San Diego

Ambush or Revenge? New Testimony in San Carlos Condo Killing

Regina Johnson admitted killing her spouse, Reuben Johnson, on the morning of May 30, 2012.

A San Diego woman, accused of ambushing and killing her daughter and husband, testified Tuesday that her slain husband shot their daughter when the teenager stepped between them during a fight.

Regina Johnson, 60, admitted 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. 

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

Defense attorney Neil Besse told the jury that Johnson was depressed over losing her job and not being able to dote over her daughter.

The day of the shootings was picture day for Aaliyah at West Hills High School, where she was a freshman, and she had picked out a blue dress from her mother's closet, Besse said.

The teenager's father was upset the teen was lates and blamed his daughter's tardiness on her boyfriend, but the defendant came to the girl's defense, according to Besse.

The argument boiled over and Aaliyah left the room and returned with a gun, pointing it at her father, according to the defense attorney. He said Reuben Johnson knocked the gun from his daughter's hands and a shot rang out, killing her on the spot.

The defense attorney said his client picked up the gun and yelled at her husband, "What did you do? You shot my baby girl!" and then fired two shots, killing him.

On cross-examination, the defendant denied killing her husband because she was angry with him and thought he had been trying to poison her with painkillers.

She also testified that she didn't kill her spouse because he had cheated on her with other women.

Search warrant documents filed after the crime revealed Johnson's claim that she and her husband were arguing, and that the couple's 14-year-old daughter stepped between them, to protect her mom.

Johnson also 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.

At trial, Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney alleged the defendant ambushed Aaliyah, shooting her in the back of the head as she got dressed, then ambushed her husband as he came into their daughter's bedroom. He was shot in the side, then the head.

Police took more than 50 items from the family's condo on Navajo Road in San Carlos including a semi-automatic Smith & Wesson handgun, prescription medicines, in addition to a swab of apparent blood from a bedroom carpet.

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.

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 100 years to life in prison if convicted of two murder counts.

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