The man who shot and killed Tony and Katherine Butterfield at their West Jordan home in April has been sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Third District Court Judge James Blanch sentenced Albert Johnson on Thursday, after Johnson pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated murder and a count of aggravated robbery in connection to an unrelated robbery.
Police have said that Johnson broke into the Butterfields' home on April 18, killing the couple and taking some of their belongings. The Butterfields' three young children, ages 4, 2 and 6 months, were home at the time and were not harmed.
Johnson told investigators, according to court documents, that he was worried about finances. He said he knew the Butterfields and “believed they had money,” and that he went to their house to “get money.”
Wearing a mask, Johnson kicked in the door and went to their bedroom, forcing them out of bed. He took them downstairs, collected money and their cellphones and left, documents said. He said he left the house with $20 and the cellphones, police said.
But when he got to the car, he realized he didn’t have his car keys. Johnson went back, this time not wearing a mask, and that’s where he met Tony Butterfield again — and when Tony Butterfield recognized Johnson.
Johnson then shot and killed the couple and fled to California, where he was arrested after a fight with police that left him visibly injured in his mugshot.
Johnson’s wife, Sina Johnson, was later arrested and charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly cleaning up evidence and lying to police about seeing her husband after the Butterfields had been killed. She pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony charge in August.
A supporter of the Butterfield’s was emotional in the courtroom as she read a series of letters from family members. The letters described the couple as “unwavering lights of love” and “respected, adored, admired.”
The letterwriters grappled with whether — and how — to forgive Johnson. Some urged Johnson to change and become a better person. Some were angry and relieved that Johnson would be in prison for the rest of his life.
“Your actions that night will forever cause pain for so many people who loved and cared for Tony and Katherine. And I hope that someday you will feel remorse for your actions and ask for forgiveness. I might never forgive you, but God might."
Johnson apologized to members of the Butterfield family who were in the courtroom after asking judge if he could face them.
“I want to say thank you for praying for me," Johnson said. "I’m doing my best to read the Book of Mormon and the Scriptures and try to find closure and come to the reality of what I have to face from here on out. I’m so sorry for your sister, your brother, their kids. That’s not really my character. ... I’m so sorry. I apologize.”
Judge Blanch later thanked Johnson for taking responsibility for the crime and said the sentence of life without parole was appropriate.
“This is a sad day, and I’m very sorry that we all had to go through this. I wish everyone the best going forward," Blanch said. "Nothing can be done to change what happened. The best that you can do to honor the memory of [the Butterfields] is to live your best lives and see to it that their children have the types of lives that they deserve.”