The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

June 29, 2011

Johnson receives life sentence

OTTUMWA — Christopher Johnson will spend the rest of his life in prison for the 2010 murder of his wife.

Johnson, 32, was convicted in May of first-degree murder in the 2010 stabbing death of Anessa Pherigo-Johnson. He never denied killing her at the couple’s Ottumwa home but instead focused his defense on whether the killing was first-degree murder.

Johnson’s attorney argued the stabbing was the result of a fight, thus a crime committed in the heat of the moment. Jurors rejected the argument.

First-degree murder is a Class A felony in Iowa and, as such, left the court little discretion on the prison sentence. Class A felonies require life sentences without the possibility of parole. The only way Johnson leaves prison, barring a  successful appeal, is if a future governor commutes his sentence.

Johnson is now in the custody of the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale. The facility is usually the first stop for convicts before assessment and later assignment to one of Iowa’s other prisons. His sentencing is recent enough that he does not yet appear on the state’s online inmate locator.

Johnson’s sentence includes an order of $150,000 in restitution to his wife’s estate and an order to reimburse the Wapello County Jail for the cost of room and board while he was held there. He must also repay $18,000 in attorney fees and pay $12,000 to the crime victim compensation program.

Johnson’s sentence came one year to the day after the murder.

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