The Justice Files: No mercy, forgiveness for a killer

Justice Files

SALT LAKE CITY – (ABC4 Utah) – Albert Johnson wanted it over quickly.

And so nearly six-months after he murdered a West Jordan couple he pleaded guilty in 3rd District Court.

Johnson was facing capital murder charges but his life was spared when he accepted the plea offer.
Thursday, he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Relatives of Tony and Katherine Butterfield were present during Thursday’s sentencing.

“Tony and Katherine Butterfield were unwavering lights of love,” said Deborah Rasmussen, a cousin. “Unfortunately their beautiful life was cut short.”

According to prosecutors, in April Johnson entered the Butterfield home in West Jordan to rob them. He succeeded but returned when he forgot his keys.

That’s when Tony Butterfield confronted him, recognized Johnson and asked him “why?” Johnson shot him in the face. Katherine Butterfield also was shot and killed. Their young children were also in the home but their lives were spared.

During the sentencing, Rasmussen reminded Johnson of his bad choices.

“I think Tony and Katherine did not deserve to die that night,” she said. “You chose to end their life. You chose to leave their children without parents. You chose to leave their siblings mourning for their brother and sister.”

Police said Johnson’s family once worked for the Butterfields. His attorney said Johnson was in financial trouble and entered the home to rob them.

After the murders, Johnson fled the state but was later arrested in California. His attorney said from the outset Johnson wanted to spare the Bufferfields from further pain.

Thursday, Johnson pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated murder and a single count of aggravated burglary.

Prior to sentencing, Johnson addressed the Butterfields.

“I am so sorry for your sister, your brother and kids,” he said. “That’s not really my character. You can pray and ask the man up above if Albert Johnson did it with that type of intention in his heart.”

But there’s still too much pain for those left behind.

“Although the pain we feel now is deep and raw and real, I pray that one day through atonement that the pain will go and my heart can be patched up,” said Emily Hurst, Katherine’s sister.

And for now, there is no room for forgiveness. Rasmussen read a letter on behalf of the mother of one of the victims.

“I may never forgive you, but God might,” Rasmussen said.

In August, Johnson’s wife, Sina, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and received jail, not prison time for her role.

As for Albert Johnson, he’s 31-years old and according to his sentence, he’ll die in prison.

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