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Ex-boyfriend charged in slaying after 911 call

TAMPA — After finding the body of a woman who had called 911 for help from the trunk of a car, police detectives recovered a chilling voice mail greeting from the cell phone of the man they say killed her.

"I did what I had to do, and it's done," the recording said. "Y'all probably never see me again. Just don't forget me."

The same day, Vincent George Brown told an acquaintance that his ex-girlfriend was "stiff" in Lakeland, authorities say.

On Friday, Tampa police officials announced their arrest of Brown on charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping in connection with the death of Jennifer Johnson, the mother of his toddler daughter. A grand jury indicted Brown, 39, on the charges a day earlier.

Johnson, 31, was found dead in the garage of an abandoned Lakeland home on Nov. 18, three days after she disappeared from Tampa. She had been strangled, police said.

The murder charge serves as little balm for Johnson's family.

"I'm not even happy with that," said Shawlett Wilson, her youngest sister. "Because he don't deserve to breathe. Because she's not breathing. We can't go see nothing but cement. It's not fair. It's not right at all."

Brown was sentenced in late November to 13 months in prison for violating his probation on an unrelated case. While jailed and awaiting sentencing on that charge, police say, he admitted to a fellow inmate that he knocked Johnson unconscious, placed her in the trunk of his car and later murdered her.

Major George McNamara said Brown has provided very limited information to detectives. He has a long history of arrests and abuse of women. In 2006, Brown was charged with domestic violence battery against Johnson, whose family and friends had urged her to stay away from him. But Johnson wanted her 2-year-old daughter to grow up knowing both parents.

Authorities have been able to piece together details about Johnson's final hours. She was seen arguing with Brown at a lounge on 40th Street about 11 p.m. on Nov. 14. A few hours later, they left the lounge together in her 1996 Infiniti I-30. She was last seen alive between 2:30 and 3 a.m. at his parent's home in Tampa.

At 5:30 a.m., a Plant City police operator received a 911 call from Johnson's cell phone. Citing their ongoing investigation, authorities have not released the contents of that call. According to Brown's arrest report, Johnson said that she was in the trunk of her car but did not know specifically where the car was.

Her family reported her missing when she didn't show up Nov. 15 for the birthday party she had planned for her daughter.

Johnson's sisters and mother have since listened extensively to her 911 plea. Wilson said there were two calls. The first call was quickly dropped. On the second call, which Wilson said lasted a minute and 30 seconds, Johnson said she was in the corner of her trunk. She couldn't answer the dispatcher's repeated questions about where she was or where the incident began.

The dispatcher never asked Johnson for a description of her car or whom she was with, Wilson said. At the end of the recording, Wilson said, the rap music that was playing over her sister's plea for help ended. Johnson started whispering and there were sounds of men talking in the background, Wilson said.

"I didn't hear (the operator) once say, 'I'm going to send a patrol car,' " Wilson said, nor did the operator try to call Johnson back after the call was dropped.

McNamara referred all questions about the handling of the call to Plant City law enforcement officials. Plant City police Capt. Darrell Wilson said this week that the agency is still investigating what happened. The 911 dispatcher, Amanda Hill, remains on the job.

Detectives haven't ruled out that Brown could have had accomplices, McNamara said.

Authorities believe Johnson was dead by the morning of Nov. 15. Phone records from 8:15 a.m. that day to later in the evening when her battery died show calls bouncing off a cell phone tower approximately 500 yards from where her body was found. Her cell phone was in her bra.

Brown was seen alone late that day leaving a party in East Tampa in Johnson's car, according to police reports.

The night she disappeared, Johnson wore a pair of silver hoop earrings. Two days later, one was found in the driveway of Brown's parent's home.

Police found the other one in the trunk of Johnson's car.

Times staff writer Rebecca Catalanello contributed to this report. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Ex-boyfriend charged in slaying after 911 call 01/09/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 6:51pm]
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