Suspect facing murder charge

LISBON — New details about the murder of Scottie Johnson emerged during a preliminary hearing for Terry A. Brown, 47, the man allegedly responsible for Johnson’s death on March 8. The hearing was held Monday afternoon before Judge Mark Frost in Columbiana County Municipal Court.

Brown, whose bond remains set at $1 million cash or surety, was bound over on a murder charge to the Columbiana County Common Pleas Court grand jury following the testimony of the lead investigator in the case, Detective Sgt. Steven Walker of the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office.

Walker said Brown initially told officers Johnson had been staying with him at his home on Hillcrest Road, Wellsville, but Johnson and Alisha Rogenski, who is identified as Brown’s girlfriend, had a disagreement. Brown said they both left, and he had not seen them since.

But Walker said once Brown was informed deputies had located Johnson’s body behind the house, the story changed.

“He admitted he had shot the victim with a shotgun sometime on Wednesday evening,” Walker said of his interrogation of Brown, which happened in the back of a police cruiser parked at the house.

However, Brown then said after he shot Johnson, he left his body sitting in the chair in the living room. It was sometime after that, Brown told Walker, when two men from Cleveland, who he had never seen before, came into his home and beat Brown unconscious. When he came to, Brown said, the body was gone from the chair. He followed the blood trail down the stairs and out the back door finding Johnson on a scrap heap out back.

Although the death is believed to have happened on Wednesday evening, it was not until the sheriff’s department was alerted that Johnson was missing by his girlfriend that the body was found. Walker said the girlfriend, Brooke Gibson, who lives in Cleveland, indicated she and Johnson usually spoke by phone constantly throughout the day. But he stopped answering her calls and calling her sometime Wednesday.

Walker said Johnson’s body was identified by a tattoo on his neck, a set of lips with a ribbon going around them.

Defense attorney Jennifer Gorby asked Walker if Brown gave him any other information about these men from Cleveland. Walker said he gave a “very vague” description of them. One being a larger black man, and the other being a tall, lanky black man.

Gorby also tried to ask Walker about prior shootings at the home. At least two men from Cleveland have been charged in connection after another man was shot in the knee at the same house in January. However, Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones objected to the questioning about the prior shootings at the home, and the question was unanswered in court.

Jones also had Walker reiterate that according to Brown’s story, Johnson was already dead when the two men from Cleveland arrived. Walker agreed that the investigation into the death continues, but Johnson was arrested based on his alleged confession and the collaborating evidence, as well as the fact that he changed his statement.

The case will next be presented to the grand jury as the prosecutor’s office seeks an indictment. In Columbiana County Municipal Court, a May 22 pretrial was set for unrelated traffic offenses against Brown — citations for driving under suspension and improper/expired registration. Gorby had asked for bond to be reduced, noting that besides the pending traffic offenses, the only criminal record she could find for Brown was a disorderly conduct charge.