Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa jury finds Vincent Brown guilty of kidnapping, killing his girlfriend

TAMPA — Within minutes of reconvening Wednesday morning, the jury reached a verdict. More than a dozen bailiffs immediately took their posts.

Anticipating a rowdy reaction from murder victim Jennifer Johnson's friends and family, Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente said he wouldn't allow outbursts — "no reaction, one way or the other."

But his admonition didn't stop the tears, the hands clenched in victory, the whispers of "thank you, Jesus" as the verdict was read: Vincent George Brown, 41, guilty of first-degree murder. Guilty of kidnapping.

"He got what he deserved," said Johnson's mother, Alma Dorsey Johnson.

Three years ago, Brown kidnapped girlfriend Jennifer Johnson, put her in a trunk and strangled her before putting plastic bags over her head, authorities said.

The most alarming clue in her disappearance was a desperate 911 call: "They have me in the trunk of my car," she shouted shortly before her death. "I don't know where I am."

She was found dead several days later in an abandoned Lakeland home.

During seven days of testimony, jurors learned about the couple's relationship.

They heard that Brown and Johnson were seen together shortly before her death on Nov. 15, 2008, and that Brown was seen driving Johnson's car afterward.

The jury deliberated for nearly five hours Tuesday before being sequestered in an undisclosed hotel. It's unclear what happened in the few minutes they had together Wednesday morning before they reached the verdict.

Outside the courtroom, Johnson's friend, Ruth Chico, said she believes Brown killed Johnson because she was planning to leave him. He was abusive, Chico said, and Johnson had finally gathered the courage to leave.

A witness had testified earlier Brown had said: "If I can't have her, nobody can."

Brown showed no reaction when the verdicts were read, which upset Johnson's family.

"He has no regret," Chico said. "He's just very cold."

On Saturday, the jury will decide whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison for Brown.

Johnson's family plans to return. Several will be able to stand before the jurors and say what made Johnson unique.

They'll describe how outgoing she was, how funny and witty she was. They want the jury to know she was popular, that she worked hard at a local factory, that she was a good mother and a great dancer.

"She was just a happy person," Chico said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

Tampa jury finds Vincent Brown guilty of kidnapping, killing his girlfriend 11/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 10:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Empire' star Grace Byers keynotes USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy luncheon

    Human Interest


    TAMPA — The first University of South Florida graduate to address the USF's Women in Leadership & Philanthropy supporters, Grace Gealey Byers, class of 2006, centered her speech on her first name, turning it into a verb to share life lessons.

    Grace Byers, University of South Florida Class of 2006, stars on the Fox television show Empire. She delivered the keynote at the USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy luncheon Friday. Photo by Amy Scherzer
  2. Southeast Seminole Heights holds candlelight vigil for victims' families and each other


    TAMPA — They came together in solidarity in Southeast Seminole Heights, to sustain three families in their grief and to confront fear, at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night in the central Tampa neighborhood.

    A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
  3. It's not just Puerto Rico: FEMA bogs down in Florida, Texas too

    HOUSTON — Outside Rachel Roberts' house, a skeleton sits on a chair next to the driveway, a skeleton child on its lap, an empty cup in its hand and a sign at its feet that reads "Waiting on FEMA."

    Ernestino Leon sits among the debris removed from his family’s flood-damaged Bonita Springs home on Oct. 11. He has waited five weeks for FEMA to provide $10,000 to repair the home.
  4. McConnell says he's awaiting Trump guidance on health care

    STERLING, Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor if President Donald Trump makes clear he supports it.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “not certain yet” on what Trump wants.
  5. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series


    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.