LANCASTER – A paroled gang member previously profiled on our “Most Wanted AV Parolees” list has been charged with murdering two men after a Lancaster house party in June.
Leo Jerome Johnson is charged with two counts of murder with a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, making the 28-year-old eligible for the death penalty, authorities said. The complaint also includes allegations that the offenses were committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang and that Johnson personally and intentionally discharged a firearm, according to Shiara Dávila-Morales of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. Johnson was captured in New Mexico last month and is currently in county jail without bail.
The charges stem from the shooting deaths of 33-year-old Nicky Packard and 22-year-old Michael Sewell Jr. Both were killed during the early morning hours of Sunday, June 23, after a house party in the 44800 Block of Hanstead Avenue in Lancaster.
During the party, an argument broke out between the suspect and the two victims, and then the suspect was seen leaving the party, homicide detectives said. Sewell and Packard left the party in a group and were congregating in front of a house down the street when the suspect returned around 4:30 a.m., homicide detectives said.
The suspect produced a handgun and shot Packard three times and then shot Sewell once in the chest, homicide detectives said. Both victims died at the scene.
In the days following the shooting, homicide detectives sought the public’s help in finding the killer. In August, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a $10,000 reward for help in solving the double murder.
“Tips started to come in and we followed up on those tips,” said Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau. “There were certain people that were party goers, and they gave us information and were willing to look at a photographic lineup. They picked him out and that’s how he [Johnson] was identified.”
At the time of the incident, Johnson was on parole for second-degree robbery. He was convicted of using a handgun to rob a taco stand and striking an employee in the face with the gun, according to local parole officials. Johnson absconded from parole supervision some time this year, and he was profiled in the local media in August as an “extremely dangerous” gang member with an “extensive criminal history that includes battery, assault with a deadly weapon, and robbery.”
As homicide detectives were building the double-murder case against Johnson, they caught a break in October when the at-large parolee was spotted in New Mexico.
“He was stopped by a New Mexico police officer, and during the contact, they discovered that he had a parole hold from California,” Hernandez said. “He was arrested and then we were contacted, and subsequently he was extradited back to California.”
Inmate records show Johnson was booked into county jail on October 17. Johnson appeared in an Antelope Valley courtroom on Monday (Nov. 4) and was sentenced to 16 months in state prison for violating his parole, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. He is expected to be arraigned on the new charges this week.
Homicide investigators have identified two tipsters who may qualify for the county’s $10,000 reward for giving information deemed instrumental to the case. The names have been forwarded to Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s office for review, Hernandez said.
Johnson remains jailed without bail.
UPDATED 12/4/13: Leo Johnson appeared in an Antelope Valley courtroom today for a scheduled arraignment, but that arraignment was postponed to Dec. 11, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office.
UPDATED 12/11/13: Leo Johnson was scheduled to be arraigned today in an Antelope Valley courtroom, but the arraignment has been delayed again, this time until Jan. 30, 2014. We will continue to follow this story.
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