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Who Killed A Woman As She Slept In Her Apartment? What To Know Before ‘Sleeping With Death’

Tennessee detectives search for a killer who stabbed a grad student, Johnia Berry, more than 20 times in an episode of the new series "Sleeping With Death."

For Johnia Berry, the future was very bright. She was in graduate school studying to make her professional goals a reality. 

But her dreams came to a shocking and tragic halt in the middle of the night. She was stabbed to death in the apartment she shared with her roommate. 

Who killed this young woman — and why? How did detectives solve the case?

“Sleeping with Death,” airing Sunday, November 6 at 7/6c on Oxygen, takes an in-depth look at the homicide through interviews with investigators, witnesses, and the victim’s parents. In advance of the premiere, we break down what you need to know about the case.

The victim

In December 2004, Johnia, 21, was in graduate school at the University of Tennessee, where she was majoring in child psychology, according to the Tennessee Lookout. 

Johnia, who was bright and energetic and a cheerleader in high school, had moved into a Knoxville apartment belonging to a friend six weeks earlier to pursue her education. Her roommate was Jason Aymami. 

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He graduated with a degree in accounting from Eastern Tennessee State University, where Johnia did her undergraduate degree.

The Crime

In the early morning hours of December 6, Johnia was in her bedroom sleeping. But then, an intruder allegedly came into the apartment and stabbed her repeatedly. 

Aymami told police that he was in his bedroom asleep and awakened by Johnia’s screams around 4 a.m. He himself was stabbed when he came out of his bedroom, he said, but he was able to run to a nearby convenience store to call 911

Johnia was found to have been stabbed more than 20 times. She died outside her apartment “after banging on neighbors’ doors for help but getting no response,” reported the Times News.

The investigation

Detectives believed the murder may have been the result of a botched robbery, but the number of wounds suggested a crime of passion.

As a routine part of a homicide, police considered individuals close to Johnia. That included her fiancé, Jason White, who was in law school in Michigan. Aymami, whose wounds were much less severe than Johnia’s, also became a prime suspect, although he maintained his innocence.

The evidence

Investigators had pieces of evidence to go off of: A bent kitchen knife stained with blood from three people — Johnia, Aymami, and an unidentified male presumed to be the killer, and a bloody footprint, believed to have been left by the killer, was found in Aymami’s room. A blood-drop trail led out the back door of the apartment. 

The breakthrough

Three years passed before authorities got the break they needed, thanks to a tip and the composite sketch. Who was it? What was the motive?

To learn more about the case, including the shocking twist that followed the murderer’s conviction and how Johnia’s parents  watch “Sleeping with Death" when it premieres Sunday, November 6 at 7/6c on Oxygen.

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