Unsolved Murder of Marsha Johnson - Warnbo WA

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Kurve

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OPEN CASES
Cold Cases
HOMICIDE – MARSHA CAROLINE JOHNSON – WARNBRO
CASE DATE: MONDAY 1 APRIL 1996 LOCATION: WARNBRO

MarshaJohnson.png


DESCRIPTION:
  • 25 years of age.
  • Fair skinned.
  • 160 cm tall.
  • Slim build.
  • Shoulder length dark hair.
  • Wearing a red coloured short sleeved t-shirt and dark denim shorts with a belt.
QUICK CASE FACTS:
  • Mrs Johnson’s husband went to work at 5:30am on Monday 1 April 1996, leaving Mrs Johnson in bed and their three children at home in Warnbro.
  • Mrs Johnson got the children ready for day care and pre-school before dropping them off.
  • Around 9:00am she visited her mother in Warnbro.
  • Mrs Johnson rang her mother from the home phone at 12:38pm that afternoon.
  • Mrs Johnson had not collected one of her children from pre-school later that afternoon.
  • Mrs Johnson’s Mother collected the child and went to her house and was unable to raise her. The car was in the carport and her handbag was on the kitchen bench.
  • Mrs Johnson’s husband and father gained entry to the house, locating her deceased in the bathroom.
CASE DETAILS:
Marsha Caroline Johnson, was born in July 1970. She lived with her husband and three young children in Warnbro.
On the evening of Sunday 31 March 1996, following an early evening meal, the Johnson’s put the children to bed between 6:30pm and 7:00pm. They both watched a movie until about 9:30pm when they went to bed.
Her husband last saw Mrs Johnson at 5:30am on Monday 1 April 1996 when he left home to go to work. At that time, she appeared in good health.
That morning Mrs Johnson dropped her children off at day care and pre-school before visiting her mother in Warnbro around 9:00am. This is the last confirmed sighting of Mrs Johnson.
Mrs Johnson later made a telephone call from home to her mother at 12:38pm that day.
At 4:20pm Mrs Johnson’s father, received a telephone call at work from his wife saying that their daughter had failed to collect her son from pre-school and that her mother had been to the house but was not able to get in. Mrs Johnson’s car was in the carport, her handbag was visible on the kitchen bench and there was no response to the door or telephone.
Mrs Johnson’s husband and his father in law got to the house around 4:45pm. Gaining entry to the house, they found Mrs Johnson deceased in the bathroom.
The person or persons responsible for Mrs Johnson’s death have not yet been identified.
If you have any information about the death of Marsha Caroline Johnson, or her movements on Monday 1 April 1996 between 9:00am and 4:45pm, please contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make an online report. Please remember that you can remain anonymous if you wish and rewards are offered.
 

BFew

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This cold case death on a Monday April fools day 1996, was approx. 2 months after/before the Claremont (Western Australia)
- disappearance and presumed murder of Sarah Spiers (27 January 1996); and
- abduction and murder of Jane Rimmer (9 June 1996)
 

Likeamystery

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At the time of the murder Marsha Johnson (MJ) aged 25 lived in Warnbro with her husband and three young children. The information on Crime Stoppers website describes MJ as having fair skin, dark shoulder length hair, 160cm (5’2”) in height, with a slim build.

Mon 1 April 1996 – In summary, MJs husband had left early for work. At 9am MJ was at her mother’s house, who also lived in Warnbro. Beforehand, MJ had dropped the youngest children at the day care and oldest at pre-school. Seemingly all those places were in Warnbro or within close distance.

The last confirmed sighting of MJ was the 9am visit at her mother’s house.

The same afternoon, MJ had phoned her mother and spoken to her at 12:38pm. The phone call was made from the Johnson’s house, landline, so MJ was at home when she’d phoned her mother.

A couple of hours later, arrangements were made for the pre-schooler to be picked up, because MJ hadn’t arrived. After that, family members made arrangements to visit the Johnson’s house (4.45pm) who then made the gruesome discovery of MJs dead body within the bathroom.

Crime Stoppers haven’t advised if there were signs of a struggle elsewhere in the house. There’s no mention of a bungled burglary.

As the car was still in the carport and handbag on the kitchen bench, it doesn’t appear the murder had occurred due to a burglary.

There’s probably a multitude of possible scenarios, but I’ve listed a few:
  • The perpetrator had originally been stalking MJ
  • MJ answered the front door to the perpetrator
  • MJ heard a noise in back garden and went outside to investigate.
  • Perpetrator broke into the house.
  • Perpetrator broke into the house, and waited in the bathroom.
Can anyone else think of any possible scenarios?
 

