This case leaves behind a wake of questions, and how could it not? Jessica Johnson, a 37-year-old single mother, was found dead hanging from a mailbox in broad daylight. Police immediately labeled Jessica’s death as a bizarre suicide, but the evidence clearly points to something more sinister.
On the morning of June 2nd, 2017, Jessica’s body was found by a postal worker, hung by a shoestring on a small mailbox. Clearly alarmed, the postal worker alerted their coworker and before calling the proper authorities, they snapped of photo of the scene.
Jessica was found on her knees, next to the mailbox with the shoestring tied neatly in a figure “8.” The string went over her hair and did not directly press on her skin. Jessica’s hands were in-between her legs as well, with one hand in her purse.
Jessica was single mother to a 19-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter. Over the course of her life, she had some setbacks with addiction and spent some time in drug and alcohol treatment. Regardless of these setbacks, her friends and loved ones described her as an extremely well put-together woman, who was always seen with her hair and makeup done. It was said that Jessica took pride in her appearance, a detail that will come into play when considering the suspicious circumstances of her “suicide.”
Jessica began dating a man named Garland Hart, who, according to Jessica’s closest friends, was someone very outside of the typical person she would have been romantically involved with. There was a common belief among Jessica’s friends that she was with Garland so she could “save him,” as he was very active in a deep drug addiction.
On June 1st, 2017, Jessica called her daughter to let her know that she would be home later that evening. On that afternoon, Jessica was due to pick up her friend Katie from work. Katie lent Jessica her car, along with $300, so that Garland could fix it for her. When Jessica arrived to pick up Katie 15 minutes late and in a car that had not been fixed, Katie was understandably agitated. However, Katie noticed something was off with Jessica and began to worry. Katie reported that Jessica seemed frazzled and was crying. Jessica expressed to Katie that she was upset because Garland was at a friend’s home with two other women.
Upon hearing this news, Katie offered to go with Jessica to retrieve her belongings from Garland. When the two arrived, Katie noted that Jessica’s behavior was erratic and that she was being emotional. Amidst the drama, Katie told Jessica that she would be taking her car back and that she would have to confront Garland on her own. At 6:00 p.m., Katie left Jessica at the home with Garland and his friend, Jesse.
According to Jesse, Jessica had spent quite a bit of time on the porch, screaming and yelling. At one point, he reported, Jessica had pulled the shoelaces out of her shoes and threatened to kill herself. Jesse shut the front door on her and left her outside.
Jessica’s body was found the following day around 11:00 a.m. The coroner reports concluded that Jessica had likely died about 8 hours prior to being found which would put her time of death at roughly around 3:00 a.m. So, what exactly happened between 6:00 p.m. – 3:00 a.m.?
There are nine hours unaccounted for on the night of June 1st. More suspiciously, around 3:29 a.m., Jessica’s phone had sent a text message to her son. This text would have been sent right at the time of her death. Furthermore, her phone’s passcode had been changed after this call was made. The only person known to have the code to her phone was Garland, however Jessica did have thumbprint access enabled on her phone. It would be likely that whoever was involved likely did not need the actual code to gain access to the phone – just her thumbprint.
Law enforcement was quick to rule Jessica’s death as a suicide. But I invite you to consider the following questions before making your final judgments about this case:
Jessica was often described as “fancy,” quite fashionable, and sometimes even borderline vain. The clothing that Jessica was found in that day were not items that anyone close to her recognized, nor did they believe that Jessica ever owned those particular items. She also was not wearing any makeup which was very out of character for her.
The shoes that had the laces removed were found several feet away from Jessica’s body – near the entrance of the home.
Jessica’s arms were bruised as a result from being bound. Additionally, her arm was covered in markings likely due to cigarette burns or something burning the skin. These burn marks were only found on one arm.
Jessica’s body was found with her head tilted upwards, as if she was being pulled on and looking towards where the attack was coming from.
Her friends stated that if Jessica ever committed suicide, they never would expect it to have been in such a gruesome manner. They firmly believed she would have been well put-together and most likely would have used her drug of choice (Xanax) to overdose in her bed. Her friends believed that she would never have made such a show of her death, nor would she have done so looking the way she was found.
We have confirmation that Jessica died around 3:00 a.m. and her last text was sent at 3:29 a.m. – it could have been that the message was sent after she was dead, or possibly while she was being murdered or killing herself. The latter option is less plausible if you consider how someone could write a text and change their phone password in the middle of committing suicide.
As a result of these circumstances, Jessica’s family has asked that the phone be unlocked using her thumbprint, but the police refused. Her family also approached Apple to unlock the phone, because the phone was in her father’s name, but they also refused. To this day, Jessica’s mom has the phone and is seeking help to get it unlocked without erasing any of its content.
7. Statistically speaking, women tend to commit suicide in less-aggressive manners. Based on the evidence, if Jessica did indeed kill herself, it would have been slow and painful. Because the shoestring was tied around her hair, it would have been pulling out hair from her scalp (leaving her in extreme pain). It begs the question – why would Jessica seek to cause herself this much additional pain?
8. Jessica’s purse was found between her legs, as if she had been going through it for something. One of the straps connected to the purse was ripped off, as if it had been forcefully yanked on.
9. As previously mentioned, Jessica was found with her head looking upwards – not downward. She would have needed that downward force to help her commit the act, especially since she was low to the ground. The mailbox was reported as only 38” tall. It’s more likely that she had been on the ground going through her purse when someone came behind, yanked her backwards, and began to strangle her.
10. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that has been lost in this case as well. The clothing she was found in has been burned, the shoelaces went missing, and the surveillance footage from the security camera at the home has never been asked for.
11. Garland and his roommate have come out publicly, stating that they do not believe that Jessica would have committed suicide. They insisted that she was not murdered on the property, but that it was done elsewhere and she was then brought back to Jesse’s home. They maintained that Jessica’s murder was staged by someone else.
12. Jessica’s had blood under her fingernails which was never tested.
13. Jessica’s body was discovered at 11:00 a.m. on a busy road, where there could have been people walking and driving by. It is possible that her body was obscured by the tall weeds surrounding the mailbox, but it seems odd that she went unnoticed for so long.
14. The neatness of the shoestring’s configuration is alarming. There was virtually no way for Jessica to have known how much slack she would have needed.
Both Garland and Jessica’s parents believe that the police are covering up for a confidential informant who did this to Jessica. Consequently, there was another victim close by who died a year prior under equally as suspicious circumstances. This victim was also last seen with Garland, a few hours before she died.
Special thanks to our new contributor, Mariya Hamilton, for all the hard work she put into researching and writing this fascinating true crime story for us.