SEARLES, Minn. - A Minnesota man who officials said held a drug-fueled “death party” for his ailing wife in January has been charged with murder in her death after an autopsy found she died not of natural causes, but of a methamphetamine overdose.
Duane Arden Johnson, 58, of Searles, is charged with third-degree murder in the Jan. 24 death of his wife, Debra Lynn Johnson, 69. The Brown County Attorney's Office added the new charge on Monday, according to The Mankato Free Press.
The newspaper reported that investigators with the Brown County Sheriff’s Office receiving the results of Debra Johnson’s autopsy last month. The toxicology report showed she died of meth toxicity.
Because Duane Johnson is alleged to have provided the drugs to his wife, he was charged with murder, the Free Press reported. He faces up to 25 years in prison.
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Johnson was originally arrested Jan. 24 and charged with criminal neglect after he called 911 and reported his wife’s death. According to court documents obtained by KSTP in St. Paul, the first deputy to arrive at the couple’s home found the words, “Death Parde God Hell” in red spray paint on the screen door.
A naked Duane Johnson opened the screen door and screamed, “My wife is dead upstairs,” the original charging document stated. He ran back inside saying he “needed to wash this stuff off of (him).”
The deputy found him sitting in the bathtub in a bathroom on the main floor of the home, the court document said. Johnson told the deputy he had to wash with soap and bleach to get little black and white “things” off his skin.
While sitting in the tub, Johnson said his wife had been “shaking so violently” and he “couldn’t stand seeing her flop around anymore,” the document said.
When the deputy asked why Johnson did not seek medical help for his wife, he told him the last time she was brought to New Ulm Medical Center, “them (expletives) revived her” and “them (expletive) in New Ulm made my life (expletive).”
Other responding deputies found Debra Johnson’s body wrapped in a sheet at the top of the stairs, the charging document said. The sheet was held in place by a belt.
She was still warm, but rigor mortis was settling into her arms.
When the deputies asked if that was his wife in the sheet, Duane Johnson told them it was and that he “prepared the dead like the Bible told (him) to,” the document said. He said he followed the Old Testament by “cleaning her, making her beautiful and wrapping her in linen.”
Johnson told deputies that his wife had been a patient in a nursing home but begged him to take her home to die. Officials at the New Ulm Medical Center told investigators Debra Johnson had been at a nursing facility following two heart attacks.
She also had diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as mental illnesses for which she took antipsychotic medication. Duane Johnson took his wife home against medical advice, the document said.
In her final days, Duane Johnson said, his wife had stopped taking her medication as they used meth and “rocked out” for several days to their favorite band, Quiet Riot. The charging document stated when Debra Johnson could no longer eat or drink, her husband used snow to moisten her mouth.
Duane Johnson said his wife suffered convulsions during that time frame but would not allow him to call for help. He told investigators he held her to keep her from hurting herself during the seizures.
He also told deputies Debra Johnson disabled the telephone so he could not call for help. The charging document stated investigators found the phone in working order.
“(Johnson) reported that he couldn’t stand to see (his wife) suffer anymore and that he had promised her a party,” the document said. “He said he didn’t want her to hear him crying so he turned up the music real loud and that they had been ‘rocking out’ for three days.”
The “death party” Johnson said his wife had requested had been ongoing for five days, the court document said. He said his wife had been shaking and trembling in the couple of days leading up to her death.
Less than two hours before she died, Johnson said, his wife wanted him to have sex with her one more time. He also said, however, that she could not speak as they were having intercourse, but “her body had told him that she was enjoying it.”
He said that “after they were finished, she was no longer trembling and was more at peace,” the document said.
When deputies asked Johnson why he did not call 911 immediately after his wife died, he said, “I wanted to make sure she was dead.”
Johnson was also charged with receiving stolen property after investigators found several guns, including four rifles and two shotguns, in the home, as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Duane Johnson told them he had 47 guns, several of which were stolen.
The charging document lists all the weapons found in the house.
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