Approximately 17 years after Jimmy Johnson sexually assaulted the 13-year-old daughter of his girlfriend leaving the teen pregnant with his child, the two came face-to-face in the 59th State District Court Wednesday. Testimony during the hearing revealed that the child had died in a car wreck at almost 4 years old, and that her body was exhumed to allow for the collection of DNA that proved Johnson was the child’s father.
Johnson was entering what courtroom observers call a “slow plea” in which he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting Misty Nicole White, but asked retired Judge Scott McDowell to set his punishment rather than reach an agreement with the Grayson County District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutor Bobbie Peterson Cate asked McDowell to sentence Johnson to life in prison for stealing White’s innocence.
White’s testimony about life in Johnson’s home sounded like a story ripped from a television drama. Just when one thought she had recounted the most awful abuse or torture imaginable, she would tearfully divulge something even more horrible. She said she was beaten with whatever was handy and often and, along with her brother, suffered other abuses.
“When we did eat, he would make sure it was something we didn’t like, like mayonnaise sandwiches or sardines,” she said. She said she was also forced to eat super hot peppers as punishment. But the lack of food wasn’t anywhere near the worst of what she described.
White said she was often forced to stand in the corner for hours at a time without a break to go to the bathroom. If she had to go, she said, she was forced to soil herself and then was punished for doing so.
Additionally, she said, she was forced to drop out of school to care for the son that her mother had with Johnson. That child, White said, was allowed to go to the refrigerator and pick out anything he wanted to eat. That was not the way she and her oldest brother were treated.
In fact, she said, even at 13-years-old and 6 1/2 months pregnant, she only weighed 94 pounds. She said she was 10 when Johnson started molesting her and around 13 when he started sexually assaulting her.
She described him calling her into a bedroom and telling her he was going to experiment with her sexually. She said she told him not to, but her protest didn’t stop him. She said he forced himself on her and when she complained that it hurt her, he sent her in to take a cold bath for the pain.
That was not the first time she had been told to take a cold bath, she testified. She said Johnson often made the children bathe in cold water because he thought it would help to stop the bruises from showing.
She said Johnson also started giving her cocaine and crack cocaine when he assaulted her.
White said she went to the school nurse some time after the sexual abuse began because she felt something kicking inside of her.
She noted she had stopped having her monthly menstrual cycle before that point, but thought he had broken something inside of her. The school nurse told her it was probably just gas but asked if she were sexually active.
White said she lied because she was scared to tell the truth.
“He said he would tell my mom I was a liar. He said he would cut me up into little pieces and throw me in Lake Hagerman so no one would find me and I would get eaten,” she testified.
White said it was a short while later that her grandmother noticed changes in the teen’s body and asked if Johnson had done something to her.
“I just broke down,” White said of telling her grandmother about the abuse. The grandmother called the authorities and took the teen to a doctor.
The doctor confirmed that she was pregnant. She would later give birth to a healthy baby girl whom she kept.
Meanwhile, Child Protective Services investigated the allegations that she was sexually assaulted by Johnson in Grayson County, and he was eventually indicted on the charge. He was arrested, released and then left the area.
On the stand in his own defense, Johnson said he returned to Grayson County from south Texas a number of times to face the charge only to be told that the court date had been put off.
He said he never had an attorney who would talk him through the process or help him figure out what was going on with the case, so he just stopped returning to Grayson County. He would eventually get picked up and brought back to the county a number of times but was released each time.
In a statement that had more twists and turns than a roller coaster, Johnson alternately took responsibility for his actions and pointed the finger of blame at the 13-year-old child he abused.
He said he “was living for the devil back then” he now knows, because he has found God in the Grayson County Jail.
Johnson said he has been in solitary confinement for nearly two years while he waited for his case to come to trial this time around and that left him a great deal of time to think about things. He said he reads his Bible daily, and he knows that he can help others to find the Lord too, if given a chance.
Then he said he was there on the stand Wednesday to tell the truth and accept responsibility for his actions, but his actions weren’t really all his fault. It was the drugs, he said. And it was his uncle’s fault for getting him to move to Grayson County with White and her mother in the first place. Johnson said the uncle had actually abused White prior to him doing so. He even said he once walked in on the uncle having sex with the teen.
“It was like she was bragging about it,” he said of the relationship between the 40-year-old man and the 13-year-old child.
Johnson said he just shut the door and walked back out into the party that was going on in the house. He admitted he didn’t really do anything about it, because the uncle was his drug supplier.
In a testimony that called on God more than some Sunday sermons, Johnson said the teen had actually been the one to come on to him and he only gave in to her. He said he didn’t blame her. It wasn’t her fault, but it wasn’t really his either, Johnson seemed to suggest with his tone.
He said he was horrified to find out that authorities were digging up the baby to get DNA evidence. But still, he said, he isn’t “really sure” the baby was his. He said he knows what the DNA tests show, but he just isn’t sure.
When asked by defense attorney Robert Earl Richardson what she wanted to happen Johnson, White said, “I want him to go to prison. He stole my childhood from me. He did things to me that no man should do to a child period.”
After Johnson was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the crimes he committed against White and her siblings, Cate said, “Although it took 17 years, justice finally triumphed today. My heart goes out to the victim and her family for the pain and suffering she has endured because of this man’s actions. I am appreciative of the hard work and dedication of the Sherman PD and Texas Rangers. I will sleep tonight knowing that she now has closure and that it will be many years before he is released from prison, if ever.”
During Wednesday’s hearing, Richardson talked of appealing the case on the grounds that Johnson’s right to a speedy trial were violated.