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Vernal woman sent to prison for killing husband in 2004
Courts » Questions about her mental health delayed the case for years.
First Published Feb 09 2012 02:38 pm • Last Updated Feb 09 2012 11:20 pm

A 75-year-old Vernal woman who shot and killed her husband two days after he filed for divorce has been sentence to prison for one to 15 years.

At sentencing Thursday in 8th District Court, Evelyn Christine Johnson claimed she grabbed a gun that was on a table and shot Alan Lavoy Johnson only after he appeared as though he would attack her, according to a prosecutor. The woman said she stopped firing when her husband stopped advancing. She then tended to his wounds.

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But Utah County Attorney G. Mark Thomas said Evelyn Johnson was upset by the divorce filing and feared she might lose her house because of it.

Originally charged with murder, Evelyn Johnson pleaded guilty in December to a reduced count of manslaughter for the August 2004 slaying.

The 71-year-old victim had made his wife a cup of coffee and was apologizing and offering to reconcile when she opened fire with a .22-caliber pistol inside the camper trailer where he lived, striking the man five times, according to court documents.

The case has been delayed for years because of questions surrounding the woman’s mental health. In May of last year, doctors found her competent.

Thomas said the woman was often deemed incompetent during short-term evaluations but later deemed competent while receiving in-patient treatment because doctors could monitor her behavior.

"I want you to know how very sorry I am for what has happened but under the circumstances and all the medication I was taking, no wonder it has come to this," Johnson told Judge A. Lynn Payne in an October letter to the court.

"I’m so confused in my head about what is taking place and I have a hard time understanding the legalities of all of this," she wrote, "It happened so many years ago, I’m not sure what is what anymore. My mind and body hurt from the moment I rise in the morning until the moment I lay down at night."

In the letter, Johnson told the judge she realized she had "broken the law and that there are consequences for my actions" and that she was "tired and ready to know my fate."


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Thomas said Johnson "presented herself as very feeble" during her court proceedings, though he questioned whether that was genuine.

afalk@sltrib.com



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