ST. PAUL (WCCO) — The 35-year-old man accused of killing his wife and leaving her body in a White Bear Lake garage has been charged with intentional second-degree murder.
According to the charges, Steven Roger Johnson, of St. Paul, shot his wife in the head with a shotgun on Jan. 6 and then used a saw to dismember her body in the shower, placing her in several storage bins. Johnson said then he cleaned up his home to hide the evidence.
Police say he brought those bins to a friend’s garage, without that friend knowing. Johnson later told the friend what he did.
The complaint states police were dispatched to a home on the 1400 block of Sheldon Avenue to check on the welfare of Johnson’s wife, later identified as 32-year-old Manya Jewel Johnson.
Upon arrival, they were advised that a man in White Bear Lake had called police stating the woman was dead and that Johnson had placed her body in his garage.
While police were at the St. Paul residence, Johnson returned to the home with a co-worker of Manya Johnson, claiming to be looking for her since she didn’t show up for work.
Officers immediately detained Steven Johnson for questioning. He admitted to police he murdered his wife, after the two were arguing on Sunday.
He told police his wife said she was leaving him and was taking their 18-month-old son with her. He admitted he’d been drinking.
The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s report confirmed the cause of death as homicide due to an “intermediate range” gunshot wound to the head.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Steven Johnson was clearly taking elaborate steps to cover up the crime.
“He embarked on a plan to try to get rid of the body,” Choi said. “Thankfully, because of the conscientious actions of his friend, (the friend) contacted police.”
Choi says he doesn’t know yet if he’ll seek a first-degree murder indictment.
“Anything is possible, and the case is ongoing and we’ll make a determination when we get more information,” he said.
Johnson was previously convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct on Dec. 6, 1996. According to the complaint in that case, he and an accomplice raped a woman after handcuffing her and confining her in a vehicle against her will. Johnson was driving the vehicle and had threatened to kill her, according to the complaint. He was in prison for that crime until February 2008.
Manya Johnson was a successful, young Target Corp. executive.
In 2009, she married Steven, who had then been out of prison for a year after serving his sentence.
When the Johnsons moved to St. Paul in 2010, neighbors were initially scared, because they knew Steven served time in prison. Cherste Eidman, however, reached out, leaving the couple a note saying she believed in second chances.
That night, the couple thanked her. Eidman said Manya told her that Steven was the gentlest man she knew.
“When we saw them in the neighborhood, they looked like a loving, happy couple,” she said.
Eidman was convinced Steven wasn’t a threat after he told her he was high on drugs at the time of the rape.
“I said [to him], you don’t look like a monster, and he kind of laughed,” Eidman said.
She added: “I think of how terribly wrong I was; that I did have a monster sitting on my couch.”
Target Corp. released a statement expressing condolences to Manya’s family. The company is also providing resources and support to her coworkers.
Johnson is being held on $2,000,000 bail.