Police: Johnson admits to firing gun

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Yuma Sun
Randy Hoeft/Yuma Sun
Eric Johnson, left, appears Thursday in Yuma County Justice Court in Yuma, Ariz., two days after his arrest in connection with the New Year’s Day shooting death of Sara Mutschlechner.

Suspect in New Year's Day slaying is no longer with Marines

Eric Jamal Johnson has admitted to what police suspected since his arrest — he was the lone shooter in the death of 20-year-old Sara Mutschlechner.

In an interview with Denton investigators in advance of his extradition from Arizona back to Texas, Johnson admitted to firing a weapon during the New Year’s Day shooting on Elm Street, according to a news release issued Friday by Denton police.

As the investigation continues, several items of evidence have been recovered, including a handgun police believe is the murder weapon Johnson wielded, the release said.

“Forensic analysis to determine if the firearm was used in the commission of the offense can take a substantial amount of time,” police said in the release. “Therefore, we will be unable to determine if this weapon was used in the offense until the analysis has been completed.”

Officer Shane Kizer, Denton police spokesman, declined to release the make of the handgun.

Johnson, who has been cooperating with police investigators, asked that his sympathies be conveyed to Mutschlechner’s family, the release said. He also wished the same for the Gamma Phi chapter of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority at the University of North Texas, of which Mutschlechner was a member.

The release stated there was a last-minute change to court proceedings and rather than Johnson appearing in superior court Monday, as originally scheduled, the hearing was held Friday.

“He has been cleared for extradition and we are working with the Denton County Sheriff’s Office to transport Eric back to Denton,” Kizer said in the release. “It is unknown how long this will take. However, we have 10 days to complete the process.”

Investigators have established there were four male passengers with Johnson in his vehicle at the time of Mutschlechner’s shooting. All of the occupants have been interviewed and have cooperated with the investigation, officials have said. None of the occupants have been charged, and they are considered witnesses at this point in the investigation, according to Kizer.

Johnson, 20, from Fort Worth, was arrested by U.S. Marshals on a military base in Yuma on Tuesday morning.

He is now a former Marine.

The Marines cut ties with the corporal as of Wednesday, according to Justin Smith, a spokesman for the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command.

“Johnson was administratively separated from the Marine Corps under other than honorable conditions based upon the commission of a serious offense,” Smith said in a news release Friday.

According to an arrest affidavit, police say Johnson was behind the wheel of a gray Honda Pilot from which shots were fired at the car Mutschlechner was driving. She was the designated driver for three of her friends after a New Year’s Eve party.

Mutschlechner was struck in the head and lost control of the car on North Elm Street. Her car hit another vehicle before crashing into a utility pole.

She was taken to a Denton hospital and died that evening.

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

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