San Diego

Mom Convicted of Slaying Daughter, Husband in Double Killing

Johnson remained in the apartment with their bodies for three days without ever calling the police after she killed them, prosecutors said

A San Diego woman accused of ambushing her husband and daughter, killing them execution-style, was convicted of second-degree murder of both victims Tuesday.

Regina Johnson, 60, sobbed in court when the judge ruled that she was not guilty of first-degree murder in both killings. But she fell silent as the judge convicted her of two counts of second-degree murder. Both charges involved using a semi-automatic firearm.

“They had a very good relationship—the mom and the daughter—but unfortunately circumstances in the house changed, the dynamic changed, things changed for Ms. Johnson and ultimately it led to this tragic event of her killing her family," Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said.

Johnson remained in the apartment with their bodies for three days without ever calling the police after she killed them, prosecutors said.

She testified last week that her slain husband shot their daughter when the teenager stepped between them during a fight. Johnson admitted to killing her 56-year-old spouse, Reuben Johnson, on the morning of May 30, 2012. However, the defendant testified she was not responsible for the death of her 14-year-old daughter, Aaliyah. 

"I think initially everyone wanted to believe that this couldn’t possibly happen because everybody thinks that they know a family but what’s really going on behind closed doors, I don't think anybody ever really knows," added Rooney.

Johnson testified that after her husband killed Aaliyah, she picked up the gun from the ground and fired, fearing he might shoot her next.

But prosecutors said last week that the blood evidence and positioning of the victims' bodies proved that Johnson killed her husband, Ruben, and daughter, Aaliyah.

"Evidence shows she hunted him down," Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said during the trial. "She walked from her first shot through Aaliyah's room around the corner followed him as he retreated, stood over him and executed him."

Defense attorney Neil Besse told the jury that Johnson was depressed over losing her job and not being able to dote over her daughter. Rooney added that Johnson was paranoid and afraid she was going to lose her husband, who had been cheating on her for years.

The defense argued Johnson had no motive to kill her daughter.

"Her daughter is the shining light at the end of the tunnel which is her depression," Defense Attorney Neil Besse said. "This depression is not aimed at Aaliyah."

Johnson told police that she put a blanket over her daughter's body and slept next to it for several days in their San Carlos condo before telling her sister-in-law about the deaths.

The prosecutor said the defendant's DNA was "all over the gun,'' which was found next to her husband's head, and her fingerprints were also found on the gun's magazine.

"This was sort of a wake-up call that even people you think you’ve known for years can do things and do actions that are criminal," Rooney said.

The defendant also got rid of shell casings and pills she was taking for depression, according to Rooney, and used lipstick to write a message to her doctor on a bathroom mirror.

"You know I should not have been taking all those pills," the message read.

Johnson faces 40 years to life in prison at her sentencing on Nov. 17 at 9 a.m.

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