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Man accused of stealing car with man in trunk faces homicide charge

Timmy Johnson, Jr. also faces charges of armed robbery, kidnapping in Grant County

Man accused of stealing car with man in trunk faces homicide charge

GRANT COUNTY, Wis. (WKBT) - The Grant County man charged with stealing a car with a man in the trunk and leading La Crosse police on a high-speed chase now faces more charges, including first-degree intentional homicide.

Timmy Johnson, Jr., 26, has been charged in Grant County with first-degree intentional homicide, armed robbery with use of force, and kidnapping/seize or confine without consent.

On Thursday, June 12, Johnson was released from the Grand County Jail. The criminal complaint states Johnson was dropped off at the Walmart in the City of Platteville, where he realized his welfare card had been cut off and that he had minimal amounts of money.

After buying a bottle of soda from Walmart, Johnson told police he went to Menards, but did not buy anything. He then went to a liquor store and stole a bottle of Southern Comfort and when he started to drink the alcohol, Johnson ran into a person who gave him some PCP, the complaint states.

Johnson called several family and friends who told him he was not welcome to stay with them. Johnson told police that at some point, he called for a cab near the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and drove with the cab looking for a destination to kill himself. Johnson told police he stole a small paring knife from the Piggly Wiggly in Platteville earlier in the morning.

Johnson said he could tell the cab driver, who was later identified as 79-year-old Merle Forbes, was becoming irritated with him due to Johnson not giving an exact address as to where they were going, the complaint states. When the cab driver was going down a dead-end road, Johnson told him to stop. Johnson told police he reached over, grabbed Forbes, pulled him into the back seat and got 'forcefully rough with him.' Johnson got into the driver's seat and drove away, with Forbes in the back seat who began kicking the back of his seat.

Johnson told police he became frightened and upset, becoming delusional and thought that Forbes was going to hurt him, so he took out his knife and stabbed Forbes several times in the front chest and head area.

Forbes was in the back seat when Johnson began driving to Boscobel, the complaint states.

Johnson told police he knew Forbes' stab wounds were severe and he'd get in trouble for it. After seeing how badly Forbes was bleeding, Johnson placed him in the trunk, the complaint states. Johnson told police initially he was going to take Forbes to the hospital, but did not.

When they ended up in downtown La Crosse just after 1 a.m. on Friday, June 13, a police officer ran the plates on the car. It came up as stolen and the driver did not match the owner's description. Forbes was reported missing and endangered from Platteville, according to La Crosse police.

The officer tried to pull the car over, which led to a chase on Highway 35 towards Holmen in which Johnson traveled up to 115 mph, according to the criminal complaint.

It ended with the suspect rear-ending another vehicle and rolling over. Forbes was found in the trunk of the car and was declared dead at the scene. A preliminary autopsy report showed assault to be the cause of death.

Johnson was arrested and has been charged in La Crosse County court with three counts of recklessly endangering safety and stealing a car. 

In a second interview with La Crosse police, Johnson 'became very emotional, crying very distraughtly' and said, "I killed the person in the trunk. I killed him," the criminal complaint stated.

Now that charges have been filed in Grant County, Johnson faces charges in two counties for the same incident, which is not uncommon for prosecuting attorney and La Crosse County District Attorney, Tim Gruenke.

"Quite often people have cases in more than one county so we're used to shipping them from one county to another to face charges and then move them back-and-forth between jails to face their court appearances," Gruenke said.

Gruenke said since Johnson faces more serious charges in Grant County, Johnson's next court appearance, Aug. 21 in Grant County, determines where he'll await a verdict.

"If the judge down there sets a high cash bond, which we think he might, we might then release him from our hold and then just let the Grant County case go first," Gruenke said.

Gruenke said if a Grant County judge sets a high cash bond Johnson's La Crosse County $500,000 cash bond would turn into a signature bond.

Johnson stood mute in court on July 16 and a La Crosse County judge entered not guilty pleas on Johnson's behalf. Johnson's next court appearance in La Crosse County court is scheduled for Oct. 13.

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