Family expresses loss at Johnson sentencing
Steamboat Springs — Family members trembled, cried and expressed anger Wednesday as they confronted Lucas Johnson, who was sentenced to 34 years in prison for brutally murdering Edward Zimmerman.
“He was my dad — a mentor that I absolutely loved with all my heart,” said Zimmerman’s 17-year-old daughter, Elle. “I felt a dream of mine had been shattered.”
She said she now has to go day by day thinking about how something so tragic could happen and how someone could do such a terrible thing to her dad.
“I will become successful for him, because that’s all he wanted me to be,” she said.
Last week, Johnson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and attempted escape from the Routt County Jail in a plea deal. He was sentenced to one year in prison for the attempted escape.
“Mr. Johnson took the unusual step of coming forward and describing the circumstances surrounding the murder and accepting responsibility for his crimes,” District Attorney Brett Barkey said in a news release. “We consequently reached a compromise in order to provide the closure and finality desired by Mr. Zimmerman’s family. I hope this resolution brings the family some measure of peace.”
Steamboat Today has filed a records request with the Routt County Sheriff’s Office to receive a recording of the interview with Johnson.
Prosecutors were prepared to argue that Johnson murdered Zimmerman and stole dozens of marijuana plants Zimmerman had been growing at his home for medicinal purposes. Zimmerman was reported missing Feb. 28, 2015, after not showing up for work.
A friend of Zimmerman’s told investigators he believed Johnson and Zimmerman had a falling out over money.
Numerous friends and family members attended Wednesday’s brief sentencing hearing, but only Elle Zimmerman and Zimmerman’s sister, Robin Mizerak, spoke.
“We are exceptionally grateful to the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office,” Mizerak said.
Mizerak read a letter from Zimmerman’s mother and said nearly 200 people attended a memorial service in Florida for Zimmerman.
“You stole my son’s life from him,” Mizerak read from the letter. “He loved life, and he lived life to the fullest. After you killed him, you treated his body like a piece of trash, and that has added to our pain.”
A medical examiner determined Zimmerman died of blood loss resulting from multiple sharp-force injuries to the neck. Zimmerman also suffered a single gunshot wound to the left side of the face, and there was evidence he was strangled. His nude body was found wrapped in multiple pieces of plastic and secured with black duct tape in a chicken coop outside Johnson’s home.
“I would like to sincerely apologize to the family of Ed,” Johnson said in a brief statement. “It’s terrible what happened … and I will sincerely regret it.”
Judge Shelley Hill called the incident horrible and told Johnson that whatever dispute he had did not warrant him hurting Zimmerman.
“You also changed the lives of your family forever, and you didn’t have a right to do any of that,” Hill said.
Johnson has three children and is now divorced from his wife.
After the hearing, Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said he understood the family’s wishes not to endure a potentially lengthy trial.
“I know the family’s wishes were given a lot of weight in the disposition of this case,” Wiggins said.
Johnson was originally charged with first-degree murder, second-degree burglary, child abuse, possession with intent to manufacture or distribute more than 50 pounds of marijuana and theft.
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