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Teen Killed In Walgreens Break Room For Allegedly Rebuffing Suspect Stabbed 42 Times
An autopsy report shows the brutality with which a teenage Walgreens employee in Colorado Springs, Riley Whitelaw, was murdered in June. Her coworker, Joshua Johnson — about whom she'd made a sexual harassment complaint — is charged in her death.
A newly released autopsy report reveals the horrifying details of a teen who was murdered at her place of work.
Riley Whitelaw, 17, was found dead in the employee break room of a Colorado Springs Walgreens pharmacy on June 11. Investigators believe Joshua Johnson, 28, murdered the teenage girl after she repeatedly rebuffed his advances and took measures to avoid the suspect while at work.
A 19-page postmortem examination revealed the teenager was stabbed 42 times on her face, chin, chest, arms and hands, according to CBS Colorado Springs affiliate KKTV. The most fatal of these wounds were found on the victim’s neck.
Blunt force injuries were also noted in the autopsy report.
Officers with the Colorado Springs Police Department were called to the Walgreens at Centennial Boulevard and Vindicator Drive shortly before 7:00 p.m. on the night of the murder, according to an affidavit reviewed by Oxygen.com. Justin Zunino, 32, a Walgreens manager, told authorities he found Whitelaw’s body in the break room “and that there was blood everywhere.”
Zunino claimed another manager, Crystal Ishmael, 37, reported that Whitelaw hadn’t returned from her break. When Zunino examined surveillance video, he allegedly saw footage of employee Joshua Johnson using “stacking bins” to block the camera — something Johnson would later deny to investigators.
Zunino told authorities he was aware of an ongoing problem between Whitelaw and Johnson, according to the affidavit.
“Mr. Zunino stated Riley had complained about Joshua about a year ago because he had made advances toward her, and it made her feel uncomfortable,” wrote Det. S. Aulino. “Mr. Zunino stated he had warned Joshua to keep things professional, and Joshua appeared to be receptive.”
Ishmael, also told authorities that “she noticed Joshua appeared to be acting jealous” when Whitelaw’s boyfriend, Jacob Leacock, started a position at the pharmacy about three months before Whitelaw’s murder.
Whitelaw submitted a request to work on a schedule different from Johnson’s just weeks before the murder, according to the affidavit. But when she later sought more hours, managers explained that she would have to overlap with Johnson to accommodate that.
It was unclear from the affidavit if Whitelaw accepted those conditions.
Colorado Springs labor attorney Ian Kalmanowitz of the Cornish and Dell’Olio employment law firm recently accused Walgreens managers of failing to act, according to ABC Colorado Springs affiliate KRDO reported Tuesday, claiming that Whitelaw and Johnson were, in fact, working together on the night of the murder.
“A young woman like Riley, who’s at work with somebody who is creeping her out, was making unwanted advances at her, if her employer doesn’t know about it, the employer can’t do anything about it. So she has an obligation under the law to report that,” Kalmanowitz stated. “But once she does that, it’s her employee’s job — it’s their requirement — to keep her safe.”
Kalmanowitz said Whitelaw “did everything right” by reporting Johnson and “the company did not.”
“This is a situation where she’s a high school student working with a bunch of adults.” He continued. “I think there’s an added responsibility there to ensure that the more vulnerable populations in the workforce are protected.”
When contacted by Oxygen.com, Walgreen spokesperson James Cohn said he was unable to comment directly on Kalmanowitz’s assertions, but sent a statement about Whitelaw’s murder.
“We are deeply saddened and horrified by this crime and continue to extend our condolences, thoughts, and prayers to Riley’s family and loved ones,” the statement read. “We have been working closely with authorities in their investigation, conducting a thorough internal review, and supporting our team members during this very difficult time. The safety of our customers and team members is our highest priority, and we take this obligation very seriously.”
Joshua Johnson was arrested one day after the murder after Colorado State Patrol Troopers found him with “scratches on his hands and face” as he walked along an interstate in Trinidad, Colorado, about 130 miles south of Colorado Springs near the northern New Mexico border.
Johnson told investigators he found Whitelaw dead in the break room and “fell in the blood” before reportedly going home to change out of his bloody clothes.
Johnson admitted to investigators that he previously had a crush on Whitelaw, but those feelings faded when he allegedly began a relationship with manager Crystal Ishmael. There is no evidence to support that claim.
Riley Whitelaw was a student and color guard at Air Academy High School who volunteered at the Humane Society in her spare time, according to her obituary. A GoFundMe page was created to raise funds for building a memorial scholarship in her name.
Jail records show Johnson is being held without bond at the El Paso County Jail in Colorado Springs. According to the court docket, he is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 16 at 8:30 a.m.
The Walgreens location remains temporarily closed.