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Crime News Snapped

Sister Says Woman Forced Her into "Evil" Murder Plot by Taking Away Her Medication

Vanessa Cameron's sister told officers in her confession that Cameron had been "evil" since they were children.

By Caitlin Schunn

Police were baffled when a 26-year-old Texas man was shot, killed, and dumped in a cemetery. Samuel Johnson, Jr. seemingly had no enemies, but as police dug deeper into his life, they discovered Vanessa Cameron, the mother of his child, to be a vengeful ex-girlfriend who was willing to kill for money.

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“She is very much is a master manipulator,” Karl Alexander, a former Asst. District Attorney, said on Snapped, airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen. “From manipulating people around her, to actually manipulating people to help her carry out this murder and do her dirty work for her.”

How was Sam Johnson Jr.'s body found?

An officer on patrol discovered a dead body at a San Antonio, Texas cemetery on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010. The victim had been shot multiple times, but upon further investigation, police believed the victim had been shot several days earlier, and then dumped at the cemetery recently, as there was no blood or shell casings at the graveyard.

A photo of Vanessa Cameron in court, featured on Snapped 3219

An autopsy showed a gunshot wound to the head, two gunshots to the hands and arms, which indicated defensive wounds, three gunshots to the torso, and a head wound.

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There was no identification on the victim, but a recent missing persons report for Sam Johnson, Jr. matched the body.

Johnson Jr. had been reported missing by his parents on Jan. 13. The family also told police Johnson Jr.’s car was missing.

It was later discovered about 40 miles from the cemetery. No prints were found in the car — it had been wiped clean. There were, however, blood stains in the trunk.

What was Sam Johnson Jr.'s relationship with Vanessa Cameron?

As police talked to Johnson Jr.’s family, they learned more about his relationship with the mother of his child.

Johnson Jr. and Vanessa Cameron met in Feb. 2007 as he worked at a gym where she was a customer. The two began dating, and by 2008, they had a son together.

“That child became his reason for getting up in the morning, his reason for breathing,” said Samuel Johnson, Johnson Jr.’s father, on Snapped. “I saw my son grow into a man and I’ve never been more proud of him.”

In April 2009, there was a fire in the home Johnson Jr. and Cameron shared. Cameron received nearly $300,000 in insurance money for the damages, and the family moved in with Cameron’s sister and her boyfriend. There was an argument, though, when Cameron wouldn’t give Johnson Jr. any of the insurance money, and the couple decided to end their relationship.

Johnson Jr. then found love again with a woman named Erica Hinton-Bridgeforth. The two got engaged, and at the end of November 2009, just months before his murder, the couple found out they were expecting a child.

Cameron and Bridgeforth were two of the last people to see Johnson Jr. alive, making them persons of interest to the police.

Bridgeforth told officers Johnson Jr. had dropped Cameron and their son off at the airport so she could visit friends in Mississippi just days before his death. But Bridgeforth also told police that Cameron had finally agreed to leave Johnson Jr.’s share of the fire insurance money with her sister, Susan Sutton.

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Johnson Jr. had told Bridgeforth he was going to pick up the money and head to work — but he was never seen again.

Why did Vanessa Cameron's sister turn against her to police?

A woman soon called officers to report a “weird” phone call she’d received from her daughter, Adrienne Moates, whom Cameron had just visited in Mississippi.

Moates then spoke to police about the series of strange phone conversations Cameron had while on the visit, including one with her sister’s boyfriend, B.J. Brown.

“She called me back into the bathroom, and she said, ‘Girl, I think that they accidentally killed Sam,’” Moates, a former friend of Cameron, said on Snapped. “And I said, ‘They?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, B.J. and [Cameron's sister, Susan Sutton].’”

Cameron and Moates had a falling out soon after the call, and Moates said Cameron came home from her trip early, on Jan. 17, the day Johnson Jr.’s body was found.

With the heat now on Cameron and her sister, Susan Sutton, police asked both to come in for interviews. Cameron immediately tried to put the suspicion on Johnson Jr.’s fiancée, pregnant Erica Hinton-Bridgeforth.

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“There was going to be no relationship,” Cameron told police during the interview. “He said he’s going to break up with her. I mean, if we have to put it out there, I think she had something to do with this. I think that she is obsessed with Sam.”

But when police pressed Cameron on the calls she took in Mississippi, Cameron then pointed the finger at her own sister.

“She said that, that he was dead,” Cameron said during the police interview. “And I tried to hold it together, and I was just like, ‘What did y’all do?’ Because it was just too much.”

Sutton, who had denied knowing anything and left the police interview, later came back — and this time, she was ready to confess.

“She’s evil,” Sutton said during her police interview. “She’s been evil since we were little kids. She’s used me every day of my life …the fire happened. Vanessa started it. She was trying to set the fire in the trash can.”

Sutton told police that Cameron spent most of the fire insurance money within eight months.

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“She used that insurance money from the fire to control them,” Lisa Miller, a former San Antonio police sergeant, said on Snapped. “She doled that money out based on getting them to do what she wanted them to do.”

Police also learned Johnson Jr. took out a life insurance policy on himself in the amount of $750,000.

Sutton confessed to police that Cameron told her to get a gun and kill Johnson Jr., adding her sister went so far as to use her mental health issues against her.

“Vanessa had taken away her medication,” said Kimberly Bower, a former San Antonio police sergeant, on Snapped. “That way if Susan went to trial for Sam’s murder, she could claim that she wasn’t on her meds and that led to murder.”

Sutton alleged she was forced into the murder out of desperation and a promise of money.

“Susan and her boyfriend were not working at this point,” Miller said. “They didn’t have jobs. They were dependent on Vanessa. Susan says, ‘I couldn’t do it. My boyfriend agreed to step up and do it for me.'”

Sutton told police her boyfriend, B.J. Brown, got his cousin, Lakisha Brown, involved in the plot as well. It started when they lured Johnson Jr. to Sutton’s home to get his share of the fire insurance money.

“She said they beat him up,” Miller said. “They drove him out to a ranch. And it was there that they actually killed him.”

When police questioned Lakisha Brown, she admitted that they handcuffed Johnson Jr., tied rope around his feet, put duct tape over his mouth, and drove him in the trunk of his car to the ranch.

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“Sam begged for his life,” Alexander said. “And actually, he asked, ‘Why?’ The response was, ‘Because this is what Vanessa wanted.’”

Lakisha Brown told police her cousin, B.J. was the one who shot Johnson Jr. She took police to the ranch where she claimed it happened, where they found shell casings, a barbecue with burnt clothes in it, handcuffs, and a rope — verifying her story.

B.J. Brown, however, denied any involvement.

Vanessa Cameron Changes Her Story

Faced with confessions from others, Cameron told police that what happened to her ex-boyfriend was basically an assisted suicide.

“She changed her story, and said, yes, she did have him killed, but she did it because he wanted to be killed,” Jay Brandon, prosecutor, said on Snapped. “He had taken out a large life insurance policy and he wanted her and the baby to have that. And he didn’t have the nerve to kill himself.”

But a jury didn’t buy her story. In February 2012, Cameron went on trial, and was found guilty by a jury. She was sentenced to 75 years in prison.

“I think it was all part of a cold, callous personality,” Bower said.

Susan Sutton and Lakisha Brown both pled guilty and testified against Cameron at her trial. Sutton is serving a 25-year sentence, while Lakisha Brown is serving 20 years in prison.

In October 2013, B.J. Brown went on trial, but was acquitted for a lack of evidence.

Vanessa Cameron and Sam Johnson Jr.’s son is currently being raised by Cameron’s mother.

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