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Sexual battery charges against mentally retarded Tampa man divide neighborhood

TAMPA — Charlie lived a simple life. He stayed home with his mother, watching Disney films like Beethoven and Air Bud. He kept a lawn mower under the stairwell. He would mow your lawn for $20, no matter the size.

Charlie kept old bicycle parts under another stairwell, next to a red crescent wrench. He fixed bikes for the neighborhood boys. He spent lots of time with them.

The police came for Charles Nicholas Johnson, 25, at 6:33 a.m. Wednesday. His mother remembers the exact time. They let him put on his shoes, then cuffed him and led him down the stairs. He dragged his feet a little but did not otherwise resist.

The police had a news conference later that morning. They said Charlie had committed horrible crimes. They said he had confessed to sexually battering a 9-year-old boy. They said nothing about his mental condition.

Charlie Johnson has the mental capacity of a 7-year-old child, said his mother, Nancy Johnson.

"He cannot read out of a book. He doesn't even know math," she said Wednesday. "I have to open up all of his mail."

"I'm not saying he didn't do it," said his brother, Edward. "I'm saying maybe they got him to admit to more than he did."

Johnson was charged with two counts of capital sexual battery and held without bail.

Aug. 6 at the pool in the Camden Apartments on S West Shore Boulevard, residents said the boy was sitting on Johnson's lap and that the two were touching each other inappropriately.

Detectives learned that Johnson had intercourse with the boy in the woods at S Lois Avenue and W Tyson Street, according to Sgt. Paul Mumford of the Tampa Police Department.

The boy's mother said that Johnson had been his best friend. The Times is withholding her name to protect the boy's identity. She said Johnson behaved more like a teenager than a small boy.

"He knows what he's doing," she said.

The boy had sought a restraining order against Johnson.

Police have identified a second victim, who is now 16, case detective O.P. Parrish said. "I'm sure there's more."

The boy's mother said he is headed for therapy and won't even say the name "Charlie."

Times staff writer Justin George contributed to this report. Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3416.

Sexual battery charges against mentally retarded Tampa man divide neighborhood 08/20/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 22, 2008 8:41pm]
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