Beaver Johnson facing potential life sentence over alleged strangulation attempt

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - Following what a judge described as a “potentially life threatening” strangulation attempt, a Springfield man with a history of violent outbursts was ordered held without bail this week.

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    Wayne “Beaver” Johnson Sr., who will turn 42 later this week, reacted angrily in the courtroom to a series of pre-trial conditions that were imposed upon him after he pleaded innocent to two felony counts of first-degree aggravated domestic assault.

    “I love my wife and I know she loves me and I want to be able to talk to her,” Johnson said loudly as sheriff’s deputies led him out of the courtroom at the conclusion of his arraignment.

    Johnson, who has been married to his current wife for less than a year, had just been ordered not to have any contact with her while his case was pending.

    In addition to the two charges, which would normally each carry a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison, prosecutors in Windsor County also filed a habitual criminal notice and a violent career criminal notice against Johnson which raises the potential penalties clear up to life in prison if he were to be convicted.

    Prior to Monday afternoon’s alleged attack upon his wife, Johnson had already been convicted of aggravated domestic assaults in 1997 and again in 2016 when he was sentenced to 1-to-3 years and enrolled in an anger-management-style “risk reduction program” designed to address what his family at the time told the court was his “explosive anger disorder” and paranoid schizophrenia.

    In a police report on the 2015 incident that led to the most recent conviction,  Springfield Police Officer Steven Neily wrote that Johnson had been stabbing walls and furniture with a large hunting knife during a heated argument inside his apartment and that he had made a verbal threat to decapitate a family member if they tried to get a restraining order against him.

    In her own sworn written statement to police, Johnson’s now-former wife wrote that he “has been using heroin, bath salts and meth (and) has many mental disorders and is unmedicated…Wayne has many knives on him and is not in his right mind.  All should be cautious around him.”

    The year before, Johnson spent three months in jail as the result of a December 2013 incident during which police said Johnson stood on his front porch yelling at them in a “demon-like voice” while threatening them with a crossbow, a chainsaw, a can of gasoline and a lighter, as well as a knife, all in the span of just a few minutes.

    Johnson’s most recent arrest occurred Monday afternoon when several Springfield police officers responded to a rooming house on Central Street where Johnson allegedly initially appeared in a doorway to greet police “holding a sizable fixed-blade hunting knife in his hand,” according to an affidavit filed with the court.

    Despite the fact that Johnson allegedly punched a microwave oven and cut his hands while talking with police and “indicated that he didn’t care if he killed officers, referring to them as ‘collateral damage’,” he was eventually coaxed into handcuffs without further incident and transported to the police station.

    Officer Jeremy Fitzgibbons said that Johnson’s wife had bruises and reddened areas on her neck and “appeared visibly upset,” saying that she had been choked by Johnson to the point that she thought she was going to die.

    Police said that for his part Johnson claimed he'd acted in “self-defense” and said that his wife was the aggressor.

    Police also said that while Johnson was in a holding cell at the police station he managed to call his wife from a cellphone that hadn't been taken away from him yet.  They said that during that conversation he allegedly attempted to get his wife to recant the incriminating version of events she had explained to police.

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