Posted 2 years ago

By Post Staff

Craig Johnson      The charges against a man accused of brutally murdering his girlfriend in their Sidney area home, then fleeing to Michigan 14 months ago have been increased to 1st-degree murder.

47-year-old Craig Johnson…who was living in Sidney but is list as being from Texas…had already pleaded Not Guilty to 2nd-degree murder in the death of 42-year old April Smith, but Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub says new information from investigators convinced him that 1st-degree murder was a more appropriate charge.

Johnson also faces two other felonies in connection with the death of  Smith in December 2011: felony use of a deadly weapon and being a habitual criminal…the latter because of 3 convictions in Texas in the 80’s and 90’s.

Prosecutors say he killed Smith because he was angry she had allowed her estranged husband to fix her vehicle. Witnesses also said Smith indicated that she had planned to get back together with her husband.

Her body was found was in the home she shared with Johnson after her employer reported her missing. Court documents show her hands and feet were tied with rope and wire, and that she’d died about 2 days earlier after being badly beaten, visciously stabbed repeatedly, and choked.

Jackson was arrested 3 days later in Michigan after a police chase there, and was eventually extradicted back to Nebraska. While in custody in Sidney, he refused to take medications for a mental health condition…which led to his being placed on a suicide watch in a Lincoln hospital.

He was declared incompetent to stand trial early last year, but after 6 months in the Lincoln Regional Center was determined to be competent to stand trial.

Schaub…who currently has 2 other murder cases pending…is getting help from the state, with a prosecutor from the Attorney General’s Office serving as a special deputy county attorney for all 3 cases.