Details emerge about alleged serial robber's past
Posted October 14, 2013
Updated October 15, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — A Raleigh man facing two dozen charges stemming from a series of recent armed robberies that put communities across Wake County on edge once worked for the governor's western residence while on a prison work-release program in 2007 and 2008.
Keith Acree, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, said Monday that Walter Kevin Johnson worked in landscaping on the property of the North Carolina Governor's Mansion in Asheville while he was serving nine years in prison for armed robbery charges at Buncombe Correctional Center.
Raleigh police and Wake County sheriff's investigators say Johnson, 28, of 6124 Braidwood Court, is suspected in eight armed robberies or attempted robberies from Sept. 22 to Oct. 8 in Raleigh, Cary, Holly Springs and Wake Forest in which the victims were robbed at or near their homes.
In several of the cases, Johnson allegedly approached the victims and used a handgun to rob them of money and personal belongings. Authorities say he also forced some of them to drive to ATMs to withdraw cash. In one case, he's accused of threatening to harm a Cary woman's children if she did not leave him $45,000 in cash at a drop-off point.
Johnson was arrested Friday and jailed under a $3.925 million bond – an amount that a District Court judge refused to lower during Johnson's first court appearance Monday afternoon.
Matt Faucette, an attorney for Johnson, said his client waits tables at Washington Duke Inn in Durham and also runs a Web design and development firm, 1855 Media LLC in Raleigh.
The company website, which claims to be a leader in the field of Web development marketing, features a photo that purports to be Johnson receiving an outstanding achievement award on behalf of 1855 Media from former Gov. Mike Easley, Easley's wife and their son.
Easley said Monday that neither he nor former first lady Mary Easley remembers taking the photo and that he can't recall there ever having been an occasion for the photo opportunity.
The governor's office also could not find a record of the award, but said the document in the photo appears to be a certificate of appreciation, a document usually mailed to inmates on work-release programs.
The North Carolina Secretary of State's website lists 1855 Media as having been formed June 12, 2013.
Easley was governor from 2001 to 2009.
Johnson was convicted in July 2002 of multiple charges of armed robbery, and spent nine years in prison until he was released in August 2011.
Law enforcement investigators haven't commented on a motive for the alleged crimes, but Johnson's wife said Saturday that the family was struggling financially.
Faucette said clients of Johnson's Web design firm were not paying for services they received.
"He's got a young wife and a 6-week-old little boy," Faucette said. "Definitely, it's a difficult situation for his family."
One local client told WRAL News Monday that the company is not what it appears to be and that a comment claiming to be from the client on the firm’s website praising Johnson's services was false.
The client said it fired Johnson after he sold the company a logo that later was discovered to be used by another local company.
View Wake County robbery spree in a larger map