride lot so it would look like she had gone to work Monday morning at Target Corp., where she worked in marketing operations.
He smashed her cellphone and left it under her car to fake an abduction, he said, then rode a bike home.
At 8:01 a.m. Monday, he sent his wife an e-mail, as was their practice. He took his son to day care and went to work.
Manya Johnson’s friend and co-worker texted Johnson about 11:29 a.m. concerned about her whereabouts.
“I played along like I didn’t know where Manya was,” he testified.
Johnson said he e-mailed his wife at 11:30 a.m. “to play the charade.”
That afternoon he drove plastic tote bags containing his wife’s body to a friend’s home in White Bear Lake and stashed them in a garage without the friend’s knowledge.
At 12:37 p.m. he called 911. At 12:42 p.m. he called St. Paul police to report his wife missing. At 1:30 p.m. he met with his friend, whom he had befriended in prison, and confessed to his crime. But an hour later Johnson met up with his wife’s co-worker and searched for her, he testified.
Police intercepted him at the family’s home that afternoon.
Johnson said Friday that his wife “had a huge heart,” and that she had accepted him despite his criminal past.
“I did not deserve her,” he said. “I robbed my son of his mom and his dad. I have robbed her family of their daughter and their sister and their friend.”
As part of the plea agreement, a second-degree murder charge was dismissed and the state agreed not to oppose any attempts Johnson could make for early release after serving 30 years in prison.
Steven and Manya Johnson’s families declined to comment after the hearing. Manya’s parents are caring for the boy.
In court documents from Johnson’s 1996 conviction for aiding and abetting criminal sexual conduct in Anoka County, a psychologist diagnosed the 18-year-old as “particularly defective in his capacity for empathy” and as having “a pathological sexual adjustment that is not likely to be improved very much by the time he leaves prison.”
Johnson was sentenced to 17 years and two months in that case. He met Manya Johnson soon after his release from prison in February 2008.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib