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Couple found shot in home

Murder-suicide makes 7 fatal shootings in 13 days

Murder-suicide makes 7 fatal shootings in 13 days

August 05, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - A Hamilton Township couple was found dead inside their home Friday morning after a murder-suicide that occurred Thursday night, according to Pennsylvania State Police.

Karen Lynn Johnston, 48, and Thomas William Johnston, 50, were pronounced dead at about 5:30 a.m. in a bedroom of their home at 94 Jameslee Drive, Cpl. Gary Carter said. Carter said Karen Johnston had been shot more than once with a handgun and Thomas Johnston died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

The fatal shootings were the sixth and seventh in the Tri-State area since July 23. Four of those deaths, including the shootings of a man and a woman in related incidents on July 28, occurred in Franklin County

Police were called to the Johnston's house at 11:38 p.m. for a report of a domestic disturbance and learned that shots had been fired inside the house, Carter said. Police set up a perimeter around the house and called in the state police Special Emergency Response Team, which arrived shortly after midnight, he said.

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Carter said the houses on either side of the Johnstons' home were evacuated as a precaution and police tried to make contact with anyone inside by telephone or loudspeaker without success.

At about 4 a.m., police set off two of what Carter called "flash-bang devices" outside the house in an attempt to elicit a response from inside. The SERT team entered the house at about 4:30 a.m. and found the bodies, he said.

Franklin County Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner pronounced them dead at about 5:30 a.m., Carter said. The deaths were still under investigation, he said at a noon press conference.

Next-door-neighbor Jerry Walberg said he was home when the Johnstons' daughter, accompanied by her boyfriend and their infant child, rang the doorbell of his home.

"He shot her! He shot her! He shot her!" Walberg said the daughter screamed. Walberg said the daughter, whose name he did not know, told him that Thomas Johnston pointed a gun in her face then went into a bedroom.

Walberg said the daughter went back to the driveway of her parents' house after coming to his door. He joined her in the driveway and she told him she had called 911.

Carter said he could not confirm whether gunshots were heard by a dispatcher during the 911 call.

"I think they were still in the house when the shots were fired," Walberg said of the daughter, boyfriend and infant. The SERT team set up its command post in his house, he said.

Walberg described the Johnstons as "pretty quiet. They kept to themselves."

"He was on the lawnmower last week, and we had a beer and everything seemed all right," Walberg said. "Once in a while, you'd hear a little argument over there," he said.

Walberg said Thomas Johnston worked at Letterkenny Army Depot until sometime in the past few months. Walberg said he believed he saw the couple leave the house between 7 and 8 p.m. Thursday night.

A friend of the couple, who asked that her name not be used, said she had seen Thomas Johnston, but not his wife, at a Chambersburg veterans club between 7 and 8 p.m.

"You saw Tom and Karen together all the time," the woman said, noting the wife's absence. "The outward appearance in public was that they cherished each other."

Thomas Johnston appeared "very somber" Thursday night, the woman said.

The woman said the Johnstons also have an adult son, Thomas Johnston Jr.

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