Family members to address Ryan Lee Johnson's killer at sentencing

For the family of Ryan Lee Johnson, a jury’s conclusion on Feb. 26 that Jeffrey Brian Johnson is guilty of murdering their beloved son and brother qualifies as good, if joyless, news.

“I feel like it’s a bittersweet victory,” said Tim Davis, Ryan Lee Johnson’s father, on Tuesday. “It’s been two years of us just waiting to get to this point. For what it’s worth, I think we’ve overcome quite a bit in the last two years. But there’s a longer road ahead of us.”

Ryan, a 2008 Aloha High School graduate, was gunned down on the afternoon of Jan. 26, 2012, outside the Bales Thriftway store at 17675 S.W. Farmington Road in Aloha. Jeffrey Johnson

After deliberating about two and a half hours, a 15-member jury unanimously found Jeffrey Johnson, 54, the father of Ryan’s girlfriend, Megan, guilty of murder and unlawful use of a weapon. The shooting incident proved the deadly culmination of a bitter custody dispute involving Megan Jeffrey and Ryan Johnson, the father of Rylen, Davis’s now 5-year-old grandson.

Jeffrey Johnson’s sentencing is scheduled for Thursday, March 20, at 1 p.m., at the Washington County Courthouse in Hillsboro.

Celebration, but no closure

Johnson’s trial began on Jan. 14, but was interrupted for six weeks in February as defense attorney Stephen Houze challenged Circuit Judge Thomas Kohl’s order that Johnson undergo a psychological evaluation by a state-appointed doctor. The Oregon Supreme Court turned down Houze’s request to review Kohl’s ruling before the trial resumed, said Roger Hanlon, Washington County chief deputy district attorney.

“The Supreme Court issued a one-word ruling, ‘Denied,’” Hanlon noted on Tuesday. “It was a long six-week hiatus, but we didn’t lose any jurors.”

After last week’s verdict, Ryan Lee Johnson’s family and their supporters gathered at the Bales Thriftway on Wednesday evening to express their relief and share memories of Ryan. It was the second vigil at the scene of Ryan’s fatal shooting that Tim Davis and his wife, Melissa, organized to honor their son.

“It was not really closure, but more of a celebration of Ryan’s life,” Davis said, “with his friends and close family showing up to make sure we can heal the spirit. Everybody really felt it that night. We all felt him. His spirit was there.”

Although pleased with the jury’s conclusion, Davis, who sat through every moment he could of Jeffrey Johnson’s trial, admits it was a taxing ordeal.

“It was very emotional. It drained us every day,” he said. “It was really hard, really rough, to see the man who killed your son sitting there. It tore me up. We kept hoping the outcome would be life in prison.”

Broken bonds

That Megan Johnson, Rylen’s mother, moved with the boy from Oregon and denies the Davises contact with their grandson exacerbates the pain of Ryan’s murder.

“We miss him a lot,” Davis said of Rylen. “He’s part of my son, part of my family. It’s painful to know we don’t have an opportunity to see him, to keep our relationship healthy as it should be as a grandparent and grandson.”

Although the family has no legal recourse to help restore contact with Rylen, Davis remains hopeful he and his family will eventually reunite.

“I don’t think it’s healthy for a little boy to be kept from his grandparents,” Davis said, blaming Megan’s father, Jeffrey, for destroying the family bond.

“Her dad removed himself out of that (grandfatherly) spot. As far as I’m concerned, he made that decision on his own. Now it’s time to do what’s right and let us see his grandson. Let us love him as he should be loved.”

Reached by phone at his Portland law office, Houze, Jeffrey Johnson’s defense attorney, declined to comment on the trial or his client’s relationship with Rylen.

Davis plans to share his feelings about the loss of his son and separation from his grandson with Jeffrey Johnson at the March 20 sentencing.

“I’ll have an opportunity to say some things that he needs to hear,” Davis said. “I hope he will remember what he’s done and come to grips with what he’s done.

“I’m thankful the justice system did what it could do,” Davis added. “(Jeffrey Johnson) is still living, but my son is gone. That part is really hard to understand.”

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