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Johnson charged with six felonies in La Crosse County
Merle Forbes
Merle C. Forbes

The Dubuque man suspected in the death of a 79-year-old Platteville man was charged Thursday with six La Crosse County felonies.

Timmy Lansing Johnson Jr., 25, was charged in La Crosse County Circuit Court with 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.

A competency hearing will be held in La Crosse July 9 at 1:30 p.m.

Other charges, including homicide, are expected after the investigation is concluded, according to Grant County District Attorney Lisa Riniker.

The La Crosse County charges are for the final series of events that culminated in the death of Merle C. Forbes of Platteville after his taxicab was stolen June 12.

Forbes was found in the trunk of his Platteville Taxi car after it crashed into a vehicle near Holmen at the end of a police chase that started in La Crosse. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Forbes had left his home around 5 p.m. to pick up a fare at UW–Platteville’s Rountree Commons. About 20 minutes later, 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.

Forbes was reported missing around two hours after his taxicab was last seen. Authorities found items belonging to Forbes, including papers from the taxi cab’s glove box with blood on them.

On June 13 around 1:10 a.m., a La Crosse police officer saw Forbes’ taxi driven by someone not matching Forbes’ description. The taxi went north into Onalaska and toward Holmen, where the crash occurred.

Preliminary autopsy results determined that Forbes died of stab wounds, La Crosse County Medical Examiner Tim Candahl said.

In Johnson’s first court hearing June 16, public defender Tom Locante said Johnson has been under watch in the La Crosse County Jail. Johnson’s attorneys said he has “unresolved mental health issues” and did not receive his medication while in the Grant County Jail.

Johnson had been released from the Grant County Jail earlier June 12 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.

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 Wednesday after Johnson failed to appear for his status conference Wednesday morning.

Anne Jungen of the La Crosse Tribute contributed to this story.