Vietnam Veteran Gives Up in 4 Slayings : Crime: The soldier, trained as a sniper, is suspected of killing three officers and the wife of a fourth. A family dispute may be the spark.


A Vietnam veteran trained as a sniper and suspected in a shooting rampage that left three law enforcement officers and a sheriff's wife dead surrendered late Tuesday, ending a daylong manhunt.

James R. Johnson, 42, gave up after spending the day hiding in the home of an elderly woman, authorities said.

Johnson, a helicopter technician for the Missouri National Guard, is also suspected of wounding a fifth person in a rampage that terrorized this central Missouri town. The shooting apparently began when a sheriff's deputy responded to a domestic disturbance call.

Throughout the day in California, a rural town of 3,300 residents 25 miles west of Jefferson City, businesses, schools and the post office were shut and people were warned to stay home. The community resembled a ghost town as about 200 officers conducted a house-to-house search.

Sgt. Terry Moore of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the elderly woman, who was not identified, had received a telephone call early Tuesday from friends warning her to lock up because a killer was loose. When she went to lock her back door, she found Johnson armed with two long-barreled guns.

"He told her that he wasn't going to hurt her but that he needed a place to stay," Moore said. The woman let Johnson in and "even fixed him lunch," Moore said.

Moore said the woman persuaded Johnson to allow her to attend a party by arguing that her friends would become suspicious if she did not show up. Once out, she reported Johnson's whereabouts to police, who dispatched an emergency team to surround her home.

Officers telephoned Johnson, who gave himself up without a fight after nearly two hours of negotiations, authorities said.

The shooting spree began Monday night when Moniteau County Deputy Leslie Roark was killed while answering a domestic disturbance call at Johnson's home near Jamestown, 10 miles north of California.

When Sheriff Kenny Jones went to Roark's aid, the gunman is believed to have gone to Jones' home and shot the sheriff's wife, Pam Jones, while she was leading a prayer meeting.

Early Tuesday, Moniteau County Deputy Russell Borts was shot at his home two blocks from the county jail after he returned from investigating the Jones shooting. He was listed in stable condition at a nearby hospital. Cooper County Sheriff Charles R. Smith and Miller County Deputy Sandra Wilson were shot to death after they left the jail to investigate the shots at Borts' home.

A family dispute may have triggered the rampage, said John Weed, former husband of Johnson's wife, Jerri. He said his daughter, Dawn Becker, 17, who lived with her mother and Johnson, told him by telephone that Johnson became upset because the mother and daughter could not attend a church service.

"My daughter's comments were that her mom stared down the barrel of a shotgun for several minutes and so did she," Weed said.

Jason Huntsperger, a classmate of Becker, said she told him that Johnson often hit her. "She always said her dad didn't want her living at home with him," Huntsperger said.

The girl and her mother were in protective custody Tuesday night.

Moore told the Associated Press that the gunman systematically hunted down the law officers.

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