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ms finch

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There’s probably a multitude of possible scenarios, but I’ve listed a few:
  • The perpetrator had originally been stalking MJ
  • MJ answered the front door to the perpetrator
  • MJ heard a noise in back garden and went outside to investigate.
  • Perpetrator broke into the house.
  • Perpetrator broke into the house, and waited in the bathroom.
Can anyone else think of any possible scenarios?
Great list. Without making any judgement on the likelihood of any particular scenario, I have another possibility:
- Marsha was having an affair with someone, which may be known or unknown.
 

Likeamystery

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Great list. Without making any judgement on the likelihood of any particular scenario, I have another possibility:
- Marsha was having an affair with someone, which may be known or unknown.
It's good to have a list of possible scenarios to work through.

We also don't know if MJ worked, but was having a day off or annual leave. That might be why the youngest two attended day care. Another possible scenario might be a contractor visited to quote something. There's been no mention of neighbours seeing a vehicle in the drive way. I'll contact the media and ask for some information they've probably got an article.
 

zedx

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At the time of the murder Marsha Johnson (MJ) aged 25 lived in Warnbro with her husband and three young children. The information on Crime Stoppers website describes MJ as having fair skin, dark shoulder length hair, 160cm (5’2”) in height, with a slim build.

Mon 1 April 1996 – In summary, MJs husband had left early for work. At 9am MJ was at her mother’s house, who also lived in Warnbro. Beforehand, MJ had dropped the youngest children at the day care and oldest at pre-school. Seemingly all those places were in Warnbro or within close distance.

The last confirmed sighting of MJ was the 9am visit at her mother’s house.

The same afternoon, MJ had phoned her mother and spoken to her at 12:38pm. The phone call was made from the Johnson’s house, landline, so MJ was at home when she’d phoned her mother.

A couple of hours later, arrangements were made for the pre-schooler to be picked up, because MJ hadn’t arrived. After that, family members made arrangements to visit the Johnson’s house (4.45pm) who then made the gruesome discovery of MJs dead body within the bathroom.

Crime Stoppers haven’t advised if there were signs of a struggle elsewhere in the house. There’s no mention of a bungled burglary.

As the car was still in the carport and handbag on the kitchen bench, it doesn’t appear the murder had occurred due to a burglary.

There’s probably a multitude of possible scenarios, but I’ve listed a few:
  • The perpetrator had originally been stalking MJ
  • MJ answered the front door to the perpetrator
  • MJ heard a noise in back garden and went outside to investigate.
  • Perpetrator broke into the house.
  • Perpetrator broke into the house, and waited in the bathroom.
Can anyone else think of any possible scenarios?
A fake delivery? As in the attack and rape of this young Nanny In Mosman Park in 2010
 

Likeamystery

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Marsha does look a bit like Julie. Not enough details to tell whether any of her clothes had gone missing prior or were taken from the scene.
Yes, I think Marsha resembled Julie too. They had similar hairstyles and were approximately the same height.

We don't know if MJs clothing was removed or not, it would be interesting to know.
 

BonzaRam

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Does anyone else find it odd that there is so little information out there about this case? Why would the police not release at least some information that the public can work with? i can't even a find a newspaper article on this. All i found is what is already here and the exact same wording on an arbituaries site.
 

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Likeamystery

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Does anyone else find it odd that there is so little information out there about this case? Why would the police not release at least some information that the public can work with? i can't even a find a newspaper article on this. All i found is what is already here and the exact same wording on an arbituaries site.
Yes, as you say there's little information about the matter. Strange, but I don't think there's mention of a reward either. If WAPOL had a person of interest you'd think the media would have advised as such.

Marsha's murder falls within the same time-frame as the Claremont Serial Killings, so you'd think it would have got a mention.

Romuald Zac's case has received little media attention too: http://www.murderinhospital.com/story.html. He died May 1997 which is also within the same time-frame as the CSKs and happened at Graylands Hospital (Mt Claremont).
 

ms finch

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Does anyone else find it odd that there is so little information out there about this case? Why would the police not release at least some information that the public can work with? i can't even a find a newspaper article on this. All i found is what is already here and the exact same wording on an arbituaries site.
Yep, I find this bizarre. She was a respectable young mother murdered in her home in the middle of the day. Usually these are the cases that attract a lot of attention.

One theory I have on this is that after her death her family discovered something about her that they did not want in the public domain, such as an affair. If police also had a prime suspect they may have agreed not to seek publicity on it. Her children would be grown up now, and the fact that they have not made any appeals for public help, either, which is common, may also indicate there is a known theory on it that everyone accepts and doesn’t want to revisit if they don’t have to.

