Trial Begins For Former A&M Football Player, Slayed Jogger

L.P. Phillips
April 29, 2019 - 3:04 pm

Dallas County Sheriffs Office

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DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - Gruesome testimony and equally gory autopsy photographs are being laid out to a Dallas County jury that will decide whether a former Texas A&M football player was insane or guilty of murder in a machete hacking.

The attack happened on the White Rock Trail as it passed under the Walnut Hill bridge on October 12, 1015. 

It is not disputed that Thomas Johnson hacked White Rock Trail jogger David Stevens to death. The question this jury will have to decide is whether he was insane at the time. 

Various eye-witnesses happened to be on the trail at the same time that day. Some didn't realize what they were witnessing as their brains were slow to process a real-life horror. 

Annette Lissio and her friend Becky Callison were walking on the trail and may have been the first to come in contact with Johnson that day. Both said he looked out of place, wearing a hoodie on a hot day and not walking as others who were on the trial. Lissio thought Johnson was sporting a big belt buckle. In reality it was the machete.

They would come in contact with Johnson a second time minutes later.

Attorney Brandon Davenport was training for a triathlon. On that morning he was on his bike when he saw the attack. The figures under the bridge appeared silhouetted.

"I thought, at that time, it looked like someone was hitting somebody with a baseball bat." he said. "As I got closer I could tell it was a machete."

It was too late for Davenport to try and stop and ride the other direction. He rode through, surprising Johnson. But the brutality of the murder, at one point just five feet away, was evident.

"It was one-handed but it was as if he were trying to chop wood. Like all the way over your head and back down. Just massive strokes. And I saw about six or seven of them."

Davenport looked behind and saw Johnson begin jogging toward him. He kept riding, warning other joggers and cyclists as he could. What Davenport did not know was Johnson was unarmed. The machete was lodged in Stevens' head.

Up the trail, Johnson ran into walkers Lissio and Callison a second time. This time he was not wearing the red hoodie. In fact neither of the women realized it was the same, suspicious-looking man they had seen minutes before. But now Johnson wanted to use a phone. Any phone. Lissio was not about to give hers up.

"He starts yelling at me, 'Give me your phone! Give me your phone!" she said. "And I said I am not giving you my phone. Give me the number and I'll call it for you."

"The most evil eyes I've ever seen." said Callison as she tried to recall the scene for the jury.

Johnson did not wait around, and resumed running. The two women continued their walk until the body of Stevens came into view.

Again, the mind played tricks on the women.

"I saw something sticking straight up." said Callison, who also recalled the object had not been there before. "I looked at it and I thought that looks like a baseball bat standing straight up on end. And how could that be?"

It was the machete. It was only then the women realized it was still in Stevens's head.

By this time, Johnson had appeared at building that belongs to the City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department. Again, he seemed fixated on getting a phone, telling supervisor Jason Hagan that there was a body on the trail with "a sword in the head."

Police soon arrived and took Johnson into custody. 

Defense attorney Paul Johnson expects the defense case to be short and the testimony to be largely unchallenged. He contends Thomas Johnson was not sane that day. When insanity is used as a defense, the burden is on the defense team. Attorney Johnson hopes the jury sees that his client's actions were not normal that day, that his mannerisms from the way he looked to the way he acted to waiting for police to arrive will show a troubled man who was not right with the world.

The jury could get the case later this week.