PHOENIX— Today Lashawn Johnson (D.O.B. 06/05/1990) was sentenced to Natural Life for 1st Degree Premeditated Murder, Theft of Means of Transportation, Arson, and Abandonment or Concealment of a Dead Body.
“Lashawn Johnson’s efforts to lie about and conceal his responsibility for the murder of Angela were rightly disregarded by the jury in finding him guilty and, today, the court rightly sentenced him for the senseless taking of an innocent life,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
On April 19, 2016 the victim, 24-year-old Angela Russo, went to meet the defendant at his Phoenix apartment after making contact through a dating site. She never returned home from the planned date and family members alerted police to her disappearance.
Investigators were able to determine that Russo last used her phone in the area of the apartment where she was supposed to meet the defendant and the phone was not used after that time. After speaking with the defendant’s girlfriend who also lived at the apartment with the defendant, detectives learned Johnson called her the evening after he was supposed to meet Russo. Johnson asked the girlfriend to pick him up from a convenience store in Tonopah. She told investigators that weeks later the defendant took her hiking out in the desert near Tonopah and the defendant brought her to a burned out car.
Investigators located the burned car in the desert and were able to identify it as the car Russo was last seen driving to meet Johnson. In the same area they found a grave with remains that were later identified as Angela Russo.
Detectives were able to search Johnson’s apartment and found evidence of a homicide inside, with blood in various places inside the apartment including a handprint of the defendant in the victim’s blood. When interviewed, Johnson admitted to seeing Russo the night of her disappearance and later being in the area where her body was found, but denied that he was responsible for her murder. At trial, Johnson claimed that that he had consensual sex with Russo and was interrupted that next morning when his girlfriend returned home from her work shift. He claimed his girlfriend became enraged and she took a knife from the kitchen and killed Russo. He admitted to helping clean up the murder scene.
On August 8, 2017 a jury found Johnson guilty for the murder of Angela Russo as well as all of the charges related to concealing her body and burning her car out in the desert.