Monday, May 2, 2016

Teenager to be sentenced on murder charge
Posted on Jan. 30, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — An 18-year-old who pleaded guilty to the murder of a 69-year-old man will be sentenced in Circuit Court.

Brandon Johnston, of 17242 E. Hoffman Road, Three Rivers, Mich., pleaded guilty to the charge of murder in connection to the death of James Grant, also known as Tyrannosaurus Rex Mullens, on Dec. 13.

During his plea hearing, Johnston agreed to a sentence of no more than 55 years in prison. All other terms of the plea agreement were left under the court’s discretion.

Grant, a registered sex offender in the area who in 1996 was found guilty on two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, was found dead in his home at 1701½ Morton Ave. on Aug. 4, 2012. An autopsy revealed Grant had died of multiple sharp force injuries to his chest, head and neck.

An investigation conducted by the Elkhart Police Department led to the arrest of Johnston Aug. 17 at 828 Lusher Ave., Elkhart.

According to the probable cause affidavit for Johnston’s case, he had told several people he had hurt and possibly killed Grant.

According to the court document, Grant was killed in the early hours of Aug. 2, two days after his body was discovered.

Upon 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.

During an interview with Johnston, police confirmed Johnston had been in Elkhart the night of Aug. 1 and that he had seen the witnesses.

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 Johnston’s sentencing.

In one of her letters, Dills said her son, like 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. She also mentioned in her letter that her son once overdosed on pain pills Grant gave him.

He was described by other members of the family as loving and caring. According to a letter filed by Jennifer Hall, who identified herself as Johnston’s aunt, her nephew helped in the care of Hall’s autistic child while he lived with her.

“Brandon is very family-oriented,” Dills wrote. “He has compassion and sees the good in everyone no matter what.”