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Rockwood man threatened to kill woman in assault, victim alleges

Alex Barber | BDN
Alex Barber | BDN
John "Cheeto" Johnson stands in front of District Court Judge Kevin Stitham during his initial appearance in Dover-Foxcroft District Court on Monday, April 30, 2012.
By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A Rockwood man accused of brutally assaulting a woman in Greenville last week told the woman that he was “going to bury you just like the others,” according to a police affidavit.

John “Cheeto” Johnson, 42, was charged with gross sexual assault and kidnapping, both Class A crimes. District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said more charges may be lodged.

Johnson made his first appearance Monday in Dover-Foxcroft District Court, where District Court Judge Kevin Stitham set bail at $50,000 surety or $5,000 cash.

According to the affidavit, the 58-year-old victim was watching a playoff hockey game at West Cove Tavern in Greenville Junction on Wednesday evening.

While she was leaving, she said, Johnson asked her to give him a ride home. She said she barely knew Johnson but obliged.

She told police that she stopped at a local garage where Johnson had been staying in a trailer out back. As she was about to leave, she said Johnson told her, “You’re not going anywhere.”

At that point, Johnson reportedly grabbed the woman by the hair and throat and dragged her from the car. He was punching and choking her, according to her statement in the affidavit. He hit her face against the side of the car, said the woman. She said he exposed himself and tried to force her head into his lap, but she was able to fend him off.

Johnson then dragged her into the unlit trailer, where he told her to take her pants off. She refused, she said, and Johnson threatened to kill her.

During the struggle, the woman lost her glasses and couldn’t see. She said she eventually was able to escape and run toward a light.

The light was a flashlight held by Jayson Lagasse, who works at the garage. The woman said she knew Lagasse and the two ran together down the road while Lagasse called police. The two hid in the woods when she saw her vehicle approaching.

The vehicle stopped and the driver fled without closing the door.

Greenville police Officer David Smiley found the victim and Lagasse on Steam Plant Road around 11:30 p.m.

Smiley said in the affidavit that the victim was “covered with blood and holding a rag over her bare torso, begging for help.”

Smiley rushed the woman to Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville for treatment.

According to the affidavit, Tommy White, 27, an acquaintance of Johnson’s, said Johnson called him on his cellphone and told him that “he did something bad [and was] not sure what he did, but has been in the woods for a long time and cops are looking for him.”

Johnson surrendered to the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office in Dover-Foxcroft on Thursday evening.

During the court hearing on Monday, Almy asked the judge to impose bail of $250,000 surety or $50,000 cash. However, Stitham imposed the lower bail amounts after acting defense attorney Chris Smith said Johnson would be able to come up with only $5,000 at best for bail. Smith said Johnson didn’t have a job.

Stitham also ordered Johnson to stay with his father, Bill Johnson, in Pittsfield if he’s able to make bail. Johnson was unable to reach his father by telephone on Monday afternoon.

Almy said he was worried about Johnson fleeing.

“If you accept the evidence for what it is, this is a very serious crime,” Almy said outside of court. “He’s a threat to the public, in our opinion. My concern is, if he’s bailed, we would not know where he was. We need to have some way of regulating his whereabouts and make sure we know what he’s up to.”

Smith said Johnson told him that he was “fairly uncertain” whether his father would let him live with him.

Stitham also ordered that Johnson stay away from West Cove Bar in Greenville Junction and to have no contact with the victim, Lagasse, White or the two nurses who tended to the alleged victim.

Almy said Johnson has a prior conviction for assault in 2004. He served six months in jail.

If convicted, Johnson faces up to 30 years in prison, said Almy.

As for the victim saying Johnson told her about burying her like the others, Almy said the focus is on this case.

“I don’t know what that’s in reference to,” Almy said in a telephone interview. “At this point, we’re just working through what happens to this point.”

Johnson’s next appearance in court will be on June 18. A grand jury meets on June 7.

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained errors. John “Cheeto” Johnson appeared in Dover-Foxcroft District Court on Monday, not Piscataquis County Superior Court. The judge was Discourt Court Judge Kevin Stitham , not Superior Justice Kevin Stitham.

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