Crystal Joy Scott Paxson told a Pine Bluff police officer who arrived at the house where the death occurred that she “didn’t mean to shoot” the victim, the officer testified Wednesday afternoon during Paxson’s trial on charges of first-degree murder.
Paxson is charged in the June 9, 2012, death of James “Sandy” Johnson, 65, who was shot five times while sitting in a recliner at a home in the 4000 block of Robin Hood Lane. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Testifying during Paxson’s trial Wednesday afternoon, Officer Jason Boykin said Paxson met him and Officer Nate Smith when they went to the door of the house.
Boykin quoted Paxson as saying: “I only wanted to scare him. I pointed the gun at him and couldn’t stop shooting.”
Boykin testified that Paxson said she and Johnson had fought three times earlier in the day, and while he was gone to a birthday party, she took a .38-caliber revolver that was in a Crown Royal bag on top of a gun cabinet and put it behind a cushion on the couch. Boykin said Paxson told officers that after another argument when Johnson returned, he started to throw a glass at her and she pulled out the gun and started shooting.
Paxson and Johnson had what was described as an “on-again, off-again relationship,” for several years, and had worked for him at Pawn City, which he owned.
After the shooting, Paxson called several people, including her mother in Arizona. One of those people called police.
Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Erickson said Johnson’s death was “at the hands of another and was a homicide.”
Erickson said Johnson received wounds to the chest, under the right arm, the right arm, the right hip and the right buttock, with four of the bullets remaining in the body until they were removed during the autopsy. None of those wounds were described as being “close or contact wounds.”
He also said tests of Johnson’s eye fluid and blood from the heart indicated an alcohol level of between .12 and .22, which Erickson described as “medically intoxicated.”
Asked by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau how long Johnson might have been able to move after being shot, Erickson said three of the gunshot wounds caused significant damage to Johnson and he “might have 15 to 20 seconds of movement capability” before losing consciousness. Erickson also said he could not tell which wound was the first.
The four bullets recovered from Johnson’s body were examined by Crime Laboratory firearms and toolmarks examiner Rebecca Mullen, as was the .38-caliber revolver police recovered at the scene, and Mullen testified Wednesday that the “four bullets submitted (from Erickson) were fired from the submitted weapon.”
When she was interviewed by Detective Michael Roberts, Paxson said Johnson had been abusive to her on multiple occasions, cursing her, calling her names and inflicting physical abuse. At Roberts’ request, now-retired crime scene technician Cathy Ruhl took photos of Paxson which were introduced during Ruhl’s testimony.
Ruhl said she saw bruises to Paxson’s right upper arm and left lower arm, but said those bruises did not appear to be recent, and crusted blood behind the right ear, but no sign of a wound that would have caused it.
Paxson told police she and Johnson lived together but Ruhl, who also took photos at the scene, said she saw no items that would be associated with a woman in the bathroom, closets or drawers.
Asked about fingerprints on the gun, Ruhl said there were “no identifiable prints,” adding that there were “not enough ridges to get a positive match.”
When he testified, Roberts told Deputy Prosecutor Maxie Kizer that he saw no evidence of a fight or struggle at the house. He also testified that despite Paxson’s claims that she and Johnson had been involved in three prior altercations that day, she had an opportunity to leave, and in fact did leave but came back.
“It was just normal,” Roberts quoted Paxson as saying. “It happened every day.”
The interview Roberts and then-Capt. Greg Shapiro conducted with Paxson was videotaped and the jury of five men and eight women, including an alternate, watched it just before the trial ended for the day.
Defense Attorney Keith Hall, who is representing Paxson, said that Paxson’s speech appeared to be slurred and during the interview, Paxson admitted having several drinks that day. He asked Roberts if he had given Paxson a breath or blood alcohol test and Roberts said no.
“I didn’t smell liquor on her and she was crying a lot,” Roberts said. “When she stopped crying, her speech got normal.”
Roberts testified that he issued Paxson a ticket charging her with first-degree murder several minutes after concluding the interview with her. Hall asked Roberts if he had talked to anyone else in an attempt to substantiate Paxson’s statements that Johnson was abusive to her.
“I didn’t talk to anyone else,” Roberts said. “I had a dead body. She said she shot him. All I did was hold her while I continued my investigation.”
The trial will continue at 9 a.m. Thursday with Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt Jr., presiding.
If Paxson if convicted of first-degree murder, Paxson could be sentenced to between 10 and 40 years in prison, or life.