Johnson sought to quiet co-defendant

June 05, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A series of letters from Mark Johnson to his co-defendant filled with explicit sexual details and reminders not to cooperate with police were introduced Wednesday in his kidnapping and attempted first-degree murder trial.

"Baby, only two people can bury us. Only you and myself. His word isn't enough to convict," Johnson wrote in one letter last October.

"Baby, we have to stick with our story," he wrote in another.

"Tammy, we have to get our alibis together for this case," he added in a third.

Unknown to Johnson at the time, co-defendant Tammy Reel had already begun cooperating with authorities.

Johnson and Reel are charged with kidnapping, attempted first-degree murder, bringing stolen property into the state, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to attempt first-degree murder, and conspiracy to bring stolen property into the state.


Reel, who is testifying for the prosecution as part of a plea agreement, was on the stand for a second day Wednesday.

Reel said that Johnson, her former lover, showed his anger at her on Monday at the Eastern Regional Jail on the day before his trial started.

She said she was in the law library as part of a Bible study group when he put his face up against a window and began cursing at her.

The two are accused of kidnapping Donald Milligan, 49, of Gaithersburg, Md., after she lured him to their motel room at the Days Inn in Frederick, Md., on Aug. 2, 1996, where Johnson allegedly choked him unconscious.

They later drove around through Frederick, part of Virginia and Jefferson County, seeking crack cocaine with Milligan in the trunk, Reel said.

On cross examination, defense attorney Keith L. Wheaton questioned Reel about her crack use, her account of events on the witness stand Tuesday and why she did not attempt to help Milligan.

Reel stuck by her testimony and at one point appeared near tears as Wheaton asked her about whether she had protested the treatment of Milligan.

Reel said she had not.

Stephen King, a fingerprints analyst with the West Virginia crime lab, said that three fingerprints taken from the motel room matched Johnson's fingerprints.

Johnson was known to have been in hiding with Reel, Burcker said.

They were arrested on Aug. 7, after an informant tipped off police that they were hiding at Johnson's mother's house in Jefferson County.

Milligan suffered a concussion, and numerous bruises to his head, neck and back, Dr. Ophas Vongxaiburana testified.

A sheriff's deputy later found his stolen car at the Martin's parking lot in Charles Town. A store security camera caught Johnson and Reel crossing the parking lot and entering the store.

Inside the car, police found blood stains, a beer bottle and a bean dip canister, witnesses said.

West Virginia State Police Sgt. Ginger Burcker of the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force testified that Reel and Johnson became suspects after they saw the register at the Days Inn signed Tammy Reed, but with Reel's street address.

Milligan was able to show the investigators where he had played dead as he was thrown into the Potomac River near Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

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