Protective orders help most domestic abuse victims, but can jeopardize a select few, experts say _lowres

Ascension Parish deputies arrested David L. Johnson Sr., 38, early Monday in the murder of his estranged wife, Monica Butler Johnson, who was found dead in the back yard of her Geismar home.

GONZALES - David Johnson Sr., the man facing first-degree murder charges after allegedly beating his wife to death in the backyard of the couple’s Geismar home last August, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on Monday.

Johnson made his plea, wearing an orange, jail-issued jumpsuit and his hands in cuffs, before Judge Thomas Kliebert Jr. of the 23rd Judicial District Court at the parish courthouse in Gonzales.

One of Johnson’s defense attorneys, Rusty Messer, and assistant district attorney Shawn Bush, prosecutor, met with Kliebert in the judge’s chambers before Johnson was brought to the microphone in the courtroom before the judge.

Messer said the defense will have 60 days to have Johnson “evaluated and make a report regarding his mental capacity at the time of the crime.”

The state will then have 60 days to make a response to that, he said.

The timeline puts a trial for Johnson at 120 days, possibly some time in November.

Johnson, 38, was accused of brutally beating his estranged wife, Monica Butler Johnson, 45, with a baseball bat on Aug. 9, 2015 and severely injuring the arm of her 18-year-old son when the teen tried to defend his mother.David Johnson was under a restraining order to stay away from his wife when he allegedly killed her and left her body in the backyard of the family’s home on Canterbury Park Drive in Geismar.

Johnson had previously been arrested in December 2014 on a count of domestic abuse strangulation, an incident considered to be a strong predictor that the victim of domestic violence will ultimately be killed by the abuser, police and victim advocates say.

Monica Johnson, however, dropped that count against her estranged husband, but sought a protective order six months later, saying he was stalking her.

The temporary restraining order issued then was extended and a hearing had been scheduled for Aug. 24 — two weeks after Monica Johnson was killed — to consider making it a protective order.

David Johnson was booked into Ascension Parish jail on counts of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated burglary with a weapon and violation of protective orders.

An Ascension Parish grand jury in October indicted Johnson on first-degree murder and violation of a protective order.

Assistant District Attorney Bush said at that time that the case would move forward as a capital case, meaning the death penalty is a possible outcome.

Johnson is being held at the Ascension Parish jail without bond.

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