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Gerald Carnahan gets 2 life prison sentences for murder, rape of Jackie Johns in 1985

Victim's sister: "We got him! We got him!"

October 25, 2010|by Sara Forhetz, KY3 News | sforhetz@ky3.com

CLAYTON, Mo. -- Gerald Carnahan, the principal suspect from the get-go for the rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman in Springfield in 1985, received two consecutive life prison sentences with no chance of parole or probation on Monday.  A St. Louis County jury convicted Carnahan, 52, last month for the death of Jackie Johns of Nixa.

Before the sentencing, Circuit Judge Michael Jamison listened to a victim impact statement read by one of Jackie Johns' three sisters, Jeanne Johns.  She said the pain from the murder was horrendous, that it hurt her family and the entire community, and the nightmares will always go on.

"It's such a bittersweet victory that he is where he is, but we will never get Jackie back, no matter what," Jeanne Johns said in an interview after the hearing.  "Like dad says, there is never closure but at least he's paying for the crime and he'll never be able to do it again, ever."

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Johns' father, Les, had planned to travel to Clayton to give his own victim impact statement but poor health forced him to stay home in Nixa.  Johns' mother died a few years after the murder of cancer but her family says the pain of the case is really what killed her.

Carnahan was in the courtroom in shackles and a brown inmate jumpsuit.  He looks much more gray headed than he did a few weeks ago when his trial was underway. When given the chance to make a statement, Carnahan declined.

Defense attorney Dee Wampler filed a motion for a new trial.  Prosecuting Attorney Darrell Moore asked the judge to deny the motion for lack of timeliness.  Moore said case law indicates that motion should be filed 25 days after trial, at most, but this motion was filed 28 days after the trial.

Wampler said he considers this to be a miscarriage of justice.  He said the trial had about 100 items of procedural errors.

Jamison agreed with the prosecutor about the timeliness of the motion and denied the motion for a new trial.  Wampler also argued unsuccessfully for the rape and murder sentences to run concurrently instead of consecutively.

Moore says he feels at peace with how the trial played out, and is thrilled to see it resolved.

"My big regret is that Les Johns could not be here himself, to personally see this chapter close and have his chance in open court to look at the man who took his daughter and give an impact statement.  I regret that," said Moore.

Wampler is off the case now.  He says it will be picked up by another attorney who specializes in appeals, in an effort to get the case before the Court of Appeals and possibly the Missouri Supreme Court."He has resolved to take the case up on appeal and to continue to fight for his innocence. I wish him well and can only say, as an attorney myself, and for Joe Passanise and Adam Woody (Wampler's associates), we did the very best we could," said Wampler.

Johnson disappeared from a convenience store parking lot in Nixa.  Her body turned up four days later in Lake Springfield.  Carnahan was investigated as a suspect within days but denied his involvement.  Later, he was charged with lying to police about the case, but a judge threw out a charge of tampering with evidence, ruling that lying is not the same thing as tampering.

In the intervening years, Carnahan's former stepdaughter was charged with perjury because police thought she lied to provide an alibi for Carnahan.  A jury acquitted her.  Carnahan later served time in prison for unrelated crimes for a break-in and a fire at a business.

In 2007, forensic analysis that wasn't available in the 1980s concluded that DNA found in Johns' car matched Carnahan's DNA.  That led to him being charged with first-degree murder and rape in August 2007.  That led to the trial, which was moved here from Greene County because of the extensive publicity that the case garned over 25 years.

Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Darrell Moore did not seek a death penalty in order to get the case to trial before he leaves office at the end of this year.  Les Johns' failing health was another factor in that decision.  Les Johns, who said he, like police, always suspected Carnahan, desired to have a verdict before he died.

As for Jackie's family, they feel this is the best outcome possible, and think Jackie would be proud.

"We got him! We got him!" said Jeanne Johns.

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