The man suspected in the death of a 79-year-old Platteville man in June was charged with his murder in Grant County Circuit Court last week.
Timmy Lansing Johnson Jr., 25, Dubuque, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, kidnapping and armed robbery with use of force. The kidnapping and robbery charges have repeater enhancers.
Johnson’s first Grant County court appearance before Circuit Judge Robert VanDeHey is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 21 at 11 a.m.
The charges are connected to the death of Merle C. Forbes, 79, Platteville, after Forbes’ taxi was stolen outside Platteville June 12. Forbes was found in the trunk of his car after it crashed into a vehicle near Holmen early June 13 at the end of a police chase that started in La Crosse. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Johnson also faces six La Crosse County charges, including three counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety and one count each of taking and driving a vehicle without consent, felony bail jumping, and vehicle operator fleeing or eluding an officer. All the charges have repeater enhancers.
Johnson’s trial on the La Crosse County charges is scheduled for Oct. 15–16, with jury selection Oct. 13 before La Crosse County Circuit Judge Dale Pasell. The trial date was set in a conference Friday.
A plea of not guilty was entered on Johnson’s behalf after Johnson stood mute to the charges July 16.
The first-degree intentional homicide charge carries a mandatory life sentence. The kidnapping and robbery charges carry maximum sentences of 92 years in prison and $200,000 in fines. The La Crosse County charges carry maximum sentences of 83 years in prison and $105,000 in fines if convicted.
Johnson had been released from the Grant County Jail June 12 around 6 a.m., according to the criminal complaint, after serving a jail sentence as part of five years probation on felony bail jumping, bribery of a public official, felony driving and operating a vehicle without consent, misdemeanor taking and driving a vehicle without consent, misdemeanor bail jumping, disorderly conduct, fraud on a taxicab operator as a repeater, and two counts of resisting or obstructing an officer.
According to the criminal complaint, after visiting Walmart and Menards, Johnson stole a bottle of Southern Comfort from a liquor store, then “ran into a person who gave him some PCP.”
Johnson admitted to a La Crosse police officer that his “judgment was very distorted,” and that he believed that “a number of people were following him and looking at him strangely.”
The criminal complaint said Johnson called for a cab near UW–Platteville “looking for a destination to kill himself” because no one would let Johnson stay with them, and he couldn’t go back to his mother’s house in Dubuque because she didn’t want him there and because he had outstanding warrants in Dubuque. Johnson said he stole a small paring knife from Piggly Wiggly.
Forbes had left his home June 12 around 5 p.m. to pick up a fare at UW–Platteville’s Rountree Commons. The criminal complaint said Johnson could tell Forbes was “becoming irritated with him” because he didn’t give Forbes an exact destination.
After Forbes started to make a U-turn on a dead-end road, the criminal complaint said, Johnson grabbed Forbes, pulling him from the front seat to the back seat, and “got forcefully rough with him.” After Johnson got into the front seat to drive, Forbes started kicking the back of the seat.
According to the criminal complaint, after Johnson asked Forbes how to open the trunk, Johnson “became frightened and upset becoming delusional and thinking [Forbes] was going to hurt him.” Johnson stabbed Forbes “multiple times” in the chest and head, according to the criminal complaint.
Johnson claimed he was going to take Forbes to a hospital, but because of bleeding he put Forbes into the trunk. Forbes’ taxi was seen going one direction, then the other, on Sam & Dan Lane, a dead-end road in the Town of Lima north of Platteville, at high speed. Authorities found a hooded sweatshirt, a backpack, vehicle information from the glove compartment, and the paring knife.
Forbes was reported missing two hours after he left for the fare.
According to the criminal complaint, Johnson drove to Boscobel and stopped at a convenience store for pizza and water, using Forbes’ money. Johnson also stopped at two other locations, but couldn’t remember where.
On June 13 around 1:10 a.m., a La Crosse police officer saw Forbes’ taxi and began following it based on the missing person report. According to the criminal complaint, the taxi stopped facing traffic on a one-way street, then started heading against traffic on the one-way street. Speeds reached 115 mph before the taxi crashed into a SUV and rolled over several times.
Johnson told a La Crosse police officer he was intending to kill himself by crashing into “a large building of some sort,” but forgot about Forbes in the trunk.
Johnson was charged with fraud on a taxicab operator after Forbes picked up Johnson in Darlington and took him to Boscobel Aug. 24. According to court records, Johnson went into an apartment saying he was going to get fare money, but didn’t return after 20 minutes.
Johnson still faces eight Lafayette County charges of felony bail jumping, as well as charges of taking and driving a vehicle without consent, and driving or operating a vehicle without consent for two alleged car theft cases in Darlington Aug. 29 and Feb. 24. A body-only bench warrant was issued in Lafayette County Circuit Court in Darlington after Johnson failed to appear for his status conference June 18, when he was in the La Crosse County jail.