Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota man was charged Wednesday with shooting his wife after an argument, sawing her body into pieces and hiding her remains in plastic bins in a friend's garage.
Steven Roger Johnson, 34, of St. Paul, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Manya Jewel Johnson, 32. According to the criminal complaint, Johnson admitted that he killed his wife on Sunday after she told him she was leaving and taking the couple's 18-month-old son with her.
Johnson allegedly told police he had been drinking when he shot his wife in the head and "used a saw to dismember her body in the shower and he placed her in several plastic bins," the complaint said. Johnson said he then cleaned up his home to hide any evidence and took the bins to his friend's garage in the St. Paul suburb of White Bear Lake.
The friend didn't know what had happened until Johnson told him later, and the friend called authorities.
Johnson was in custody Wednesday and unavailable for comment. He was initially assigned a public defender, and a message left at that office was not returned. His bail was set at $2 million.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi called the dismemberment "an elaborate scheme to try to cover this up," and said he was grateful Johnson's friend came forward.
"It's very horrifying. It shocks the conscience of our community," Choi said.
According to the charges, St. Paul police went to the Johnson home Monday to check on Manya Johnson. When officers arrived, they were told that White Bear Lake police had received a call from Johnson's friend, who reported that Johnson told him Manya Johnson was dead and her body was in his garage.
While St. Paul police were at Johnson's home, he showed up with one of his wife's co-workers. They told police they were looking for Manya, and Johnson said he had left his job to look for his wife after getting a text message saying she hadn't shown up for work.
Manya's co-worker and Johnson told police they found her car at a park-and-ride lot.
As an officer was talking with Johnson, an agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension called the officer and said authorities had found the dismembered body.
Johnson was then arrested, the complaint said.
Choi said the crime is an unfortunate example of how quickly domestic violence can escalate into homicide.
"The tragedy about all of this is there is also an 18-month-old involved," Choi said. "He's going to be without a mother and likely to be without a father for a very, very long time."
Choi said the boy is being cared for and is safe.
Johnson pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1996, after authorities said he and an accomplice handcuffed a woman in a car and raped her. Authorities said Johnson threatened to kill the woman and claimed he had a gun.
He was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Online prison records show he was released in early 2008 and is on supervised release.
Steven and Manya Johnson were married in 2009, according to online records.
A message left at a number believed to belong to Johnson's friend who went to authorities was not returned.
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