Judge considers releasing documents related to Zimmerman homicide

Matt Stensland
Lucas M. Johnson
courtesy/ Routt County Sheriff’s Office

— During a hearing Wednesday, Judge Shelley Hill considered whether to unseal records related to the Ed Zimmerman homicide case.

“This judge happens to believe greatly in transparency,” said Hill, who did not make an immediate decision at the hearing.

On May 12, the Steamboat Pilot & Today filed a one-sentence request with Hill asking her to unseal affidavits related to the arrests of Lucas Johnson and his wife, Kristen.

The Routt County Sheriff’s Office believes the couple is responsible for Zimmerman’s death. According to the charges, Zimmerman was murdered as part of a marijuana robbery. Zimmerman, who was reported missing Feb. 28, grew medical marijuana in his rural Steamboat Springs home.

The Johnsons appeared at the hearing and are still in custody at Routt County Jail. The Johnsons have a three-day preliminary hearing scheduled to begin Aug. 31.

It was apparent the attorneys involved in the case did not want the affidavits to made available to the public.

District Attorney Brett Barkey said he was concerned releasing the documents could taint a potential jury. If it was determined a change of venue was needed, Barkey said he was concerned about the “unnecessary” expense of trying the case in another county.

“I think it’s important for the state to be able to try the case in Routt County,” Barkey said.

Barkey said he was also concerned about salacious facts in the affidavits. Something that is salacious is, by definition, obscene or pornographic in nature.

Hill told Barkey she could not recall anything salacious in the sealed affidavits.

Barkey said the Zimmerman homicide investigation was ongoing. He said there are currently no active leads, but more may develop.

Routt County Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann is representing Lucas Johnson. Leslie Goldstein has been appointed to represent Kristen Johnson.

Goldstein told Hill she believed the media coverage on the case has been pervasive, and Goldstein was concerned about being able to select an impartial jury.

“There has been already just enormous media coverage,” Uhlmann said.

Hill said she was going to review the affidavits again and then decide whether they should be released.

Barkey asked that if Hill decided to release the affidavits, he be given 24 to 48 hours to inform the family. Hill said that was a reasonable request.

The Routt County Coroner’s Office has already released Zimmerman’s preliminary autopsy report, which showed Zimmerman was brutally killed. Coroner Rob Ryg on Wednesday said he still has not received Zimmerman’s final autopsy report.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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