|Thomas Johnson. Will he be found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity? Don't bet on it.|
Dallas Morning News
Troubles at A&M
“Something happened from the time he walked onto Texas A&M to the time he stepped foot off that campus,” said Terance Perine, whose son Johnson had mentored in high school.
Johnson had been beloved at Skyline [high school]: the class clown and star athlete who dressed sharp and carried a Bible wherever he went. He never lacked for friends or girlfriends.
But the summer he left for college, strange stories started floating back to Dallas: That Johnson had stopped getting haircuts and would not leave his room. That he would wear only white clothing. That his faith had morphed into religious delusions.
“He wouldn’t speak with teammates or coaches unless they had biblical names,” said Campbell, who stayed in touch with many of Johnson’s friends.
The lawyer once heard that Johnson had fled from a basketball game after the crowd jerked up their thumbs to make the Aggies’ famous “gig ’em” sign.
“He thought they were Illuminati,” Campbell said.
And yet the freshman stayed in top form on the field: the team’s third-leading receiver as he played against some of the most vaunted defenses in college football.
His famous one-handed catch in September came in a narrow loss to Florida. But two months later, he made three key catches that helped his team topple No. 1-ranked Alabama.
He flew back to College Station from that game, and disappeared from campus less than two days later.
It took three days to find Johnson. A&M even sent police to Dallas to help, and news stories spread of the star gone missing.
Police found him about 3 a.m. on Nov. 15, 2012, on a street near Skyline High. He had walked at least 26 miles of the journey home.
Johnson’s mother [who also seems to have mental health problems] brought him into Campbell’s law office for help.
...But while offering no good explanation for leaving, he seemed open to returning to A&M. His father said coaches there wanted to help him.
Johnson and Campbell started making plans for counseling. But then the mentor lost track of the teen — an increasingly common problem over the next three years.
Johnson came to Perine’s house for dinner one night in late 2012 and rarely left it for the next four months.
“He didn’t have any drive [this symptom is called abulia],” Perine said. “It was hard to get him to take a shower, to brush his teeth.”
After a workout one evening, Johnson started chuckling for no reason.
“What’s so funny?” Perine asked.
“Nothing,” came the reply. And then: “I’m going to tell you something and you can’t tell anybody. I’m the messiah. I’m the chosen one.”
What's known of Johnson’s path after he left the Stephensons’ house is spotty. He seems to have popped up almost at random at the homes of friends and relatives in the last year.
Police chased him from his 9- or 10-year-old cousin’s house last August. Johnson believed the boy was a messenger from God.
He babbled often about Bible characters and came to believe in a talking teddy bear.
At some point in the last year, a relative had Johnson diagnosed with schizophrenia. His friends heard talk of a treatment program in Lancaster, though it’s unclear if he ever went.
Johnson showed up at his father’s apartment in Hurst the week before last. He often watched football on his dad’s couch but, that day, paced the parking lot, spooking Robert Johnson’s neighbors.
After arguing with his father outside the apartment, Johnson began walking back toward Dallas, 30 miles away.
“If I could’ve just kept him here, maybe it would have made a difference,” Robert Johnson said, rubbing tears from his face. “I feel like it would have. I wish I just could have.”
Johnson surfaced for the last time on Monday, not long after sunrise.
A jogger named David Stevens started out on his regular route along White Rock Creek that morning. A cyclist spotted him about 8 a.m.: face down along the trail beneath a bridge, beside a man who stood in a wood chopper’s stance, hacking at Stevens’ neck.
The killer planted his shoes in the dirt and lifted the machete high in the air before slamming it down. The bicyclist heard the weapon's impact at least six times before he cleared the bridge, screaming at anyone he met to run the other way.
Police say Johnson wandered through the park after killing Stevens, searching for a phone so he could call 911. Then witnesses saw him walk back to the body, waiting calmly until the officers arrived.
Johnson called the machete a sword, police say, and he tried to explain to them: “It’s like when you don’t wake up.”
The killing sounded like the end of a horror movie to many. But those who knew Johnson as a class clown, or kin, or a gentle, damaged house guest had different reactions.
His mother sobbed. His father vowed to help fight against mental illness.
Friends who had never seen him so much as throw a punch wondered how he could do it. Perine called himself “an accessory to murder” — along with everyone else who failed to help Johnson."
The story gets worse:
Wife of slain Dallas jogger commits suicide two weeks after husband’s machete murder