Metro-East News

7/16/2005: Not involved in murders, suspect says: Letter from jail declares innocence

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the Belleville News-Democrat on July 16, 2005

In a letter written from his cell at the St. Clair County Jail, the man Belleville Police Chief Terry Delaney called the only suspect in a triple homicide claimed he had nothing to do with the murders.

Samuel L. Johnson, 39, also pointed to the recent stabbing of an 81-year-old Fairview Heights woman and said it could be the work of the true killer of Michael Cooney, Doris Fischer and Dorothy Bone.

Johnson is in the St. Clair County Jail on attempted burglary charges that state he tried to kick in the door of Cooney’s home-based salon on Dec. 9, 2003.

The bodies of Cooney and clients Fischer, 79, and Bone, 82, were found stabbed to death on March 2 in Cooney’s home-based salon at 7813 W. Main St. in Belleville.

In the Fairview Heights case, an unidentified suspect forced his way into Emma Fillback’s home in the 9700 block of Holy Cross Road about 10:55 p.m. Sunday and stabbed her multiple times in the torso.

“Maybe Terry Delaney should be exploring that possibility because it sounds and looks to be the same M.O.,” Johnson wrote. “If they find out that it is the same person, what would (Delaney) have to say to me and the people of Belleville?”

Fairview Heights Police Lt. Nick Gailius said he would inquire into Belleville’s case.

“We don’t believe the cases are related, but we are willing to look into it,” Gailius said.

Johnson claimed in the letter that he was innocent of charges that he kicked in the door of Michael Cooney’s home on Dec. 9, 2003.

“Although I can’t elaborate on the triple homicide because I have not been charged ... I can tell you this: I was not involved in any way with an attempted break-in at Mr. Cooney’s home or business nor was I involved in any way with the death of the victims in the triple homicide,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson also expressed anger at Delaney in the letter.

“Chief Terry Delaney needs to do his job by finding the real killer or killers of Mr. Cooney and his customers Dorothy Bone and Doris Fischer and stop trying to do the State’s Attorney’s job,” Johnson wrote. “Maybe he can give the families of the victims closure because I am not the man to give it to them.”

Delaney maintains the right man is in custody.

“There’s a lot of killers who don’t like me,” Delaney said. “It doesn’t bother me. It just means that I am doing my job.”

Two Belleville detectives were in St. Louis continuing the investigation into the triple homicides, Delaney said.

Conversations continue between Belleville Police and the St. Clair County state’s attorney. Delaney said charges in the triple homicide are pending.

Belleville Police are conducting a thorough investigation, Delaney said, and the evidence uncovered led them to Johnson.

A neighbor identified Johnson as the man who tried to kick in Cooney’s door on Dec. 9, 2003, after police picked him and another man up in front of Juanita Place.

Johnson was not charged in St. Clair County, but returned to Missouri on a parole violation and was sent back to prison. He was released Jan. 11.

The trial on the attempted burglary charge for Johnson starts Sept. 6.