Family members and friends knew Janine Johnson as a happy person who never met a stranger. Once you were a friend of hers that is where you remained. That’s why the 2009 murder of Johnson and her boyfriend, Stephen Taylor, has left loved ones, a community, and Ferris Police investigators still search for answers.
Taylor and Johnson were killed as they slept by an unknown suspect or suspects. The homicide took place sometime between 7-8 p.m. on March 21, 2009, and 1:26 p.m. the next day.
Ferris Police was dispatched to the home in the 400 block of S. Church Street at 1:26 p.m. on March 22, 2009. A city public works employee alerted police about a possible incident at the residence.
“The story that we were given is that the evening before the man and the woman that lived in the house had been playing softball and they were due to play it again the next morning. Nobody could get them on the phone. So the brother of the man who lived in the house went over there to see what was wrong,” Ferris Police Investigator Walter Weiss said. “Looking through a window, he thought that he could see somebody legs or something like that through a doorway. He pounded on the window and pounded on the door, and nobody would respond, but the vehicles were there.”
Weiss continued stating, City of Ferris Public Works employee Breezy Hart was traveling north on Church Street in a city vehicle when he was flagged down by family members that were at the residence. Hart was asked to call the police. Four minutes later Ferris Police officers arrived on the scene at 1:30 p.m.
“We arrived on scene everybody was outside and they told us that they were unable to raise anybody's attention inside. Everybody went around the house. Eventually, we were able to get a window open. It did not appear that window had been used to enter and leave the house. But never the less it facilitated entry and we were able to unlock the back door,” Weiss explained. “The inside of the house looked perfectly normal. It had not been ransacked. There was no sexual assault. No apparent theft or burglary. The only thing that was out of place was the two slain people in the master bedroom.”
Weiss said it unknown how the suspect or suspects got into the residence. All of the doors were locked there was no forced entry. Police didn’t find tracks or anything cast off. All of the intersections were checked. The dumpsters in the are area were checked but nothing was found. No drop of blood outside of the bedroom and no weapon were found at the scene. Also, no information was reported to police by neighbors and no 9-1-1 calls were made.
The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office found that Taylor has sustained more than 20 stab wounds and Johnson had more than 48 stab wounds. The depth of the wounds showed that a medium length blade of about five inches from a knife or a dagger.
Weiss stated previously that as the investigation has progressed police have followed up on many leads some of which have come to nothing. Numerous phone calls have been made to police about the case.
Diana, Janine’s mother, describes her daughter as a person who had friends everywhere and an inquisitive person.
“She had been married four times by the time she was 28 years old. She had one child. She was the type of person that knew everything that was going on in the neighborhood (but) she never left the house. I don’t know how she knew everything that was going on, but she did,” Diana said. “For whatever reason, once you established a relationship with her she didn’t lose them (friends). She kept up with them for years. It is weird how that worked out.”
John, Janine’s father, added that Janine kept up with all four of her previous husbands and maintained a good relationship with them. He said that one of them cared a lot for her still and another was still paying some of her bills.
Charles, Janine’s son, who was 11-years-old at the time of her death, shared his mom was the type of person to lend a hand to someone in need.
“She was more than willing to help anybody. Always outgoing and was a very spirited woman. If anyone ever needed any help she was always there,” Charles recalled. “She was always one of the sweetest people that I ever knew. She knew a lot of people and was always really good friends with people that she met. I have never once saw her with an enemy.”
He considered Taylor to be one of the best men that he has ever known because of the close friendship they had. He noted that the impact of that day still hurts.
“What in the world possesses someone to have this kind of brutality out of nowhere and for what reason? You are taking away an 11-year-old boy’s mother that has barely got to see her except for once or twice a month if he was lucky. Then on top of it taking away his best friend," Charles stated. "Steven was one of the best people that I had ever met. He was always there for me. Anything that I needed he did his hardest to do it and to make it happen.”
Charles noted that the hardest times of the years is around Thanksgiving and Christmas where they are missed the most. The last Christmas in 2008 was at the house in Ferris.
"That was the first year that we got to have it at home and at no one else’s house. It was great my mother was beyond happy that he got to host Christmas for the first time,” Charles said. “Never once during that day did a smile leave her face.”
Day of the Murder
A phone call from his brother-in-law is how John found out about the murders.
“He called me about 3:30 in the afternoon and said, ‘Janine is dead.’ I thought he was kidding,” John recalled. “After I figured out that he was very serious, he told me that Janine and Stephen were murdered I started trying to figure out how I was going to tell her mama. She was on her way home from work and stopped to do some grocery shopping.”
At that moment the big questions that John had in his mind were “Why?” and “Who?” He noted that it didn’t add up because “Stephen and Janine didn’t have enemies”
Diana was checking out at the store when she got the call from John who told her that she needed to “come home right away” but didn’t provide an immediate explanation.
“I walked in and he told me and I was like ‘what?’ I was standing there in the living room, and as he was trying to tell me it was on the news. My mom had seen it,” Diana stated. “That didn’t make sense that in situations like that the family was supposed to be notified before it was put out all over the news. We weren’t.”
Diana explained that it was a very emotional time with emotions going all over the place. She added over the years as the investigation has progressed there have been highs and lows as well.
Charles stated that he arrived home at his father’s house after school to find everyone at home crying.
“When I was asking everyone what happened they all told me the same thing that, my dad would tell me when he would get home. So go and do your homework and from there you can do whatever you want. So I did. When my dad got home he told me everything,” Charles explained. “It was unbelievable because I had just seen her the day before. I had one of those gut feelings that something bad was going to happen but I didn’t know who or when.”
More than eight years have passed since the murders of Janine and Taylor. The absences of the two are still felt, and questions linger.
John echoed the thoughts of the group. He does not understand why no one has come forward to share what they know with police about this crime.
“There was anger, hatred, and maliciousness from the person that committed this murder,” John stated. “What is to prevent them the next time they get mad at someone from doing that again?”
Charles shared John’s thoughts stating answers would help and asked people to be honest with themselves, come forward, and do the right thing.
Diana added that they want to encourage people to come forward with whatever information they have no matter what it is. Any information is going to make a difference to help solve this case and provide closure.
Ferris Police are in the process of having evidence in the case retested because technology has advanced.
“We are moving in with technology that will give us a better look at the evidence than at the time the case started. We can now take older evidence back and find new things that were there all along but had no way to detect. We are moving into that,” Weiss explained. “Also we have got people that we are talking to and a little bit of information is starting to flow. We are hopeful that it is going cumulate in an identity. We have come into new sources of information that are making us excited.”
Ferris Police Investigator Bob Allwardt stated he wants to encourage members of the public to come forward and contact the department if they have any information about this case.
“We will meet with somebody. I don’t care if they are out in the county or we have to go up to Dallas. We will come to them to meet them. Call us, text us, send us emails,” Allwardt said. ‘Any way you want to communicate to give us some information is fine so that it can help us put this to rest.”
Members of the Ferris Police Department can be reached at 972-544-2225. The department is located at 111 Ewing Blvd. in Ferris. Anyone with information can also contact the Ellis County Crime Stoppers organization at 972-937-PAYS. Callers can remain anonymous.