City Winery employee charged in deadly coworker stabbing appears in court; West Loop venue reopens

Saturday, May 25, 2024
Suspect appears in court for deadly City Winery coworker stabbing
City Winery stabbing suspect Clarence Johnson was in court Friday, accused of killing his coworker Francois Swain in Chicago's West Loop on Wednesday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The City Winery staff reopened the venue Friday with heavy hearts after a tragic incident on Wednesday, where server Francois Swain was killed. Dishwasher Clarence Johnson is charged with Swain's murder.

Johnson was in court Friday as prosecutors argued he should remain in custody to wait for trial.

ABC7 Chicago is now streaming 24/7. Click here to watch

The prosecutor described a bizarre situation on Wednesday evening that began with Johnson laying on the floor of City Winery and praising to Jesus as staffers prepared for the evening and a few customers had arrived.

"The bartender then observed the victim, who was a server at the restaurant, ask the defendant why he was praying on the ground. The defendant got up and he and the victim walked away from the bar," Cook County Assistant States Attorney Anne McCord said.

McCord told the judge moments later the knife attack was unprovoked and was witnessed by four people.

"Two patrons seated at the bar observed the defendant with a knife in his hand chase the victim and stab him multiple times," McCord said.

SEE ALSO | Man stabbed, critically injured near Chicago Theatre in the Loop, police say

McCord told the judge that Johnson has 12 prior felony convictions. The most recent was in 2020 for drug possession. In that case, Johnson had just completed probation in March.

"Something happened I just don't know what went on he's a good man he don't bother no body," Johnson's girlfriend said.

Johnson's girlfriend did not want to be identified, but told ABC7 she was concerned about a change in his demeanor in the days prior to the attack.

"He wasn't acting the same, he just wasn't acting the same," she said. "I seen a different change... read a bible verse to him over the phone, and I told him to slow down. He didn't seem himself and it worried me."

Johnson was ordered to be held at the Cook County jail. He is due back in court June 12.

Meanwhile, there are sold out shows for Boney James Friday night at City Winery as the venue reopened.

The Founder and CEO of City Winery, Michael Dorf, said they have brought in counselors and have given employees the option to not work Friday evening.

Dorf said they plan to do something for Swain's family. For now, they are grieving their co-worker and trying to get through Friday night's shows.