Archive for Friday, May 29, 1998


May 29, 1998


Three men have been charged with felony murder in the death of Jimmy Lee Johnson, who was killed early Wednesday while participating in an armed robbery, police say.

Jimmy Lee Johnson spent the morning of the day before his 20th birthday participating in an armed robbery with at least two of his friends.

Johnson didn't live to see the end of the robbery, and now his partners face murder charges in his death even though they didn't pull the trigger.

Johnson was shot to death early Wednesday during the armed robbery that police say he, Dustin L. Welch, 18, and Maurice T. Murphy, 18, planned.

Welch, Murphy and Johnson, all of Lawrence, broke into the blue one-story house at 1637 Kenwood shortly after 5 a.m. and robbed four people at gunpoint, police said. During the robbery, one of the residents of the house shot Johnson, who died before police arrived.

Welch and Murphy fled after the shooting. Police, who learned of their identities from the robbery victims, picked up the duo later in the morning.

Lawrence police spokesman Sgt. George Wheeler said that because the two men with Johnson started the chain of events that led to his killing, they were charged with felony murder.

``Because they conspired to go in and commit a felony, and during the commission of that felony someone died, they are charged with felony murder,'' Wheeler said.

``(Johnson) was not shot by these individuals, but they were there and started the chain of events that led to this individual being killed,'' he added.

In addition to the murder charge, Welch and Murphy were booked on four counts of kidnapping, three counts of aggravated robbery and one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.

A third man, James Lee Hall, 32, also was arrested in the incident Wednesday night, but his role was not immediately clear. Investigators had left the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center shortly after Hall's arrest and were not available for comment.

Hall was booked on a count each of felony murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.

Police did not say what weapons were used in the robbery.

Welch, Murphy and Hall were being held without bond Wednesday night in the Douglas County Jail. They are scheduled to appear in court at 3 p.m. today.

Police would not identify who shot Johnson, what type of weapon he was shot with, or where in the house his body was found. The residents of the house have not been identified. Police did not rule out making more arrests in the case.

Family members gathered Wednesday at the home of Clarence Rayton, Johnson's uncle, who lives next door to the crime scene. As police processed evidence at the north-central Lawrence house next door, family members comforted each other and waited for information.

``He knew them. That's all I know,'' said Johnson's father, Charles Rayton, talking about the six people who lived in the house. ``He had been over to their house before.''

Rayton and other family members said police were giving them few details hours after the shooting. The family sat on Charles Rayton's lawn, ate and waited. Yards away, yellow police tape was strung across the driveway outside the house where Johnson died.

``I guess they're getting too many stories (from witnesses) to know what happened,'' Rayton said.

Johnson's mother, Loretta Rayton, said her son was a ``good kid'' but had gotten involved with a group of others who had troubles with the law.

``He just got caught up in the wrong crowd,'' she said. ``Some of his friends had gotten into trouble before, but they were his friends. He grew up with them, so he'd hang with them.

``I can't believe this has happened,'' she said.

Charles Rayton said he hopes his son's death results in charges and that prosecutors are successful.

Clarence Rayton said he woke early Wednesday morning when one of his neighbors banged on his front door.

``He told me my nephew was shot next door,'' said Clarence Rayton.

``Jimmy wasn't an angel, but it wasn't like him to do this,'' he said. ``It just doesn't add up.''

Clarence Rayton said one of the men who lives at the house works for him as a landscaper at Kansas University, but he declined to offer much more about his neighbors.

``They're a noisy bunch, and there's a lot of people in and out of there all day,'' he said.

Johnson attended Lawrence High School and is listed as a member of the class of 1996 in school directories.

Charles Rayton said his son loved to box, play football and often fished with him.

``He was planning on going to community college,'' he said. ``He was pretty well-rounded, sports-wise.''

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is

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