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October 26, 2011 05:20 PM

Johnson's Kids Say Inmate Should Die

sioux falls, sd


The inmate who admits to murdering a South Dakota Correctional Officer says he deserves to die.

"On the 12th of April, when given the choice, I chose to kill. I chose to execute someone. You should do the same,” Eric Robert said.

In an emotional two hours of testimony, Ron Johnson's two children and his wife told Robert about all the suffering he has caused their family when he killed Johnson during a failed prison escape last spring. 

Johnson also has six grandchildren, and Wednesday, his family members took the stand to say he was a man of honor who loved his family and never missed a game or sporting event his kids or grandkids played in.  But that has now all changed since he was murdered while on duty at the penitentiary. 

Johnson was a dedicated correctional officer at the South Dakota State Penitentiary. He worked at the prison for more than 20 years, but his family says he was an even more dedicated father and grandfather.

"He was there. He was always there. He wouldn't miss anything for the world. It didn't have to be a wedding day; it didn't have to be a practice. It could have been a game. He didn't miss anything," son Jesse Johnson said.

"My boys are in sports and he loved to watch them. Every baseball game, from the time they were four," daughter Toni Schafer said.

Wednesday in court, Johnson's two children took the stand to address the man who took their dad away and tell him how it hurt them, their mother and Ron Johnson's grandchildren.

"I don't know how to answer him when he asks where his papa is and what he's doing and why he's not here," Schafer said.

"I lost the guy that I looked up to most. The guy that I could call and talk to. The guy that I could sit right next to and just be completely comfortable," Jesse said.

Schafer, who works at Sanford Health, was there when her dad was taken out of the ambulance. At first, she thought he'd had a heart-attack and tried to comfort him.

"I grabbed his head and I grabbed his arm, his left arm and I said, 'Dad, you're going to be fine,'" Schafer said.

But she later learned that Robert and another inmate had beaten her dad to death in an attempt to get out of prison.

Robert watched as Johnson's children described how his death has changed the family and that they believe his killer should be executed.

"And then we have to go back in there and tell him goodbye because of the decisions you made on April 12th," Schafer said.

"I believe he deserves to die by lethal injection for his actions," Jesse said.

Johnson's wife took the stand after his children were done testifying.

She called Robert a coward and said she hasn't had a good day since her husband was murdered.
  • Sioux Falls, SD
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