Jessica Re’Nee Johnson’s death last month was ruled a suicide by Horn Lake, Mississippi police, but her mother believes it was murder. Her friends and family do not believe that the mother of two would have killed herself, or could have hung herself from a 38-inch tall mailbox.
The 37-year-old Johnson was found dead by a postal worker on June 2. She was found hanging from a mailbox with her shoestrings around her neck. The preliminary cause of death from police show that the Horn Lake Police Department believe it was a suicide.
On July 21, DeSoto County Coroner Jeff Pounders told the DeSoto Times-Tribune that he stands by his initial detirmination that Johnson died of asphyxiation.
Here’s what you need to know about the case.
1. Johnson Was Found Dead in June, Hanging by Her Shoelaces From a Mailbox
Johnson was found on June 2 when a postal worker approached a mailbox in Horn Lake, Mississippi. According to WMC Action News, she was found hanging from the mailbox with her shoelaces around her neck, made up like a noose. The mailbox stands 38 inches tall.
Horn Lake Police Captain Nikki Lanphere told the Huffington Post that the final medical examiner’s report might not be available for four to six months.
In his interview with the DeSoto Times-Tribune, DeSoto County Coroner Jeff Pounders said he stood by his preliminary report that Johnson died by asphyxiation, even as he admitted that this was one of the strangest cases he’d ever handled.
“Rigor mortis had set in and it appears she had been there since the early morning hours,” Pounders told the Times-Tribune. “I don’t know how many people had driven by the mailbox and not seen her. The weeds were so tall.”
Pounders told the paper that the initial toxicology report showed that Johnson had “high levels of methamphetamine and Xanax” in her system. A final report might not be out for several months. Pounders also defended the police department’s handling of the case, telling the Times-Tribune that they “investigated this death in great detail.”
2. Her Mother Hadn’t Seen Her in 2 Days Before She Was Found
Johnson’s mother, Linda Appleton Johnson, told the Huffington Post that she had not seen her daughter since May 31, even though they lived together. Linda said Johnson left their home to visit her on-again, off-again boyfriend. On June 1, Johnson did talk to her daughter over FaceTime and said she was coming home soon.
“I know my daughter, and there is no way possible this is a suicide,” Linda told the Huffington Post. “This was murder.”
Moreno agreed, telling the Post that Johnson “loved life” and loved making people laugh. “Everyone adored her, and I want [her children] to know she would never have done this,” Moreno added.
Johnson’s body was found in front of a house she was visiting the occupants of with her boyfriend, Moreno said. However, what happened between the time she arrived at the home and when she was found on June 2 is a mystery.
Moreno, who is also acting as a family spokesperson, told that the ex-boyfriend changed the code on Johnson’s phone and is the only person who knows the code. He hasn’t been cooperative with the family.
Moreno told Heavy.com that Johnson stayed near Hart because she helped him recover from heroin overdoses. “She was afraid if she was not there with him he would die,” Moreno said.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office has issued an arrest warrant for the ex-boyfriend, Garland Hart, for domestic assault.
3. Johnson’s Mother Claims on Facebook That Her Daughter Was an ‘Abused and Battered Woman’
Earlier this month, Linda Johnson began using social media to publicize her daughter’s case. She posted an image on Facebook that included a photo of her daughter’s arm with mysterious bruises on them. The family also believes the photo shows a footprint.
In the post, Linda alleges that the police did not put crime scene tape around the area where Johnson’s body was found. “Looks as if they felt her life wasn’t worth preserving the scene of her death,” Linda wrote. She added that, “to say that my daughter had fallen in with the wrong people would be an understatement. It is my belief that because of the individuals surrounding this murder, the police department have put forth little if any effort in their investigation and have attempted to rule my daughter’s death a suicide.”
Moreno told Heavy that the police were “grossly negligent” and accused the police of having “no intention” of investigating Johnson’s death as a crime.
Linda later added on Facebook, “My daughter loved everyone and she did not judge; However, my daughter was an abused and battered woman.”
Another friend, Angela Brunson, also told WMC Action News that she doesn’t think this was suicide.
“Everything about this is suspicious.” Brunson said. “To say that someone was able to hang themselves from a mailbox, a low mailbox, with shoestrings?”
Her friends and family told WMC that Johnson wasn’t perfect and struggled with drug addiction.
4. A GoFundMe Page Has Raised Over $4,000 to Help Johnson’s Family
Last month, one of Johnson’s friends created a GoFundMe page, which has been approved by Johnson’s mother. The fund has raised over $4,000 of a $5,000 goal in a month to help her family pay for funeral expenses. Extra money will be used to help her two children.
“Jessy was such a sweet soul. Everyone loved her,” GoFundMe page creator Stacy Bills wrote. “Her smile could light up the room. She was quite a diva! Always so beautiful. Jessy I always loved the times we shared. I wish we could have had more. You are gone too soon , but I know I’ll see you again sweet angel.”
If you have any information related to the case, you can call the Horn Lake Police Department at 662-393-6174.
5. Johnson Is Survived by Her Son, Daughter & Her Parents
According to the Brantley-Phillips Funeral Home Facebook page, Johnson is survived by her two children. She is also survived by her parents, Lina and David Johnson and her sister, Kayla, who lives in Arkansas. Her maternal grandparents are also still alive and she had five nieces. Johnson has a 19-year-old son, who received a text from his mother’s phone at 3:29 a.m., after his mother’s death.
“That’s all we want. We want closure,” Linda told WMC. “We just have to know what happened to Jessica. We know she did not do this herself.”