Rifle man held in shooting death of his brother
Glenwood Springs, Co Colorado
RIFLE ” Sam Johnston, 26, of Rifle, who was allegedly shot in the head by his brother Monday night, Dec. 15, was described by his landlord as a “very pleasant, well-mannered” man and a generally nice guy who rented a home at 721 East Avenue in Rifle.
“We never had any problems with him,” said Mike Picore, a property manager out of Basalt for the home. “He’d been living there since July. He was a mechanic in the oil and gas industry. This was a shock because he was a really nice guy.”
Police responded to a call of a shooting at 7:23 p.m. Monday night and found a man that had been shot in the back of the head ” allegedly by his brother ” after Sam allegedly begged to be killed to put him out of his misery due to a bad marital situation, according to a neighbor and a witness following the shooting.
Police arrested Heath Edward Johnston, 20, following the shooting, who told authorities he shot his brother in the back of the head with a shotgun, according to a police affidavit. As of Tuesday evening, Heath Johnston had been charged with first degree murder and was being held in the Garfield County Jail on a $2 million bond.
The shooting occurred at a single family rented home where Sam Johnston lived and had partial custody of his three children, according to neighbors. John Stagg, who rents a home next door, said he was awakened out of bed by the sound of the gun shot.
“Heath walked over barefoot in the snow and said ‘I just shot my brother,'” Stagg said. “He told me Sam was begging for him to blow his head off because he was miserable. He was devastated about his divorce.”
Stagg said he went over to the Johnston house to see if the kids were there. They weren’t.
A woman, a friend of Stagg’s, called dispatch from the neighboring house and reported the incident.
Police responded minutes after the call.
“We arrived on the scene a few minutes later and found a deceased male,” said Rifle Police Chief Daryl Meisner. “We took an adult male into custody.”
When police arrived, Stagg said they first pointed their guns at him, he then pointed to the Johnston house where Heath Johnston was standing on the front porch with his hands up in the air.
According to Stagg, although he hadn’t known them long, the Johnston brothers seemed quite close. He also said that drugs and alcohol did not seem to be a factor in the shooting.
At an advisement hearing on Tuesday afternoon, Deputy District Attorney Ed Veronda said it is not known how long Heath Johnston has lived in Rifle, but that he has been accused in prior criminal cases of burglary in Silt, trespassing and burglary in Rifle and failure to appear in motor vehicle cases in Silt and Rifle last year. Veronda also asked that the arrest affidavit be sealed while the investigation is ongoing.
Judge Paul Metzger set the bond amount during an advisement hearing Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 16,
If convicted of a first-degree murder charge, Heath Johnston could face a presumptive sentence of life in prison or the death penalty.
Post Independent reporter Pete Fowler contributed to this story.
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Eastbound Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon remains closed Monday evening due to a wreck on the east side of the canyon near Dotsero.