Local News

Wilson Murder Suspect's Dad Eagerly Awaits Trial

Posted September 12, 2007 7:32 p.m. EDT
Updated September 12, 2007 8:18 p.m. EDT

— 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.