DALTON, Ga. — A Dalton teen charged with strangling his grandmother to death last October pleaded not guilty Wednesday.
Joshua Johnson, 16, dressed in a khaki suit and silk tie, glared straight ahead during the morning proceeding in Whitfield County Superior Court. His trial was set for November.
On Oct. 1, Johnson was charged with felony murder two days after his 57-year-old grandmother, Lorraine Frazier, was found strangled to death on her bathroom floor. Johnson was living with Frazier at the time.
Sheriff’s deputies contend the teen strangled Frazier with a cord, but his family has argued that he came home from school and found her body on the floor.
Two family members sat beside Johnson during his arraignment. One identified herself as Johnson’s step-grandmother, but she declined to comment.
Since Johnson’s arrest, his attorney L. David Wolfe, has argued that there is not enough evidence to charge the teen with the crime. His position was the same on Wednesday.
Wolfe filed a large stack of motions for the discovery process of the case, including requests for any medical examinations or past interviews.
How they proceed “depends on what we find,” he said.
Investigators contend they have enough evidence to proceed with the case.
Johnson was the person who first called 911, authorities said, and, in the recording released last October, Johnson can be heard calmly stating he had returned from school and found his grandmother lifeless on the floor.
On the tape, he said she “probably fell or something.”
Johnson was 15 at the time of his arrest, but Conasauga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Kermit McManus said he could be tried as an adult. In Georgia, anyone older than 14 who is charged with one of the seven brutal offenses — including murder and rape — can be tried as an adult.
In mid-October, Johnson was released from jail on a $50,000 bond. He was required to stay with family members in suburban Atlanta and wear an ankle-monitor that keeps tabs on his movements.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...