The number of teenage killers in North America is relatively small. In fact, they amount to only 2% of all convicted killers. This murder stood out for me because not only was the killer a teenage girl who acted alone, but she also committed parricide – the murder of both of her parents. Usually when a female is involved in killing her parents, or anyone else for that matter, she tends to get a male, often her boyfriend, to do the killing for her. This girl however preferred to do the dirty work herself.
Sarah Marie Johnson (born January 24, 1987) was 16 years old in 2003 when she contacted police with the dreadful news that her parents had just been shot to death. Plump, plain Johnson was born on January 24, 1987 to Alan Scott Johnson and Diana Johnson. She grew up in the upper-class Idaho suburb of Bellevue and attended Wood River High School. Alan had made his comfortable living by working in paving for a landscaping company. Diana Johnson handled insurance claims for a local hospital. Both parents took out life insurance on themselves. They also had a sizeable inheritance for Diana in the event of their deaths. Of course the pair had no idea their demise would occur a lot sooner than they’d planned.
Sarah was once daddy’s princess. When she was a little girl she was pretty and thin. However over time she developed into a bit of a tomboy; she especially loved to attend a gun range to practice her shooting skills with her father and she excelled at marksmanship. Sarah aimed to become a teacher one day. She was academically inclined and quite popular. The Johnsons were proud of their little girl. Soon all of that changed and Sarah became a young girl who grew up too quickly. She developed a romantic relationship with a 19-year-old illegal alien from Mexico named Bruno Santos, a member of a drug gang. Santos wasn’t a good influence on Sarah. Before he met Sarah he preyed on young girls. Naturally Sarah’s parents disapproved of the relationship.
Johnson attended Santos’ home one day and warned him that if he didn’t stay away from his daughter, he’d have him charged for statutory rape. One criminal act would send Santos back to Mexico. Sarah was distraught. She loved Santos and planned on marrying him. The Johnsons and Sarah fought frequently about Santos. Sarah became more and more rebellious, even having sex with Santos in her bed when her parents were out one afternoon. One night, Sarah lied that she was spending the evening with her girlfriend. Instead she spent the night with Santos at his mother’s house. Alan told Sarah she was grounded indefinitely. Oops. That wasn’t a good move at all.
On September 2, 2003, Sarah spent the following weekend brooding in her room. Hours later, Sarah parents were shot to death in their home. Sarah ran to a neighbour’s house, completely clean without a drop of blood on her. She called 911 and told police her parents had been shot by an intruder. When police arrived, they found a bloody scene. Sarah’s mother had been shot in her sleep in bed. When Sarah’s father emerged from the shower he was shot in the chest. The bullet went through him and into the shower wall behind him. At the base of the bed, Sarah had carefully placed two knives, making the scene look like a drug murder. Nothing like pointing a finger at your true lover. Watch Vincent Doan Dog and Pony Show – 2:55 seconds
Early on in the police investigation, Sarah became a suspect due to the inconsistencies in her stories. Sarah claimed she’d been asleep in her bed when she heard two gunshots. She stated she ran into her parents room, closing her door behind her. This was impossible because blood from her mother was found on the wall of Sarah’s bedroom, opposite to her parent’s room. The rifle Sarah had left at the scene belonged to a tenant of her parents, who was renting a guest house near the property. Police believed that Sarah stole a .264 Winchester rifle registered to the tenant.
Sarah insisted she was innocent, but she fell under suspicion after the tenant’s alibi checked out, as did Santos’. Outside the Johnson house in a garbage can was a pink bathrobe. Police retrieved it and found there was no blood on the front of the robe – but there were several tiny specks on the back, suggesting the killer had worn the bathrobe backwards. Inside the robe were bullets and two latex gloves. Police brought Sarah to the police station and interrogated her for an hour but the tough teenager refused to crack. Finally Sarah was charged with the first degree murder of her parents. The upcoming trial made national headlines.
Sarah’s trial began in March 2005 and her defense focused on the possibility of another shooter. She stood trial as an adult. Santos took the stand against his true love, mostly to establish his own innocence. Interesting how the two star-crossed lovers turned against one another after the double murder. The prosecution concluded that at approximately 6:20 am on September 2, 2003, Sarah took the murder weapon from the guest house, walked into her parents’ bedroom and shot her mother in the head. She then walked into the bathroom and shot her father in the chest. Defense and prosecution agreed there was friction between Sarah and her parents due to Sarah’s relationship with Santos. Watch children who kill
Ultimately Sarah was found guilty of murdering her parents on March 16, 2005. Prosecutors had not sought the death penalty against Sarah due to her age at the time of the murders, but she was sentenced to life in prison. She proclaimed her innocence, stating “I loved my parents, and I love my family. I’m deeply grieving the loss of my parents, as well as the loss of my family, my home, my friends and my community.” Watch Deadly Women: s03 – lethal vengeance She is serving two life sentences without parole at the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center.