NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) —In December 1984, Don Johnson shoved a 30-gallon trash bag down his wife’s throat and watched her suffocate. He then put Connie Johnson’s body in a van and parked it outside the Mall of Memphis.
Thursday, nearly 35 years after the murder, Johnson will be executed at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville.
In a letter Johnson wrote days before his execution, he called himself “a monster” at the time of the killing.
“It was the life that I had chosen that led to the darkest day I had ever experienced and not until I took the responsibility for my wife Connie’s death could I receive forgiveness and start on that road to healing,” Johnson wrote.
Johnson has spent years on Death Row pleading for forgiveness from his family and ministering to fellow inmates.
Connie Johnson’s children are divided, one offering mercy, the other denying it. Her daughter and Johnson’s step-daughter, Cindy Vaughn, has forgiven Johnson.
“I looked at him and I told him I have to tell you something: I can’t keep hating you. It’s not doing anything to you, but it’s killing me, so I forgive you,” said Vaughn describing the first time she met Johnson in prison 7 years ago.
Johnson’s son, Jason Johnson, says his father is a con-artist.
“He is doing anything he can to save his own neck. It’s not about faith. If it was about faith, he would go on and be executed and have his judgement with God, ‘cause that’s the only person who can judge him or forgive him.”
Jason Johnson wrote a letter to Governor Bill Lee, asking him to deny his father’s request for clemency. Tuesday, Governor Lee announced he would not interfere in Johnson’s execution.
“This gentleman has shown the fruit of redemption and I believe that he is a sterling example of what we would hope would happen with individuals who’ve had sordid pasts,’ said Furman Fordham, senior pastor, Riverside Nashville Seventh Day Adventist Church.
While in prison, Johnson says he’s turned from him sin and found redemption and forgiveness in the Lord. Writing in a letter, Johnson said when he was at the “bottom of the barrel,” he “earnestly sought the Lord and still do each day and will continue until I draw my last breath here on this earth.”
Pastor Fordham says Johnson is at peace about his execution.
“He is encouraged. He is confident, and his faith is strong, and it is amazing to visit with someone who has a calendar date, a date and time for when they will be executed, ” said Pastor Fordham. “Praise the Lord he said he is sleeping well. He is not worried, and we are asking God to keep him in perfect peace.”
Meanwhile, Johnson’s son says he won’t have peace until his father is dead. He will be at Johnson’s execution Thursday with other family members who say his mother’s murder ripped their family apart.
Johnson has denied a last meal and is instead asking his supporters to donate a meal to a homeless person.