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Former Marine Accused Of Setting Estranged Wife On Fire In Front Of Kids Refuses Bail, Fearing For His Safety

Brian Earl Johnston stands accused in Australia of pouring gasoline on his estranged wife, Kelly Winkenson, and setting her on fire in front of her three kids.

By Kevin Dolak
Kelly Wilkinson Fb

The former U.S. marine accused of killing his estranged wife in front of three children by lighting her on fire in Australia in April opted not to seek bail last week, over what he said were concerns for his own safety. 

The body of Kelly Wilkinson, 27, was found by police in a backyard in Arundel, on Australia’s Gold Coast, during a welfare check after neighbors reported hearing screams and an explosion in the early hours of on April 20. Brian Earl Johnston, 34, was soon arrested in connection with her murder and for breaching a domestic violence order.

On Friday, Johnston refused an opportunity to apply for bail “because of concerns for his safety,” his attorney, Chris Hannay, told the press on Friday. Hannay added that Johnston will remain imprisoned indefinitely. 

Johnston is a former Ohio resident and U.S. Marine. He left the Marine Corps in 2005 and married Wilkinson in 2012, according to The Australian.

Three children, all under the age of 9, witnessed the deadly attack on their mother that morning. After Johnston allegedly poured gasoline on Wilkinson and set her on fire, he self-immolated but quickly jumped into a pool to douse the flames.

Neighbors reported seeing Johnston fleeing from the scene. Investigators said they found him semi-conscious on a lawn a few blocks away. He was taken to a local hospital in stable condition with burn injuries. 

“He turned up in the bushes in the house next door to me – his left arm was heavily bandaged,” one neighbor said, according to The Australian. “[A passerby] saw the fella and asked you know, ‘Are you OK, mate?’ He made some remark like, ‘I’m fine, but he had his head down.”

According to police, a plastic gasoline can, three knives and a duffel bag with rope and duct tape were discovered at the scene of the crime. 

Wilkinson had called Queensland police three times over alleged instances of domestic violence in the weeks and months leading up to her slaying, according to a report in The Guardian; the protective order was put in place in March.

It will take pathologists up to nine months to fully report on the extent of Wilkinson’s injuries. 

The three children who witnessed the horrifying incident have been taken in by an aunt who has five children of her own, the New York Post reported. The community in Queensland has rallied to support the family, raising thousands of dollars for Wilkinson’s surviving children, according to local reports.