DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A Dallas County jury sentenced Thomas Johnson, 24, the man convicted in the machete murder of a stranger on the White Rock Trail in October 2015, to life in prison on Wednesday.
Johnson hacked David Stevens to death while Stevens was jogging on the trail.
The families of Stevens and Johnson told CBS 11 after the verdict they are still grieving and feel there was no victory here, just loss and sadness.
Johnson was a standout athlete at Texas A&M and was in the throws of a psychotic episode when he committed the murder, experts said.
The fact that Johnson, a schizophrenic, had a history of denying his illness and refusing medication was a key issue prosecutors asked jurors to consider when asking for the life sentence.
“He suffers from psychosis and hallucinations and delusions and that’s a part of him and his mental illness,” said prosecutor Justin McCants. “How do you combat that? You combat that with medicine at times and what do you do with someone who is not always willing to take their medication? And that’s a scary thought.”
“This was a very tough case…obviously, the tragedy was compounded to the nth degree by the suicide of the complainant’s wife, and when you added that factor onto this, it just highlighted the nature of the tragedy and almost made this verdict inevitable,” said defense attorney Paul Johnson.
“We’ve got to step up the mental health care, that’s the bottom line,” said prosecutor Andrea Moseley. “There’s a lot of budget cuts going on, even today. This case is not just a flash in the pan. There are long term consequences, for the victim’s family, of course, but also for the defendant… I absolutely don’t believe he was evil, I don’t believe he is evil. I believe he is severely mentally ill… and his symptoms make him very dangerous.”
After the verdict, Johnson’s father approached the Stevens family to say how sorry he was.
Thomas will continue to receive mental health treatment while in prison. He will be eligible for parole after serving 30 years.