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Man used crowbar to beat roommate to death, police say

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A Jackson man was arraigned Monday morning on charges in connection with the beating death of his roommate.

Clarence Edward Johnson, 59, was arraigned, via video link , in Jackson City Court on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the beating death of 53-year-old John Wesley Williams.

According to Tennessee Code Annotated 39-13-202 (a) (1), “first degree murder is a premeditated and intentional killing of another.” A person convicted of the offense can be sentenced to death, life in prison without the possibility of parole or life imprisonment.

Tampering with evidence is a Class C felony, according to T.C.A. 39-16-503.

Johnson’s bond was set at $500,000 and he is scheduled to appear next in court at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 5.

According to an affidavit of complaint, around 7:06 p.m. on Nov. 22, a Jackson police officer was dispatched to 104 Second Street, a vacant house, on a report of a person being dead inside. When he arrived at the scene, Jones spoke to Johnson, who said he found Williams, his roommate, dead inside the house.

Investigators were called and found Williams’ body laying face down on a bed in the rear bedroom, the affidavit said. A comforter was covering the body, which had apparent, multiple injuries to the top of the head.

During the investigation, A Jackson police sergeant spoke to another man who said he saw Johnson earlier in the evening. The man said he saw Johnson remove an item, which the man referred to as a stick, his coat and sit the item near a tree in a yard in the 200 block of Middle Street. The man also told the sergeant that Johnson said his roommate was dead.

The sergeant found the item, which was a large crowbar, near the tree, just as the man had told him, the affidavit said. The crowbar had hair and blood on it.

The affidavit said Johnson told police he was alone in the house from 11 a.m. that morning until the body was found. He also said no other person had entered the house during that time period.

The medical examiner said the unofficial preliminary cause of the Williams’ death was determined to be blunt force trauma and that the time of death was in the time period Johnson said he was alone with the victim.

In a Sunday afternoon news release, the Jackson Police Department said its investigation shows that Johnson had struck Williams in the head multiple times with a crowbar and then got rid of the weapon. After finding the crowbar and questioning Johnson, “investigators determined there was sufficient evidence to file charges against Johnson.”

During Johnson’s arraignment Monday, Jackson City Court Judge Blake Anderson reads the affidavit. He then asked Johnson a series of questions.

When Anderson asked Johnson if he had any pending cases, Johnson said no and that he was not on probation.

Johnson told Anderson that he has lived in Jackson all of his life, attended school in Jackson and has a wife, daughter, sister, brother, aunts and cousins who also live in Jackson.

Johnson said he works as a handyman in the community and that the people he has worked for “highly appreciate me.”

When Anderson asked if he had a drug or alcohol problem, Johnson said he doesn’t.

“I do drink occasionally, but it’s not a problem that I cannot function in society,” Johnson said.

Johnson also said he was not a member of any gangs and that he did not have any mental health problems.

After questioning Johnson, Anderson asked the prosecutor what his recommendation for bond was. The prosecutor said because of Johnson’s criminal history, he recommended Johnson’s bond be set at $50,000. The judge agreed.

According to computer records at the J. Alexander Leech Criminal Justice Complex, Johnson has pleaded guilty to five misdemeanors since 1999.

On Nov. 18, 1999, Johnson pleaded guilty to domestic assault and resisting arrest. Besides being sentenced, Johnson was ordered to undergo a drug assessment, complete anger management course, and would be on probation. He was also ordered not to possess firearms and to stay away from the victims in the case.

On March 11, 2005, Johnson admitted to violating his probation and was ordered to have an alcohol and drug assessment. He had to remain in jail until the assessment was completed.

Seven years and one day later, Johnson entered a guilty plea for possession of cocaine, possession of schedule IV controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Johnson was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days, at 75 percent, on the possession of cocaine and schedule IV charges and fined $750 for each charge. The sentenced ran together.

He was also sentenced to 11 months and 29 days, at 75 percent, on the possession of drug paraphernalia and fined $150. That sentence ran consecutively to the first two sentences.

A violation of community corrections warrant was filed for Johnson on Aug. 19, 2012. Johnson’s probation was revoked on Sept. 24, 2010 and he was ordered to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Johnson’s probation was again revoked on Dec. 27, 2012.

On July 2, Johnson’s petition for early release was filed and on July 15, Johnson, representing himself, appeared in court on his petition and the court granted his early release.

A little over four months later, Johnson was charged in his roommate’s murder.

According to the Criminal Fees Summary document, Johnson has not made any payments on the $3,260.50 fees he was ordered to pay in the 1999 or 2012 cases.

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