GOSHEN — What exactly happened the early morning of Aug. 2, 2012, may never be known. But what came out of the incident was the death of a 69-year-old man —a registered sex offender,— and the sentencing of an 18-year-old on charges of murder.
Brandon Johnston pleaded guilty in December to the charge of murder in connection to the death of James Grant, also known as Tyrannosaurus Rex Mullens. He was sentenced to 51 years in prison Thursday morning in Elkhart Circuit Court. He also will serve four years on probation.
Grant was killed in the early hours of Aug. 2. His body was found two days later in his home located at 1701 ½ Morton Ave., Elkhart. According to the probable cause affidavit for Johnston’s case, during their investigation police found a witness who said Johnston had said he “stabbed Rex in the head.”
Police also interviewed another person who said Johnston had told them “he had hurt someone and he thought he had killed them.” Johnston had told the witness he was going to “Rex’s house” to drink some beer. According to the witness, “Rex” was known as a person who lived on Morton Avenue and frequently spent time with Johnston.
Johnston was arrested Aug. 17.
An autopsy revealed that Grant died of multiple sharp force injuries to the chest, neck and head. During the sentencing hearing in Elkhart Circuit Court, Deputy Prosecutor Vicky Becker said Grant received a total of 23 stab wounds. She added that Grant, who used a wheelchair to move around, had stab wounds on his forearms, which indicated he was trying to shield himself from Johnston.
Becker said Johnston had committed acts that sent red flags with his constant use of alcohol and drugs since the age of 15, which he admitted to in his pre-sentence report.
“The choices that he was making led him down the path that resulted in the death of Mr. Grant,” Becker said.
Judge Terry Shewmaker said Johnston’s case was one he had given much thought to.
A few letters filed to the court by Johnston’s mother, Jessica Dills, and other members of Johnston’s family, asked the judge for leniency in his sentencing.
In one of her letters, Dills said her son, as other children in the neighborhood, had been targeted by Grant. Dills said in her letter that several phone calls were made to police about possible ongoing molestation the last few years.
Grant was a registered sex offender who in 1996 was found guilty on two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor.
Those letters were brought up during the hearing. Shewmaker asked Johnston if it was true he had received alcohol and drugs from Grant.
Johnston admitted that he had received marijuana, synthetic marijuana, alcohol and pills from Grant on multiple occasions.
Johnston, whose address is listed in Three Rivers, Mich. said that on the day of the incident he was in Elkhart to visit family. He said he had gone to Grant’s house, which he described was just around the corner from where his family lives, to get alcohol.
The fact that Johnston was receiving drugs and alcohol from the victim was considered as a mitigator at the time of the sentence, Shewmaker said. Johnston’s acceptance of responsibility and his arguments at the sentencing hearing were also taken into consideration.
“I’m not going to make an excuse or try to justify what I did,” Johnston told the court. “I don’t want people to think I’m a psychopath or a monster.”