Convicted of murder in 1998, Parchman inmate holds on to claims of innocence

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Parchman inmate Ronnie Johnson

Reliable eyewitness accounts placed Ronnie Johnson standing outside of Angela Parker’s apartment on Hartfield Street in Jackson around 2:30 a.m. July 21, 1997 engaged in a friendly conversation with her before getting into his truck and driving away.

Parker, a 36-year-old mother of three, went back inside her apartment. By 4 a.m., however, she was dead, having bled to death from six stab wounds, strangulation, sexual assault, and blunt force trauma, based on Jackson police reports.

Eight days later, July 29, 1997, Johnson was arrested by JPD Detectives Reggie McCann and John S. Williams as the primary suspect in the murder of Angela Parker. Defenders of Johnson say that he was recorded on video sitting inside a nightclub on Bailey Avenue at the time of the assault and that there was at least one other likely suspect that should have been investigated on the murder charges.

That other person of interest and a possible suspect early into the case was Daron Parker, the ex-husband of Angela Parker, who had picked up his three children from the apartment only five hours before the dreadful attack. No charges were brought against the ex-husband, however, and Johnson became the sole suspect who was charged with the murder.

What led police to focus on Johnson was a July 24, 1997 Crime Stopper’s anonymous phone call that revealed that Johnson’s apartment at 328 Magnolia St., also in Jackson, contained a number of pieces of furniture taken from Angela Parker’s residence. Johnson produced a receipt showing that he had paid $350.00 to another person for the furniture. And although Johnson’s live-in companion, Cicely Davis, testified that two men had brought the furniture to Johnson’s apartment on July 24, the police listed it as stolen property and it became a part of the record.

This was not the first time that Davis had been linked to Johnson in a murder case. On August 13, 1995, Johnson was charged in the murder of Willie T. Jones in Madison County allegedly in an attempt to steal a truck that belonged to Jones. And Davis was charged as an accomplice in the murder. Johnson was found not guilty in this case. In less than two years, Johnson would be brought up on charges in the Angela Parker murder.

He was found guilty of murder in June 1998 and was sentenced to life. Alisa Stevenson, Johnson’s
fiancée, with an unwavering believer in his innocence, says that key evidence that would prove Johnson’s innocence was withheld from the trial and that her fiancé is entitled to a new trial if not immediate release under what she called the Brady Rule.

“Ronnie Johnson is an innocent man who should have never been arrested, and most definitely not charged for the murder of a woman he knew but did not murder based on witnesses and a tape showing
where he was at the time of the murder,” she said. “He was framed for the murder of this woman and he should be exonerated immediately. It’s been [26] years and he’s been fighting and fighting to get his name cleared but the [MS]Supreme Court denied him.”

Stevenson is referring to an appeal brought before the state Supreme Court that denied Johnson’s complaint of double jeopardy on April 25, 2000.

Johnson was represented by attorneys Thomas Fortneer, Robert M. Ryan, and Andre DeGruy. The appeal was dismissed. The JPD detectives had received the videotape from the Blue Chip Lounge on Bailey Avenue that showed Johnson arriving at 3:05 a.m. the morning of the murder. And he left at 5 a.m., the closing time for the club. The murder took place at 4 a.m., according to police records.

John Ware, owner-manager of the Blue Chip Lounge, turned over to the two JPD detectives
the VHS security tapes that were actively recording activities at the club. Ware said he would
be willing to testify, but he was never summoned to court.

The videotapes were not brought up at the trial and the defense attorneys, reflecting
back on the trial itself, said that the rules of evidence were broken and that Johnson had not received a fair trial. The Brady Rule requires prosecutors to disclose material, exculpatory information in the government’s possession to the defense, Stevenson said.

“We tried going through the Innocents Project, but they’re saying that because there’s not blood evidence, they can’t take his case. So, I’m waiting for a call from the Mississippi Bar Association regarding a pro bono lawyer,” she said.

“Ronnie said his lawyers didn’t fight for him. And since he can’t get another trial, he is trying to appeal for parole,” she said. Stevenson, who lives in Amityville, New York, says she met Johnson through Pen Pals
six years ago.

With her devotion to the case, he has had two attorneys working on his case. First, Taylor Dant of North Carolina was supposed to take up the case, but she has encountered some delays. The second attorney is Attorney Tamara Bowie who indicated that she would take up the case in Feb. 2024.

Stevenson said she has two goals in mind. “First, it’s to save Ronnie, and second, to find the real killer.
“Ronnie is innocent. Angela Parker’s murderer has been named, but the police erased those records,” she said. “My hopes are that they will review all of the information and not keep saying that it’s old. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean that he is not innocent. Because he is innocent. From all the evidence, it shows that someone else is the killer. We want him to be free and that the killer is prosecuted.

“I think the authorities should touch on anyone there at the time that has a background of abuse because Ronnie left the scene prior to the time of her murder. Everybody should have been questioned, but Ronnie was the only one questioned,” Stevenson said.

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Convicted of murder in 1998, Parchman inmate holds on to claims of innocence

By Earnest McBride
November 20, 2023