Metro-East News

Belleville salon stabbing suspect waives extradition to Illinois

Samuel L Johnson
Samuel L Johnson File photo

The man accused of three stabbing murders at a Belleville hair salon in 2005 will be heading back to Illinois to face first-degree murder charges.

Samuel L. Johnson, 51, waived extradition from Missouri to Illinois at a court hearing Tuesday.

“We are making plans to go and get him right now,” St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said.

Two deputies will head to Mississippi County in the Missouri Bootheel to pick up Johnson next week, Watson said.

Johnson had long been considered a suspect in the stabbing murders of Doris Fischer, 79; her sister, Dorothy Bone, 82; and their hairdresser, Michael Cooney, 62, who were found in Cooney’s home-based beauty salon in west Belleville on March 2, 2005.

Johnson was charged in September after Belleville police revived their investigation in 2014. Johnson was serving a seven-year prison sentence in a state prison in Charleston, Mo., for receiving stolen property, possession of a firearm, possession of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance within a jail.

Johnson was arrested six days after the killings, but was charged only with attempting to burglarize Cooney’s home in December 2003. Then-Belleville Police Chief Terry Delaney called Johnson the “prime suspect” in the murders.

Then-St. Clair County State’s Attorney Bob Haida disagreed. Haida, now a St. Clair County Circuit Judge, said there was not enough physical evidence to charge Johnson with the murders.

In 2010, The News-Democrat obtained police reports that showed:

▪  In the weeks before the killings there were 12 calls placed to Cooney’s phone, including two calls the morning of the murders, made from the cell phone that Johnson was using. Police determined those calls made the morning of the murders bounced from a cell tower that was less than two miles away from Cooney’s house at 7813 W. Main St. in Belleville.

▪  Johnson, who was unemployed at the time of the murders, bought clothes, shoes, marijuana and a 1994 Lincoln Town Car in the days following the murder.

▪  Cooney was known to carry large amounts of cash for his estate-sale business.

In an interview with News-Democrat reporters in 2005, Anna Nicole Hobbs, who was then the girlfriend of Demico Evans, Johnson’s cousin and roommate, said Johnson had taken a hook-bladed knife from her nightstand the day before the killings. Hobbs told reporters how a nervous Johnson returned the next day with a wad of cash, telling them he had “messed up.”

For more than a year after the murders, no charges were issued in the case. In 2006, the investigation was revived, and the Major Case Squad was activated. That investigation centered on Cooney’s Nissan Pathfinder, which was stolen from outside the salon the morning of the murder. The Pathfinder was found the next day behind an apartment in north St. Louis.

The Pathfinder was found abandoned, running with the keys in the ignition, behind a liquor store, four blocks from the home of Darrell “Rell” Lane. A teen from the neighborhood took the car for a joyride, according to police, then sold it for $20 later that night.

There were 30 fingerprints in the car, but a single one in blood left on the driver’s seat.

That fingerprint belonged to Lane, a developmentally delayed 16-year-old.

Based on that fingerprint, Haida charged Lane with murder. But the teen was acquitted.

During Lane’s trial, one of Cooney’s customers testified for the defense that Johnson came to the salon the day before the murders and told Cooney, “I want my money.”

Johnson was sentenced to 11 years in prison on the charge of attempted residential burglary for kicking in the back door of Cooney’s home in 2003. He was released from the Illinois Department of Corrections in 2010.

Johnson’s bail is set at $3 million on the Illinois murder charges.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer