CONVICTION UPHELD: Judge refuses retrial in murder of Jackie Johns

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 9:40 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - This week, a judge upheld a conviction in a murder case that Springfield has never forgotten. In 1985, Jackie Johns was murdered. Gerald Carnahan was found guilty of raping and murdering the 20-year-old woman 25 years later. Since then, Carnahan’s attorneys have challenged his conviction. Now a judge has now refused the request for a new trial.

For Jackie Johns' sister Jeanne, no amount of time can take away the tragedy of 1985 and the many years that followed. It was June when Jackie went missing.

“It’s something that you live with every day, but you learn to live with it," Jeanne Johns said.

Just days after her sports car was found abandoned and bloodied at a Christian County gas station, 20-year-old Jackie Johns' beaten body was pulled from Springfield Lake.

At the time, witnesses told police they saw Gerald Carnahan at the same gas station. He was considered a suspect.

“We knew who did it. Law officials knew who did it but there was no evidence," Jeanne Johns said. "This went on for years and years. It was hard. It was hard knowing he was out on the street still.”

It wasn’t until 2007 that detectives connected Carnahan to the crime with evidence from Jackie’s body. Dee Wampler was Carnahan’s defense attorney at trial.

“It got down to about eight millionths of a gram of DNA," Wampler said.

For Jackie’s family, and the jury, it was enough.

“And then when he was convicted it was like, oh, that was the most wonderful feeling in the world," Jeanne Johns said.

At trial, Wampler questioned investigators about the preservation of the DNA and asked experts about its reliability.

“The DNA scientific abilities have increased so much over the last 25 years that they got a match," Wampler said.

Wampler did not call Carnahan to the stand to testify on his own behalf, because he had a criminal record. In 1993, Carnahan was convicted of attempted kidnapping in Springfield and sentenced to two years in prison. Wampler said he tried to pick a young woman up on the side of the road. Before his sentence began, he pleaded guilty to burglary, stealing and arson for a separate incident.

In 2012, Carnahan asked for an appeal in the Jackie Johns case and a new attorney took over. Wampler said it’s common for the convicted to challenge the evidence and their lawyers. A judge decided this week, the trial was fair and there is no need to do it all over again.

Wampler said the case was complicated and unpopular, but his job is to represent and defend the accused.

“We made sure that he had the full constitutional rights that he was entitled to and the system has worked. There is justice, it did work in this case, albeit, it was delayed," he said.

With his conviction upheld, Carnahan will spend his life behind bars, without the possibility of parole.

“He’s been where he should’ve been several years ago for the last ten years. I just can never see, with the evidence that was brought against him, that he will ever see the light of day," Jeanne Johns said.

She said no one in her family was informed about the motion to appeal.

Wampler said Carnahan could appeal to a federal court, but he said that is unlikely.

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