POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd had some choice words for one Polk County inmate who died Sunday, 42 years after the murders of a Polk County Sheriff’s deputy and two others.
Paul Johnson, who was convicted in 1981 on three counts of murder, died at the age of 74 Sunday while receiving ongoing medical treatment at a local hospital.
According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Johnson’s first victim in the early morning hours of Jan. 9, 1981, was cab driver William Evans, who was robbed and fatally shot. Evans’ cab was then set on fire.
From there, Johnson’s “meth-induced crime spree” continued after he hitched a ride with Ray Beasley and Amy Reid. After Johnson shot and killed Beasley, Reid fled for help.
Deputy Theron Burnham responded to the call but was shot and killed when Johnson took his firearm and used it against him. Burnham’s gun was never recovered.
After his conviction nine months later, Johnson was sentenced to death for the murders, but he managed to elude execution right up until his death in prison.
“Three innocent people were violently and viciously murdered that night in 1981 during an all-night meth-induced crime spree, and I personally lost a good friend in Deputy Theron Burnham,” Sheriff Grady Judd said. “Johnson was captured by SWAT during a manhunt, and I had the pleasure of being one of two deputies to take him to jail.
“I am glad he hasn’t enjoyed a day of freedom since then, but the truth is, he should have been executed by the State a long time ago,” Judd added. “Ultimately though, there is one final judgement he has to face—and based on the kind of person he was, I doubt that goes well for him.”