33 year old Michael E. Johnson of Sparta, charged in the fatal shooting of another Sparta man in January, appeared in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday and entered a guilty plea to first degree murder. Judge Leon Burns,Jr. gave him a life prison sentence under a negotiated settlement with state prosecutors.
Johnson appeared before Judge Lillie Ann Sells last month to enter the plea, but when she learned that Johnson had previously been treated for a mental condition and was no longer under a doctor's care or taking medication, she refused to accept a plea and instead ordered Johnson to undergo a mental evaluation at Plateau Mental Health Center in Cookeville to determine his competency to stand trial or enter a plea in the case.
Johnson underwent the evaluation later and was found to be competent.
Johnson and a co-defendant, 26 year old Tina Rose Bain, were each indicted by a DeKalb County Grand Jury in April on charges of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, felony murder, and theft over $1,000.
Under the agreement, the other three counts against Johnson were dismissed upon his plea to the first degree murder charge.
Johnson and Bain were charged in the shooting death of 21 year old David Anthony Welch of Sparta and the wounding of 23 year old Heather Trapp of Smithville. Both Welch and Trapp were shot at Trapp's home during the pre-dawn hours of January 6th on Webb Lane.
The indictments allege that the defendants did unlawfully, intentionally and with premeditation kill Welch during the perpetration of or an attempt to perpetrate theft and that they unlawfully and knowingly obtained or exercised control over property including, but not limited to, a necklace and ring valued at over $1,000 belonging to Trapp.
After the shooting, Johnson and Bain left the scene in their car but were arrested later that day in White County. They were brought to the DeKalb County Jail and after several hours of questioning, were charged in the shooting. Their car was also impounded.
Bain's case is still pending in court.
Johnson is represented by attorney J. Hilton Conger. John Pryor is Bain's lawyer