says not guilty;
Wanda English Burnett
It was a story of she said, he said and in the end
the jury had the final say.
Tyler James Johnson, 22, of the Napoleon area, had been charged
with Rape, a Class A felony; Criminal Confinement a Class B felony;
and Neglect of a Dependent, a Class D felony.
Jurors took less than two hours to decide Johnson was not guilty
of the rape and confinement charges, and found him only guilty
of Neglect of a Dependent.
Throughout the two-day trial, testimony was heard from the victim,
Johnsons wife, Sheldon, Detective Tracy Rohlfing of the
Indiana State Police and the defendant.
According to all involved, the event took place July 9, 2010,
when Johnson came home from work early to find his wife talking
with another man on the telephone. He said he grabbed her by the
neck, threw her down on the couch and then the story changed,
depending on who was telling it.
The victim said he (Johnson) dragged her by the neck to the kitchen
where he got a large knife out of the drawer and waved it in the
air saying he was going to kill the man she was talking on the
phone with. As the victim testified, she said she was just
terrified throughout the ordeal.
The defendant said he didnt force her to do anything. He
said he did get a knife and waved it in the air. Then he said
he told her to drive him to her boyfriends home because
he wanted to kill him. He said he didnt know where the boyfriend
lived, and thats why he told her to drive him there.
The two left the home where their two-year-old daughter was sleeping
They traveled for a distance before Johnson told his wife to pull
over. She pulled the car to the side of the road and then drove
down the road a way. He then told her he wanted to have sex with
her one more time before he went to jail. He said he knew he would
go to jail for a long time for murder.
The victim told how she didnt want to have sex with him,
but he had a knife and she was afraid.
Through a lot of testimony, the couple each told their rendition
of the sex act. Then, they told how they had traveled on to where
the boyfriend lived in Westport. There in a parking lot near the
boyfriends apartment, the victim was able to convince Johnson
to go back home and not commit the act of murder he was intent
on. The victim told that Johnson wanted her to lure her boyfriend
out of the apartment so he (Johnson) could slit his throat. Johnson
admitted he wanted to watch him die a slow death because he (Johnson)
was so hurt about the whole situation.
The victim told Johnson he would never see his daughter grow up
if he was in prison and wouldnt be able to walk her down
the aisle when she got married. Johnson said he thought about
all of that and then decided against the murder.
They told how they drove back to their place of residence, spent
the night, got up the next day and went their separate ways. That
night, after telling a friend at work and calling the boyfriend,
the victim went to the police.
Throughout the trial the defense questioned the victim several
times about the affair she was having with the other man. She
said she wanted out of the marriage, but due to her familys
religious beliefs, was afraid.
A tape recording of the defendants statement to police was
played for the jury. In the taped message, Johnson said he grabbed
his wifes neck. He said he was intent on killing this other
man. I thought hed done me wrong, he said. About
the sex act on the side of the road, Johnson said on the tape,
It was not consensual. In court he told the jury,
She didnt say no.
Although by both accounts of the victim and the defendant they
had not had a sexual relationship for several months, Johnson
maintained he did not rape his wife. Defense attorney John Watson
asked, You do and you did love her? to which the defendant
Under cross-examination of Johnson, Ripley County Prosecutor Ric
Hertel said things had changed in the story Johnson told in court
and the one he initially told police. He asked whose idea it was
to pull off the road that night. Mine, sir, replied
Hertel hammered home the fact that the couple had not been intimate
in months, so why did he (Johnson) think she would want to be
so at that point. She could have said no, was the
response from Johnson.
Johnson said his wife was trying to hurt him by putting him in
In closing arguments the prosecution asked Who is on trial?
He said it felt as though the victim was on trial due to her adulturous
behavior. He said, rape is more than a word, it is a crime.
A husband can rape a wife. He recalled Johnsons words
from the tape when asked if the victim told she had been raped,
and he replied, I wouldnt be surprised. He recalled
other words such as the defendant saying, Its not
consensual. He reminded the jury that Johnson was still
armed with the large knife when the sex act took place, thus intimidating
the victim further.
The prosecution argued that the victim did not leave the home
willingly, but was afraid. He said the crime had a face, the face
of the victim. Its not a complicated who done
it, he said. He urged the jury to hold Johnson accountable
saying, hes earned it.
Defense attorney Watson said in the beginning of the trial the
case was a strange one with a strange set of circumstances. While
he said many people might not conduct themselves in this manner,
he argued that the victim was never harmed, was not raped, and
never had the knife put on her. He said she wasnt dragged
anywhere, and was never threatened.
When the not guilty verdict was given on the counts
of Rape and Criminal Confinement, there was a sigh of relief from
the defendants family members who had been in the courtroom
for the duration of the trial.
Prosecutor Hertel said he and Detective Tracy Rohlfing were both
shocked and disappointed with the verdicts. I just got off
the phone with the victim, Hertel told The Versailles Republican
Wednesday evening. He said that was a hard conversation explaining
to her the jurys decisions.
Sentencing for the Neglect of a Dependent charge has been set
for June 20 at 1:00 p.m. in Ripley County Circuit Court.
The couple has divorce proceedings filed.