An Arapahoe County man will spend the rest of his life in prison after admitting he slit the throat of his 6-year-old son and raped his former girlfriend.
Arapahoe District Court Chief Judge Carlos Samour sentenced Brandon Jamaal Johnson, 28, to life without parole plus 54 years after he pleaded guilty to all charges against him.
In exchange for his guilty pleas, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.
“I struggle with the question: What is justice for the brutal murder of an innocent 6-year-old boy at the hands of his father?” District Attorney George Brauchler told the court. “I have a son the same age as Riley, and to him, Santa Claus exists, the Easter Bunny comes, superheroes are real, and Dad is a superhero.
“But in those seconds and minutes of terror as his life gushed out of his slashed throat, Riley had to realize that his superhero, his own father, was the one killing him.”
Brauchler added: “Part of me hopes that every hour of every day the defendant lives on this planet, he remember Riley’s touch, the sound of his voice as he called out “Daddy,” and the last look on his terror-stricken face that he deliberately caused.”
On Feb. 10, 2016, Arapahoe County Sheriff’s deputies responded to an apartment on East Harvard Avenue after a woman called to say her ex-boyfriend had sexually assaulted her at knifepoint and was threatening to kill his two young sons.
Officers got the woman’s permission to enter her apartment. Inside, they found 6-year-old Riley Johnson dead. His throat had been slit.
“Riley ran seeking help and safety, but he couldn’t find it,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney John Kellner, who prosecuted the case with Senior Chief Deputy District Attorney Jason Siers and Senior Deputy District Attorney Amy Ferrin. “Riley knew in his last moments that the person who had done this to him was the person he should be able to trust more than any other person in the world.”
A 2-year-old boy in the apartment was unharmed.
Officers found the suspect, Brandon Johnson, on the floor near Riley. He had self-inflicted knife wounds – he had cut his own throat – but was taken to the hospital and survived.
Riley was Johnson’s son from a previous relationship. He and the woman he assaulted were parents of the 2-year-old. Johnson was still living in the woman’s apartment even though they had broken up. The two slept in separate bedrooms while he was looking for a different place to live.
Ferrin spoke during sentencing for the victims.
“Her loss is such that she cannot stand before this court today,” Ferrin said of the victim of sex assault. “She is a survivor, and she will spend the rest of her life learning how to survive the horrific crimes.”
Johnson on Friday pleaded guilty to:
- Murder in the first degree – child under 12
- Murder in the first degree — after deliberation
- Child abuse resulting in death
- Sexual assault
- Felony menacing
Judge Samour sentenced Johnson to the statutorily mandated life in prison without possibility of parole for murdering his child; 48 years to life on the sex assault; and 6 years on the menacing count. The other counts merged with the murder count for sentencing purposes. Samour ordered the sentences to be served consecutively.
“There is no excuse for what you did. Riley suffered what can only be described as a horrific death,” Samour told Johnson in imposing the sentence. “This was an incredibly selfish and cowardly act and inexcusable. … You had no right to make the decision whether Riley would be in this world or not.”