Defense tries to suppress statements made by man accused of killing Pa. Wildlife Conservation officer

Christopher Lynn Johnson is charged with first-degree murder and faces a possible death penalty if convicted

September 28, 2011|By DON AINES |
  • Johnson

A hearing to suppress statements made to police by a man charged with the murder of Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation Officer David Grove concluded this week, but a ruling on defense motions is several weeks away, District Attorney Shawn Wagner said.

Christopher Lynn Johnson, 28, of Fairfield, Pa., is charged with first-degree murder and faces a possible death penalty if convicted of the Nov. 11, 2010, shooting death of Grove, 31, of Fairfield.

Assistant Public Defender Kristin Rice has filed a motion to suppress Johnson's statements to police following his arrest on Nov. 12, as well as a motion to have the trial moved to another county, or have a jury brought in from another jurisdiction to hear the case.

The suppression hearing began in Adams County Court of Common Pleas in Gettysburg, Pa., on June 28, with a day of testimony from the Pennsylvania state trooper who questioned Johnson and the paramedics who treated him. The hearing was continued at the end of that day and resumed Tuesday.

Judge Michael George asked the prosecution and defense to submit briefs to him by Oct. 26, Wagner said. A decision on the motions would come sometime after that, he said.

Johnson's trial is currently set to start Jan. 23, Wagner said.

Johnson is accused of shooting Grove four times after the wildlife conservation officer stopped his pickup truck in Freedom Township on suspicion of poaching deer, according to charging documents.

Grove was attempting to take him into custody when Johnson allegedly pulled a concealed .45-caliber pistol from his waistband and began firing, the documents said.

Grove was hit four times in the exchange of gunfire, including a fatal shot to the back of his neck, according to preliminary hearing testimony on Nov. 24, 2010.

Grove fired 10 rounds in the exchange, and Johnson fired 15 shots, according to preliminary hearing testimony. The type of pistol Johnson allegedly used holds a maximum of eight rounds, and Wagner said after the hearing that the shooter would have had to reload the weapon.

Grove was a graduate of Grace Academy in Hagerstown and lived in Waynesboro, Pa., prior to moving to Fairfield.

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