AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man will soon learn his punishment for trying to kidnap two girls back in 2013. On Thursday, a Travis County jury convicted 26-year-old Justin Johnson on two counts of attempted aggravated kidnapping.
On Feb. 13, 2013, Pflugerville police said two Murchison Elementary School students were approached by a man as they walked to school. The juvenile victim said the suspect came from behind and then put his hand on the shoulder of one of them.
“The male subject grabbed the older female by the shoulder, she screamed, the other female screamed. Then he cupped his hand over the mouth of the older juvenile female and tried to restrain her, but she broke free and both girls ran away from the scene,” said Lt. Laura Wilkes in a news conference a few days after the incident happened.
At the time, law enforcement agencies believed Johnson was connected to several other similar cases all involving girls between the ages of 8 and 11.
At Hendrickson High in Pflugerville, Karenna Lowcher is now a 14-year-old cheerleader. When she was 10, she was a target. She tells KXAN that in December of 2012, Johnson chased her all the way home after school, “I started running and he was speeding up, Chasing after me. He got right in my face.” She got away and says she is sure it was Johnson, recognizing him one year later after his arrest. Karenna says she has never walked home alone since, “I never walk by myself anymore but when I’m with friends and see someone who’s like following me I’m always paranoid. I’m always thinking about it.”
In court Thursday, a Hutto mom testified that Johnson stalked her daughter, in his red pickup truck, for weeks, about a month before his Pflugerville arrest. Allison Brown says she is also sure it was Johnson, “I have no doubt. I’m just glad he was found guilty and will be put away for a long time.”
Karenna’s mom, Julia Lowcher, feels the same way, “They should throw the book at him. I want him to go away for as long as possible. He put so much fear into all the kids and parents of this community.” Karenna doubts she will ever get over it, “I don’t think so, it will always be on my mind.”
On Dec. 18, 2012, Travis County Sheriff’s Office recorded similar cases on Speidel Drive and on Farm Pond Lane near Pflugerville. In those cases, the same description of the suspect was given and the suspect attempted to speak to juvenile females. On Feb. 1, 2013, several girls told Pflugerville police a man drove up to them in a red pickup truck, cursed at them and drove away.
After a lengthy investigation and tips from the community, authorities arrested Johnson in connection to the case. When officers spoke with Johnson, he immediately advised that he shaved his beard and stopped driving his red truck due to the all of the media regarding the situation. Police said Johnson confessed to the case on Feb. 13, 2013 but denied the other cases.
The punishment phase started in Judge Cliff Brown’s court on Thursday afternoon. He will now conduct a presentence investigation taking all factors into account, including whether Johnson could be helped by counseling and what future risk he poses. He could receive 2 to 20 years on each count and will be sentenced Oct. 23.
Perimeter area of where the cases happened: