Suspected serial killer charged in women's murders

May 30, 2010 8:59:37 PM PDT
Authorities say DNA evidence led them to Michael Johnson, who is accused of strangling women on the Far South Side.Police said Sunday that a potential fourth victim Johnson allegedly left for dead actually survived the attack and later identified him.

Johnson, 24, remained in police custody Sunday night after a judge ordered him held without bond. Investigators say they looking into whether Johnson is responsible for any more strangulation murders, including one that happened earlier this month.

"I worried about her every day," said mother Lutilda Hudson.

Hudson worried because her daughter, Michelle, often refused to take her medication for bipolar disorder, and when she did, Hudson says Michelle wound up living on the streets.

Last week, the 29-year-old was found strangled in a South Side abandoned building, her murder very similar to the three others police say are the work of alleged serial killer Michael Johnson.

"I'm hoping the [DNA] results come in soon. So, each step is a closure, but the real closure would be if they have the right person," Hudson said.

Another victim's family members, Maurice Wickliffe and Elaine Brown, finally got the closure they wanted after Johnson, a Roseland area man, was charged with the January 2010 murder of their relative, 28-year-old Leslie Brown, and two other women.

"We're just so happy that they caught this guy just so it won't happen to nobody else," cousin Elaine Brown said.

Police arrested Johnson near his home in the 100-block of East 120th Place on Thursday and charged him with first-degree murder for the strangulation deaths of the women. The 24-year-old accused serial killer also faces attempted first-degree murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault charges for his alleged attack on a fourth victim. It appears the attacks all happened in abandoned buildings on the Far South Side.

"Unchecked and unoccupied buildings provide a safe haven for the criminals to commit their heinous acts," said Chicago Police Dept. Supt. Jody Weis.

Investigators say the attacks date back to 2008, when 38-year-old Eureka Jackson was found strangled in November inside an abandoned building.

Siobhan Hampton's naked body discovered on March 30 in an abandoned first-floor storefront. Just the day before, friends concerned about her safety say they had begged the 30-year-old to go home.

"The next morning when I got up to open up my shop, I happen to walk across the street by Harold's Chicken, and I see her laying in there dead," said Johnnell Payton, the victim's friend.

Police eventually issued a community alert warning of the danger, but their big break came last weekend when a woman said she was attacked by the suspect who left her to die.

"I believe that he probably thought he had choked her to death. She ended up surviving," said Detective Regina Hightower of Area 2 police detectives.

Johnson was arrested and charged with simple battery, but because the location of the May 22nd attack and its similarity to the string of strangulation murders, officers collected a DNA swab from him, which matched DNA evidence from the other three victims.

"We look at all those cases and then the DNA, that's when things all jelled together. That was the big tie," said Lt. Anthony Carothers, acting commander, Area 2 police headquarters.

And the DNA evidence is what Maurice Wickliffe says will allow his friend to finally rest in peace.

"She was out in the streets, but she was a human being, and she didn't deserve to die like that," Wickliffe said.

According to police, Michael Johnson has a minor criminal background, including a couple of misdeamonor arrests. Johnson's court-appointed public defender says the 24-year-old planned to start college in the fall and he had worked as a canvassar raising money for charity groups.


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