Johnson waives extradition, will return to Texas to face charges

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Denton Police Department
Denton Police Department
Denton police Investigator Mike Sweet looks over Eric Jamal Johnson’s Honda Pilot on Wednesday. Police say Johnson was at the wheel when he was alleged to have shot and killed Sara Mutschlechner early Friday morning after leaving a New Year’s Eve party in Denton.
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Marine charged in death of UNT student locked up in Arizona

Update 4:35 p.m.

Eric Jamal Johnson could be back in Texas as soon as next week.

Johnson, the 20-year-old U.S. Marine corporal arrested for the New Year’s Day shooting death of Sara Mutschlechner in Denton, waived extradition during his court appearance Thursday afternoon in Yuma, Arizona.

Johnson will appear before a superior court judge at 8:30 a.m. Monday, according to Susan Northcutt with the Yuma Justice Court. Following this appearance, Northcutt said Denton County authorities will likely have the green light to bring Johnson back to face charges in connection with the death of Mutschlechner, a 20-year-old junior at the University of North Texas.

Northcutt did not know the reasons for Monday’s hearing. 

It is not known if Johnson has an attorney in Denton, but he did have a public defender with him for the Thursday hearing.

Johnson, a 20-year-old Marine Corps corporal from Fort Worth, was arrested by U.S. Marshals on a military base in Yuma on Tuesday morning.

According to an arrest affidavit, Johnson was behind the wheel of a gray Honda Pilot, from which shots were fired at the car Mutschlechner was driving with three of her friends inside.

Mutschlechner was struck in the head and lost control of the car, which hit another vehicle and then crashed into a utility pole.

She was taken to Denton Regional Medical Center, where she died Friday evening.

Denton police officer Shane Kizer said that once the department gets the OK to get Johnson, it has 10 days to do so. He is confident it will not take near that long and said they expect to work with the Denton County Sheriff’s Office on the transportation.

“They have more resources than we do,” Kizer said.

As for the investigation locally, Kizer said it continues.

“We have spoken to all the passengers in the car with him; they have been cooperative with us,” he said. “We will see from here where it goes.”

***

Update 3:01 p.m.

According to news sources, Eric Jamal Johnson waived extradition during his court appearance in Arizona this afternoon and will return to Texas to face charges in connection with the New Year’s Day shooting death of Sara Mutschlechner.

Following another court hearing scheduled for Monday in Yuma County, Johnson is expected to be back in Texas on Tuesday, according to reports.

***

Eric Johnson, the U.S. Marine accused of shooting and killing 20-year-old Sara Mutschlechner, will be in a Yuma County courtroom this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Denton law enforcement officials are waiting for legal proceedings to play out in Arizona so they can bring Johnson back to Texas to face a murder charge from the early New Year’s Day shooting of Mutschlechner, a junior film major at the University of North Texas.

Johnson, a 20-year-old Marine Corps corporal from Fort Worth, was arrested by U.S. Marshals on a military base in Yuma, Arizona, on Tuesday morning.

According to justice court officials, Johnson will be made aware of any charges the state of Arizona may have. It is not known if the court proceedings will address extradition.

“We’re hoping to get him back here [soon]; that could be set up if he agrees to waive extradition,” said Officer Shane Kizer, Denton police spokesman. “If not, it will have to go to a hearing and it will make it take a lot longer.”

Kizer said Wednesday he was not sure if Denton police investigators, who are in Arizona, have had a chance to speak to Johnson.

Here in Denton, Kizer said, “There is still a lot to do, so our investigation will continue.”

According to an arrest affidavit, Johnson was behind the wheel of a gray Honda Pilot, from which shots were fired at the car Mutschlechner was driving with three of her friends inside.

Mutschlechner was struck in the head and lost control of the car, which hit another vehicle and then crashed into a utility pole.

She was taken to Denton Regional Medical Center, where she died Friday evening.

Denton police investigators have identified all the occupants who were in Johnson’s vehicle at the time of the shooting, Kizer said. They are considered witnesses in the investigation at this time. Investigators say they feel confident that Johnson was the lone shooter.

Johnson has been in the Marine Corps since 2013.

“In the two and a half years Cpl. Eric Johnson, administrative specialist, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, has served in the Marine Corps, he has not been subject to any punitive action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” said Capt. Justin Smith, public affairs officer for the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Yuma.

During the time of the shooting, Johnson was on leave status beginning at 4:30 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time) Dec. 23 and returned on time at 7:30 a.m. Monday, Smith said.

“As an administrative specialist, Johnson was charged with performing personnel, general operational and manpower management administration for MAWTS-1,” Smith said. “As of Wednesday, Johnson remained on active duty, although as the investigation ensues, that status may change. No Marines were with him when the alleged incident occurred.”

Arian Helm, who spoke to WFAA-TV reporters near the home of Johnson’s mother in Fort Worth, said she has known Johnson since elementary school.

“He couldn’t have done this. That was my first reaction,” she said. “I’m just shocked. I’m speechless, you know?”

While Denton police wait, so do prosecutors with the Denton County District Attorney’s Office.

“Our involvement doesn’t generally start until they file an offense report with us, until they finish their work and bring us a completed case report for us to present to a grand jury,” said Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney. “That doesn’t mean we’re not in touch or they don’t reach out to us when needed. In some cases they don’t reach out to us at all and we read about in the media just like everyone else. It just kind of varies.”

Beck did say, though she could not get into specifics, that police investigators have sought consultation on a few things in the Johnson case.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjLewisDRC.


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