Lucas Johnson pleads guilty to second-degree murder
Steamboat Springs — The man accused of robbing and murdering a Steamboat Springs man for his marijuana plants pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Thursday.
As part of a plea deal, Lucas Johnson also pleaded guilty to attempting to escape from the Routt County Jail.
The plea agreement calls for the 39-year-old to serve 34 years in prison for murdering Edward Zimmerman and one year for the attempted escape.
“We reached a plea agreement that was consistent with the victim’s family’s wishes,” Deputy District Attorney Eliot Thompson said after Thursday’s hearing.
Judge Shelley Hill will sentence Johnson during a hearing at 9:30 a.m. June 8. Thompson anticipated Zimmerman’s family members would speak during the sentencing.
Johnson was charged after Zimmerman’s body was found March 4, 2015, in a shed outside the Johnsons’ rental home in rural Routt County between Steamboat and Stagecoach. Zimmerman was reported missing Feb. 28, 2015, after not showing up for work.
According to court documents, prosecutors believed Zimmerman was murdered, and Johnson stole Zimmerman’s medical marijuana plants and his car.
A friend told investigators Zimmerman, at one point, said there had been a falling out with Lucas Johnson over money.
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 body was found naked and wrapped in multiple pieces of plastic and secured with black duct tape.
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.
During a Sept. 29 hearing, it was revealed that Johnson was considering pleading guilty to second-degree murder with a stipulated 48-year prison sentence. At that time, he was being represented by the Public Defender’s Office.
After the Public Defender’s Office declared representing Johnson would present a conflict, Jeff Walsh was appointed to defend Johnson.
On Oct. 21, Johnson was arrested and subsequently charged with attempted escape after jailers discovered he tried to dig a hole in a cinder block at the jail with a Monopoly hat game piece.
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Steamboat Free Summer Concerts announced Friday that it will return live music to the Yampa Valley this summer in the form of two concerts scheduled for August and September.