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MARINETTE, WI - Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced that on March 5, 2009, Scott J. Johnson entered pleas of no contest before Marinette County Circuit Court Judge Tim A. Duket and was convicted of three (3) counts of first degree intentional homicide using a dangerous weapon, six (6) counts of attempted first degree intentional homicide using a dangerous weapon, and one count of second degree sexual assault by use or threats of force or violence.
Johnson had been scheduled to stand trial for the crimes starting March 16, 2009, in Marinette County Circuit Court. Under Wisconsin law, Johnson faces 3 mandatory life sentences for the homicides and an additional 445 years imprisonment for the other crimes for which he was convicted.
Johnson's change of plea was not the result of plea bargaining. The state is free to seek the maximum penalties allowed by law, including sentences of life without possibility of release on the homicide convictions.
"I am pleased that the defendant has been convicted without the need for the victims to undergo the trauma of reliving the defendant's senseless and violent actions at a trial," said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. "My heart goes out to the victims and their families. They have my deepest condolences, and I thank them for their patience, strength and courage in the face of this incredible tragedy."
Johnson's crime spree began on the night of July 30, 2008. Johnson, 38, of Kingsford, Michigan, sexually assaulted a 26 year old Michigan woman in the woods near the Wisconsin shoreline of the Menomonie River in the area of the East Kingsford train bridge in the Town of Niagara, Marinette County, Wisconsin. Despite the efforts of law enforcement officers from Michigan and Wisconsin on that night and the following day to locate and question Johnson concerning the sexual assault, Johnson managed to evade police.
On the afternoon of July 31, 2008, Johnson retrieved a high powered rifle and ammunition he had hidden in the woods and used it to shoot and kill two teenagers, Anthony Spigarelli and Tiffany Pohlson, in the woods near the train bridge, which is a popular summer swimming spot. Two other teenagers, Katrina Coates and Derek Barnes, escaped Johnson's attempts to kill them by running to safety at a house in Wisconsin.
Moments after shooting the teenagers in Wisconsin, Johnson opened fire on another group of teenagers gathered under the train bridge on the Michigan shore of the river, killing Bryan Mort. Four other teenagers, Daniel Gordon, Kevin Johnson, Jonathan McClure and Christopher Martinson escaped the shots. Law enforcement officers from multiple jurisdictions in Wisconsin and Michigan surrounded the area near the train bridge and on August 1, 2008, at about 8:45 a.m. captured Johnson, who confessed to the crimes.
"Although the case is not yet concluded, I would like to extend my appreciation to the many law enforcement agencies and citizens in Wisconsin and Michigan who helped in the capture, investigation, and prosecution of the defendant," said Van Hollen. "Their professionalism prevented even greater tragedy and permitted this case to be concluded with convictions on all charges in a timely and fair court proceeding."
A presentence investigation was ordered and will take approximately 8 weeks to complete. Sentencing has been scheduled for May 21, 2009.
Assistant Attorneys General Gary A. Freyberg and Roy R. Korte handled the prosecution for the state of Wisconsin as special prosecutors for Marinette County.