PRINCETON — A circuit court jury has convicted a local man of burglary, petit larceny, and destruction of property, according to the Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Jerry Hedrick Johnson, 47, of Princeton was convicted of all charges after a jury trial before Circuit Court Judge William J. Sadler, according to a statement released by Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler.
Johnson was charged with burglary, petit larceny, and destruction of property after his arrest at a Princeton home on July 10. Trooper K.A. Filer of the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment was dispatched to 130 Jennings Street in response to a 911 call from a 15-year-old boy, who advised that a stranger had broken into his home. The boy testified that he barricaded himself in his bedroom with a firearm while Johnson, armed with an ice pick, went from room to room, calling “Where are you?”
Filer testified Tuesday during the trial that he found Johnson inside the home when he arrived and found the glass on the front door broken. Filer stated that Johnson was holding the ice pick in one hand and a can of beer in the other.
While being taken into custody, Johnson reportedly put the sharp tool in his pocket after being ordered to drop it, and declared that he had entered the home to “kill his brother to stop him from killing any more people,” according to Filer.
Filer testified that Johnson behaved in an erratic manner and appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
Public Defender Stephanie Pfeifer called Eric Walls, M.A., a licensed psychologist, who testified to having examined Johnson. Walls said finding Johnson competent to stand trial and criminally responsible, and he also stated that Johnson would have had difficulty forming criminal intent due to “drug-induced psychosis,” according to the press release.
On cross-examination by Sitler, Walls said that there were no drug screens indicating the presence or level of drugs in Johnson’s system, and that Johnson’s statements in previous psychiatric treatment records were demonstrably false.
Walls also said that Johnson’s assertions about the incident were not corroborated by witnesses at the scene or 911 records, that Johnson failed to disclose his stated intent to kill someone when he entered the home, and that psychiatric treatment records included findings that Johnson had expressed homicidal ideation (intent to kill), according to the press release. When Walls said that it was difficult to determine someone’s intent after the fact, Sitler replied, “That’s what juries are for, sir.”
In her closing argument, Assistant Prosecutor Lauren Lynch said, “Mr. Johnson understood and complied with Trooper Filer’s commands. He wasn’t so out of his mind that he couldn’t form the intent to commit a crime.”
Lynch asked the jury to consider Johnson’s stated intentions for entering the house and to disregard the assertion that he suffered from diminished capacity.
After deliberating for five minutes, the jury returned a unanimous verdict and convicted Johnson of burglary, destruction of property, and petit larceny. The possible penalty is an indeterminate penitentiary sentence of one to 15 years, plus two one-year misdemeanor jail terms, according to the press release.
Sitler thanked Trooper Filer for his prompt response to the scene and praised the 15-year-old boy for his quick thinking and his courage in testifying.
Sentencing is scheduled for February 2020.
Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline. com