That’s the best I could come up with. Otherwise it’s frankly insanity not to have anything to work with in this situation.
 

zedx

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Yep, I find this bizarre. She was a respectable young mother murdered in her home in the middle of the day. Usually these are the cases that attract a lot of attention.

One theory I have on this is that after her death her family discovered something about her that they did not want in the public domain, such as an affair. If police also had a prime suspect they may have agreed not to seek publicity on it. Her children would be grown up now, and the fact that they have not made any appeals for public help, either, which is common, may also indicate there is a known theory on it that everyone accepts and doesn’t want to revisit if they don’t have to.

That’s the best I could come up with. Otherwise it’s frankly insanity not to have anything to work with in this situation.
I was thinking exactly along the same line, they know who it was but don't have the actual evidence to prove it in a court of law.
 

BFew

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I was thinking exactly along the same line, they know who it was but don't have the actual evidence to prove it in a court of law.
Probably happens quite a lot, and then when the suspect is no longer alive, there is no-one to charge and the case just stays cold.
Might explain nearly all of the cold cases in this category.
 

ms finch

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It’s surprising there hasn’t been a coronial inquiry. Usually if there is an unsolved case for 20 years, or if police have a lot of evidence about a situation or suspect but just can’t quite get it across the line, there is a coronial inquiry to attempt to establish what happened and flesh out the available evidence. If there is a main suspect and they die, that can prompt a coronial inquiry. It’s not always the case, but it does make me think the family don’t want any attention on this and have made a decision to move on with whatever information they have.
 

Kurve

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Just while I'm in these docs, someone in here asked if BRE was possibly stalking Wife 1 after they separated? He was imo and before he moved in with Wife 2. There's this that places him in Rockingham and Warnbro where Marsha Johnson was killed.

244 EB said she saw the accused three times after their separation. On one occasion he turned up at the shops while she was working at Bates Pets Paradise in Rockingham. She recalled he had a bank statement with him. On another occasion, while EB was living at Javanica Court, Warnbro the accused came to the house with some papers for her, she cannot recall what the papers were, and he stayed for 10 or 15 minutes. She noticed when she went outside to say goodbye to him that he was driving a white station wagon with a child seat in the back. She asked him about it and he said that he had met someone with a little girl. The third occasion she saw the accused was at a bank on the Rockingham foreshore. At this meeting the accused gave EB the papers for the Mazda vehicle she drove. She recalled that once the house was sold, the vehicle loan was paid out and the vehicle transferred into her name.84
 

Kurve

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Is it coincidence that Wife 1 told BRE she was pregnant while living in Warnbro and in between April and May 1996?

Marsha was murdered 1st April, 1996. The baby was born 21st December, 1996.

In respect of the timing of the phone call, she said she was living in Javanica Court, Warnbro at the time she made the phone call to the accused and that she made the call between April and May 1996, after the visit to the doctor.

Her doctor was in Rockingham.
 

BFew

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Maybe this case is still cold and no reward, because WAPOL suspect that this was a BRE crime, and are waiting until key legalities are finished with the Claremont Murders, before they move on this one.

New evidence of BRE's involvement in this murder, might have only come to light after he was arrested. Possibly not until after he pleaded guilty in 2019 to the Huntingdale and Karrakatta crimes.

Would they the WA Justice system likely make a public move on this case very soon after sentencing, or possibly wait until any defence appeal process is finalised?

If this cold case moves anywhere involving BRE, I wonder whether the first we might publicly hear about it, will be either a massive reward, or go straight to BRE being charged for it.
 

BonzaRam

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Is it coincidence that Wife 1 told BRE she was pregnant while living in Warnbro and in between April and May 1996?

Marsha was murdered 1st April, 1996. The baby was born 21st December, 1996.

In respect of the timing of the phone call, she said she was living in Javanica Court, Warnbro at the time she made the phone call to the accused and that she made the call between April and May 1996, after the visit to the doctor.

Her doctor was in Rockingham.
The address is interesting in relation to what we know about Marsha. We know she dropped her kids of at daycare and preschool in the morning.
Koorana Primary School is very close to Javanica Crt and existed in 1989 going by P&C records.
The only phone listing for a Johnson specifically in Warnbro is Grenadier Crt which is on the other side of Warnbro Sound Ave from Javanica Crt but in an almost direct line to the school.

I am still working on finding a daycare centre that existed in Warnbro in 1990s. The 3 I know of close to that area were not established until after 2000.

Not sure if any of this has any relevance but it gives some info to work with at least.
 

