Local News

Wilson Murder Suspect's Dad Eagerly Awaits Trial

Posted September 12, 2007

— The 2004 murder of Brittany Willis stunned the town of Wilson.

Investigators said James Johnson and Kenneth Meeks kidnapped the 17-year-old girl from a parking lot, robbed and raped her and shot her in a field on Westshire Drive near the Brentwood Shopping Center.

Meeks pleaded guilty to the crime in April 2006 and is serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole. He was 16 at the time of the crime, so he was ineligible for a death sentence.

James Johnson has been in jail for nearly three years. He has always proclaimed his innocence, and his parents are eagerly awaiting their son's day in court.

Arthur Johnson has carefully collected the court records he believes will clear his son, James.

"If you listen to the facts, it's [an] open-shut [case]," said Arthur Johnson.

In 2004, James told police his friend, Meeks, raped and murdered Willis, but James then became a suspect himself.

"The law of the streets is (that) you do not snitch, and Kenneth felt James snitched on him, so he was going to implicate him," said Arthur Johnson.

Meeks originally said Johnson shot Willis. Meeks has since claimed sole responsibility for Willis' death and said Johnson shouldn't be held – let alone tried – for the crime.

Court records show Johnson passed a polygraph test, and there has been no DNA to connect him to the crime.

Court records show dogs tracked Johnson's scent to the crime scene, and witness statements placed three people in the field where Willis' body was found.

Johnson admitted he was at the scene, but said Meeks took him there to show him the girl's body.

The daughter of a deceased witness told WRAL-TV 5 over the telephone what her mother said she saw and that her father was present, too.

"She saw two guys and a girl in the middle .... the girl was stumbling .... inside her she said she knew something wasn't right," said the deceased witness' daughter.

Court records show neither witness saw faces. There is an indication that other eye-witness statements exist but are not part of the public record.

Wilson County District Attorney Howard Boney Jr. will not comment on the case.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has rallied around Johnson. The civil rights group recently filed a complaint accusing the district attorney of misconduct in the case.

Arthur Johnson hopes the long-awaited trial will provide the answers needed to set his son free.

"He will tell you that this case is bigger than him, it is bigger than me, it is bigger than you," said Arthur Johnson.

The trial starts Sept. 24.


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  • Realthoughts Sep 14, 2007

    The NCAAP needs to go back home. Their dishonorable conduct in support of the Duke case has let me with very little respect for the what what they have to say. I hope they have taken time an dug into the facts this time instead riding the coat-tales of the media frenzy. If only they done something honorable try to make some amends to Duke, the students and community of Durham.
    Until to something make that situation right, I have lost respect for their cause.

  • Ifear Sep 13, 2007

    This is a an african american speaking by the way. I hope that you all understand that the first detective that was working on this case his wife came to my job that next night after all this happened and spoke to me with no hatred in her heart looking at a black person and not letting anything like this stuff yall are saying come out of her mouth to me. she spoke with concern and understanding that as a mother you so wish for the the boys to get what they deserve but you also must take into consideration that just be cause the NAACP

  • Lefty Sep 13, 2007

    Assuming it will be proven that he was there, whether or not he pulled the trigger or actually participated in rape, he was there and a co-actor in the crime which makes him a principle and, as a result, equally culpable. If that is proven, I sincerely hope he spends the rest of his life in prison. That was a brutal, savage act that took a young girl's life and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

  • doowhatchulike Sep 13, 2007

    James Johnson is charged with four crimes: murder, first degree rape, first degree kidnapping, and robbery with a dangerous weapon. Johnson and his supporters claim he is innocent of killing Brittany Willis. Notice how they don’t comment on the other charges against him.

  • whatusay Sep 13, 2007

    He will have his day in court. It looks as if this has been put off and put off hoping everyone will forget what happened.

  • nowon_yuno Sep 13, 2007

    There is no DNA evidence to prove that Johnson did anything. If I remember correctly, alot of people in "the community" had this to say about the Duke Rape Case; "Just because there is no DNA evidence, that doesn't necessarily mean that something did not happen or they were'nt there." I just wanted to throw that out there for everyone to chew on.

  • uknomepopo Sep 13, 2007

    would the NAACP be around if the victim was black....i think not....that's sad...who is crying out for the white victim...she had a life too remember...plans, hopes, dreams..but i quess since she's gone and the animals who did it are still alive....the NAACP will just fight for their rights and lives and dreams etc....keep up the good work...i'm sure cases like this will never make any other race feel neglected..can someone please define EQUAL RIGHTS!!!! its not just for one race...

  • Run_Forrest_Run Sep 13, 2007

    Whether or not he shot Brittney, he was there and aware (at some point and time) and that says so much about his lack of character and morals. A lovely young girls life ended because of these Thugs (for no better way of stating). I don't care if he never gets out of prison and I wish the one who shot her could get the death penalty or at least Life in prison.

  • htrails2u Sep 12, 2007

    Hope the truth comes out. Prayers for this poor girls family.