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Son Arrested In Double Homicide Of Michigan Couple After Their Bodies Are Found Buried In Woods

Gary and Laura Johnson had an active protection order against their adult son, Nicholas Alexander Johnson, at the time of their deaths. The couple had “painted a picture of stability," their family said.

By Dorian Geiger

A Michigan man has been apprehended and charged with the murder of his parents, whose bodies turned up in the woods near their Kalamazoo-area home after they went missing last week.

Nicholas Alexander Johnson, 27, was arrested on Feb. 9, just hours after his parents, Gary Johnson, 65, and Laura Johnson, 64, were found dead, MLive.com reported; he was brought in on an outstanding bench warrant and weapons charges that were issued that day. Johnson was found hiding in a storage container in his apartment building and had his parents’ car, according to the Detroit Free Press. Police also seized a pistol and spare magazine from the shed, Grand Rapids station WXMI reported. 

Gary and Laura Johnson vanished on Feb. 3. The couple was reported missing after he failed to report to work, and police later found “signs of violence” at their home.

Gary Laura Johnson Pd

On Feb. 12, a cadaver dog led investigators to the Johnsons’ bodies at Gourdneck State Game Area — only a few miles from their home — in Portage, Michigan. The search effort for the missing couple lasted three days.

Nicholas Johnson was charged with two counts of open murder and a total of three gun charges, according to documents obtained by Oxygen.com. He was arraigned on the weapons charges in Kalamazoo County District Court on Feb. 10.

Gary and Laura Johnson’s cause of death hasn’t yet been released and police haven’t specified a possible motive in the double homicide.

“From the first time I heard they were missing…as much as I wanted to believe otherwise, the rational part of me understood it was pretty much leading to something like this,” Gary Johnson’s elder brother, David Johnson, told MLive.com. “None of it was unexpected — unwanted, but not unexpected.”

He said the couple “painted a picture of stability that doesn’t really exist anymore.” 

Laura Johnson, who retired last year, had worked as a certified tumor registrar at a local cancer clinic for 17 years.

"Her work behind the scenes on local cancer cases was incredibly important and valued," her former employer, West Michigan Cancer Center, said in a statement. "Laura was a terrific colleague — she was immensely compassionate, generous and kind. We are all absolutely heartbroken and in shock over the loss of this wonderful couple."

Nicholas Johnson Pd

Nicholas Johnson had grown increasingly erratic over the years, his family said. At the time of their death, his parents had an active protection order against their estranged son. 

"If it ever came down to physically having to control Nick, he didn't think he could do it," David Johnson recalled his brother once telling him, MLive.com reported.

One of the charges for which Nicholas Johnson was arraigned this week stems from an incident in 2019, in which he was accused of breaking into his parents’ home, as is outlined in a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com. The case is still pending in Kalamazoo County District Court. His defense attorney, Peter D'Angelo, wasn't immediately available for comment on Friday.

Nicholas Johnson is also a person of interest in a separate missing person case involving Michigan teenager Bonifacio Pena, who vanished in May 2018, WWMT-TV reported.

"There's a lot that's pointing toward him that he might have done something to him,” his friend, Ashleigh Koejte, told the outlet. “Maybe they can hopefully get this guy to talk and get the closure they deserve.”

Johnson was arraigned for the double homicide on Feb. 18, Portage Public Safety Chief Nicholas Armold said. He’s being held on a $100,000 bond on both murder charges, according to online jail records. He's been appointed a public defender, court filings show.

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