Rebecca J. Johnson

Three dead in apparent double murder-suicide

Posted: Apr 01, 2008 5:20 PM EDT

Mary Milz

Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Police are investigating the deaths of three family members on the city's southwest side.

It happened Tuesday afternoon in the 5400 block of Gambel Road near I-465 and Kentucky Avenue. Police found three people dead inside the home there including a man, woman and their 14-year-old daughter. Police are calling it a double murder-suicide.

Police believe Stephen J. Johnson shot and killed his wife Renee G. Johnson, 49, and the couple's 14-year-old daughter Rebecca J. Johnson. Authorities found a suicide note at the scene.

"At this point, we believe it's an isolated incident," said IMPD Sgt. Paul Thompson. "It's domestic and did not involve anyone outside the household."

Sgt. Thompson said a 911 call came in at around 4:00 pm reporting a murder-suicide. Police say the caller identified himself as Stephen Johnson and that he told police where the bodies could be found in the house. Police have not yet confirmed that the caller was in fact Johnson, however.

"There's a possibility the man inside may have been the caller, we're still confirming that," Thompson said. "We're going to have to process the 911 tape."

The house was locked when the officers arrived at the scene. Keys to the door were found hanging on the mailbox next to the door.

Police found Stephen and Renee Johnson on a bed in a second-floor bedroom. Renee Johnson was under the covers of the bed, and Rebecca Johnson was on the floor of the same bedroom under some clothing. Detectives also found a cell phone belonging to Stephen Johnson, and they believe it was the same phone he used to call 911. Thompson said a gun was found near the bodies.

When nearby residents saw police arrive and set up a crime scene, they weren't sure what had happened.

"I told the kids to get in the house in case they're still looking for someone," Amanda Baker said.

As news later spread of a murder-suicide, another neighbor said, "It's just a shame."

Dwayne Brewer, who lives down the street, knew little of the family.

"They just stayed to themselves," Brewer said. "I can't tell you I ever saw anyone visiting."

Ritchie Kendall and his wife knew the family from church. When he saw several police cars and detectives in front of the house, he "thought it might be a mistake."

"You just don't think anything like this would happen. I can't see how anyone would kill a teenager," Kendall said.

Kendall's daughter was friends with the young victim, who was home-schooled. They said they knew of no problems or issues troubling the couple.

"I have no idea. No idea," said Marva Kendall. "I wouldn't expect it. He was nice, caring, he'd do anything for anybody."

Sgt. Thompson said there were no recent police calls to the home. He said detectives were talking to family members and friends in the hopes of better understanding what led to the violence.

In a press release issued Wednesday, Chief Michael Spears has asked that people be made aware of the need to seek help and guidance when in difficult situations instead of resorting to violence. "There are numerous social agencies available to assist wherein solutions can be found. The use of violence only causes pain and despair and never solves the underlying problem," the statement said.

Also see post for dear mother Renee G. Johnson.


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