AMITE — A Tangipahoa Parish jury found 34-year-old Christopher Johnson, of Independence, guilty of second-degree murder Thursday in the 2001 shooting death of a Piggly Wiggly employee who attempted to stop an armed robbery.
It was Johnson’s accomplice, Kelvin Thomas, who shot the employee, but the 12-member jury took less than two hours to find Johnson guilty as a principal to the shooting, Rachael Domiano Beard, spokeswoman for 21st Judicial District Attorney Scott Perrilloux, said in a news release.
Thomas also was tried for second-degree murder in October 2009, but the jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, Beard said. Thomas was sentenced to serve 45 years with the Department of Corrections as a habitual offender.
Johnson is facing a mandatory sentence of life in prison. His sentencing has been set for Nov. 7, Beard said.
Johnson and Thomas hid in the attic of the Independence Piggly Wiggly until closing time on March 16, 2001. After the grocery store closed, the pair went down from the attic, masked and armed, and demanded money from the store owner and multiple employees, Beard said.
Employee Vincent Bacile tried to fight Thomas and Johnson and tried to call for help, prompting Thomas to shoot and kill him, Beard said.
State law defines a principal as anyone involved in the commission of a crime, regardless of whether they actually committed the act or aided it, directly or indirectly.
As a principal to the shooting, Johnson was culpable for Bacile’s death, Beard said.
Assistant District Attorney Don Wall prosecuted the case before Judge Robert Morrison.