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Victim's sister haunted by 911 calls

Shawlett Wilson, 29, is the sister of Jennifer Johnson, 31, of Tampa. Johnson was found dead in an abandoned Lakeland home on Nov. 19. Wilson says, “I pray for a dream every night where we’re just being sisters, having fun.”


Shawlett Wilson, 29, is the sister of Jennifer Johnson, 31, of Tampa. Johnson was found dead in an abandoned Lakeland home on Nov. 19. Wilson says, “I pray for a dream every night where we’re just being sisters, having fun.”

TAMPA — When Shawlett Wilson closes her eyes at night, she wishes for visions of her big sis.

"I pray for a dream every night where we're just being sisters, having fun," says Wilson, 29. When the dreams don't come, she tries with all her strength to rein in the sorrow and anger.

Jennifer Johnson, 31, was found dead in an abandoned Lakeland home on Nov. 19, four days after she disappeared — after she called 911 from the trunk of her car to plead for help.

Now, relentless questions pass through Wilson's mind. They all begin with "why."

One of the biggest: Why didn't police reach Johnson after she called from the trunk of a car, terrified for her life and asking for help.

"You can hear her just as clearly as can be," said Wilson, who has heard what she said are two 911 calls.

The first dropped without any audible voice on the other end, Wilson said. In the second, Johnson speaks with terror in her voice while rap music can be heard blaring in the background, Wilson said.

" 'I'm in the trunk of a car,' " Wilson recalled her sister saying in the tapes detectives played for her, "Please help me!' "

Plant City police Capt. Darrell Wilson said Tuesday that two months later, the agency is still investigating what happened after 911 dispatcher Amanda Hill took Johnson's call.

So far, no one has been disciplined, Capt. Wilson said.

Hill, who has been with the agency since February 2006, remains on the job, and no one has been suspended.

Asked whether dispatchers tried to call Johnson back after her cell phone calls dropped, Capt. Wilson said, "From what I know, there was no reconnection."

"That's a part of the review," he continued. "We're trying to determine if she did dial the number back. Our policy doesn't necessarily say that they have to."

Copies of the department's standard operation procedures for 911 calls were not made available to the St. Petersburg Times on Tuesday. But the police captain said the dispatcher needs to make a judgment about whether a return call could put the victim in greater danger.

The Plant City Police Department's answers infuriate Shawlett Wilson: "Did you take this phone call as a joke?" she asks aloud.

A review of Hill's personnel record shows that despite otherwise good reviews, she received a letter of reprimand in an unrelated case from May 2008. Supervisors wrote that she entered two incorrect case numbers and an incorrect license plate number into information the statewide criminal information database run by Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Because Johnson disappeared from Tampa and was located in Lakeland, Tampa police are investigating Johnson's murder in concert with Plant City and Lakeland police.

Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said on Tuesday that the case remains under investigation. When an arrest is made, she said, more details about the case could be made public. For now, the 911 calls have not been released.

Vincent Brown, the father of Johnson's 2-year-old daughter, has been named a person of interest in Johnson's homicide case.

Although Brown, 38, has not been charged, he remains in jail.

A judge in November sentenced him to 13 months in prison for violating his probation in an unrelated case.

Shawlett Wilson said she was witness to her sister's rocky relationship with Brown, but it took a long time before she could think he might be capable of murder.

There were times when Johnson would be so frightened of Brown, Wilson said, that she would ask the guards at her gated complex near the Hillsborough River to drop her off at her apartment and hide her car away from view.

Now Wilson thinks more than one person is involved, and she expects more that one person will be arrested.

" 'They got me!'" Wilson recalls her sister saying in the 911 tapes. " 'They got me!' " Wilson repeats again, putting emphasis on the plural.

Other details of the investigation linger in Shawlett Wilson's mind and make her shudder:

How investigators told her that her otherwise impeccably dressed sister was found beaten and partially clothed, with the cell phone she used to call dispatchers hidden in her bra.

"It isn't fair," Wilson said. "It isn't fair."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3383.

Victim's sister haunted by 911 calls 01/06/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 11:02pm]
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