Kristen Johnson exonerated of murder
Steamboat Springs — Kristen Johnson has been exonerated as an accomplice to murder, related to the death of Steamboat Springs resident Ed Zimmerman.
Johnson, who was out on bond and is currently living in Florida with her three children, appeared in court Thursday at the Routt County Justice Center.
As part of a plea bargain, she pleaded guilty to false reporting to authorities and obstruction of a peace officer.
“We know a lot more today than when charges were originally filed,” District Attorney Brett Barkey told Judge Shelley Hill.
Barker said the new charges better reflect the role Johnson played.
Johnson was sentenced to time served in jail, which was six months.
Johnson appeared relieved when the hearing concluded.
“I’m done,” Johnson said to Routt County Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann, who had been involved in the case.
Johnson than sat down next to Uhlmann and hugged her.
Front Range attorney Tina Tussay was appointed to represent Johnson. Tussay spoke after the hearing.
“She’s relieved that the truth is coming out that she’s not involved,” Tussay said. “She’s happy to be reunited with her kids. They need their mom.”
Still being held for the murder of Zimmerman is Johnson’s now ex-husband Lucas Johnson, who is not allowed to have any contact with Kristen Johnson.
“She definitely had nothing to do with the murder of Mr. Zimmerman,” Tussay said. “He was a family friend. She’s terribly upset about the event.”
Tussay said the obstruction charge that Kristen Johnson pleaded guilty to was related to Kristen Johnson cleaning out a car that could have contained evidence. The false reporting charge was related to Kristen Johnson not telling authorities who her husband had been with, when Kristen Johnson actually knew.
“The fact of the matter was she witnessed nothing,” Tussay said. “She didn’t know the body was behind their home in a chicken coop.”
The Johnsons were charged after Zimmerman’s body was found March 4 in a shed outside the Johnsons’ rental home in rural Routt County between Steamboat and Stagecoach. Zimmerman was reported missing Feb. 28 after not showing up for work.
According to court documents, prosecutors thought Zimmerman was murdered, and the Johnsons stole Zimmerman’s medical marijuana plants.
A friend told investigators that Zimmerman at one point said there had been a falling out with Lucas Johnson about money.
Tussay said Lucas Johnson had been working for Zimmerman by helping grow marijuana. Lucas Johnson stopped working for Zimmerman, and a few weeks later, Zimmerman’s body was found, she said.
Tussay said Kristen Johnson is going through a lot right now.
“She faced with supporting three kids and starting over,” Tussay said. “It’s sad. It’s very sad. It was a beautiful family.”
Kristen Johnson may testify against her ex-husband if his case goes to trial.
“There is no condition of the plea that she testify,” Tussay said. “I think there is the expectation that she cooperate.”
Lucas Johnson is due to appear in court next on Dec. 4.
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