Likeamystery

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The address is interesting in relation to what we know about Marsha. We know she dropped her kids of at daycare and preschool in the morning.
Koorana Primary School is very close to Javanica Crt and existed in 1989 going by P&C records.
The only phone listing for a Johnson specifically in Warnbro is Grenadier Crt which is on the other side of Warnbro Sound Ave from Javanica Crt but in an almost direct line to the school.

I am still working on finding a daycare centre that existed in Warnbro in 1990s. The 3 I know of close to that area were not established until after 2000.

Not sure if any of this has any relevance but it gives some info to work with at least.
Great work BR,

I would think Warnbro had a couple of day care centres back then, especially as young couples were the majority of occupants living in the area. I recall there were a lot more house daycares during that time, who were allowed to mind about 5 children maximum. Perhaps it might have been a home day care who minded the youngest two.

Additional information: I'll list primary schools in Warnbro and try and work out what dates those were built. I don't think all of Warnbro was fully developed by April 1996. We may be able to work out approximately where MJs family lived by working out what subdivisions were development before April 1996.
 
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Likeamystery

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The address is interesting in relation to what we know about Marsha. We know she dropped her kids of at daycare and preschool in the morning.
Koorana Primary School is very close to Javanica Crt and existed in 1989 going by P&C records.
The only phone listing for a Johnson specifically in Warnbro is Grenadier Crt which is on the other side of Warnbro Sound Ave from Javanica Crt but in an almost direct line to the school.

I am still working on finding a daycare centre that existed in Warnbro in 1990s. The 3 I know of close to that area were not established until after 2000.

Not sure if any of this has any relevance but it gives some info to work with at least.
Javanica Court, Warnbro (DF address) is a cul-de-sac situated alongside four other roads which are: Coranata Dr, Cocus Ct, Jucara Mews and Caffra Cl
All of those roads are a short distance from Koorana Primary School

Koorana Primary School opened circa 1989 according to P & C records. Another website indicates 1994. Either site confirms it was operational during April 1996.

It looks as though people living at Grenadier court had the option of attending either Koorana or Warnbro primary schools

Warnbro Primary School boundary information opened 1973
The following is an optional area for Koorana and Warnbro Primary Schools:
From the intersection of Safety Bay Road and Warnbro Sound Avenue, south along Warnbro Sound Avenue to a point coinciding with the westerly extension of Oslo Place, east from this point between Moreton Crescent, Dress Circle and Ryde Close to the north and Manly Crescent, Darwin Place and Rhyl Close to the south, to Ennis Avenue, north along Ennis Avenue to Safety Bay Road, and west along Safety Bay Road to Warnbro Sound Avenue. The boundary parts of Warnbro Sound Avenue (east side), Ennis Avenue (west side) and Safety Bay Road (south side) are included within this optional area.
 

Likeamystery

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Just while I'm in these docs, someone in here asked if BRE was possibly stalking Wife 1 after they separated? He was imo and before he moved in with Wife 2. There's this that places him in Rockingham and Warnbro where Marsha Johnson was killed.

244 EB said she saw the accused three times after their separation. On one occasion he turned up at the shops while she was working at Bates Pets Paradise in Rockingham. She recalled he had a bank statement with him. On another occasion, while EB was living at Javanica Court, Warnbro the accused came to the house with some papers for her, she cannot recall what the papers were, and he stayed for 10 or 15 minutes. She noticed when she went outside to say goodbye to him that he was driving a white station wagon with a child seat in the back. She asked him about it and he said that he had met someone with a little girl. The third occasion she saw the accused was at a bank on the Rockingham foreshore. At this meeting the accused gave EB the papers for the Mazda vehicle she drove. She recalled that once the house was sold, the vehicle loan was paid out and the vehicle transferred into her name.84
BRE went to Wife No. 1s house at Javanica Ct, Warnbro (stayed for 10 or 15 mins). Thinking that was sometime after April 1997, because he'd met CGE on 1 April 1997.

The third occasion she saw the accused was at a bank on the Rockingham foreshore. At this meeting the accused gave EB the papers for the Mazda vehicle she drove. She recalled that once the house was sold, the vehicle loan was paid out and the vehicle transferred into her name. From memory the Fountain Way house was sold early April 1997, so this encounter was probably May/June 1997.

Strange that year another murder occurred in the vicinity. The abduction and homicide of Gerard Ross 14 Oct 1997. Gerard was last seen in Kent St Rockingham heading toward a comic store. Any ideas where the comic store might have been?

Was Bates Pets paradise anywhere near the comic store.
 

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