Friday, November 03, 2000

Defense builds case for insanity

Accused showed odd behavior

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Co-workers said Thursday they watched Jeff Bornhoeft's behavior become significantly more bizarre in the weeks leading up to his divorce in late December 1998.

        Lying under a car at a Tennessee auto shop where he worked as a mechanic, Mr. Bornhoeft flicked a lighter and set himself on fire on a gas-soaked garage floor.

        When colleagues pulled him from under the car and extinguished the fire, Mr. Bornhoeft appeared dazed.

        “He said, "You should have just let me burn,' ” his former boss, David Noe of the Knoxville area, testified as Mr. Bornhoeft's trial on capital murder continued in a Warren County courtroom.

        A week or two later, armed with a gun, Mr. Bornhoeft held his estranged wife hostage in her apartment, Mr. Noe said.

        His testimony came as Mr. Bornhoeft's attorneys began presenting evidence in an attempt to persuade a jury that the 31-year-old mechanic was insane when he shot to death the new husband of his ex-wife, Shawn Johnson.

        Jamey Johnson, 23, died April 7 from three gunshots to the back of the head. He was shot with a .357-Magnum revolver. After the shooting, Mr. Bornhoeft held police at bay for three hours outside the Georgetown Drive apartment in Lebanon, threatening to commit sui cide, reports said.

        In other testimony Thursday, Mr. Bornhoeft's relatives and the owner of the auto repair shop said that Mrs. Johnson contacted them after the slaying and told them her ex-husband was “crazy.”

        Joy Bornhoeft, the defendant's mother, said Mrs. Johnson called her at her Spring City, Tenn., home five hours after the slaying and broke the news to her.

        “She was angry and she said, "I tried to tell you all he was crazy and he needed a psychiatrist's help. Now look what has happened,'” Mrs. Bornhoeft said.

        Today, jurors will hear testimony from Glenn Weaver, a forensic psychiatrist hired by the defense, and from Kim Stookey, a psychologist for the prosecution.

        Mr. Bornhoeft followed his ex-wife to Ohio in late 1999 so he could be near their three children. Defense lawyers have said he suffered from depression, schizophrenia and paranoia and was not responsible for his actions.

        Attorney John Quinn said Mr. Bornhoeft let himself into Mrs. Johnson's apartment on the day of the killing to return wedding photos because Mrs. Johnson was about to move. Mr. Quinn said his client snapped after finding Mr. Johnson asleep in his ex-wife's bed; the couple had hidden their five-week marriage from him.

        If convicted of aggravated murder and burglary, Mr. Bornhoeft could receive the death penalty. He would be placed in a mental institution for an unspecified period of time if a jury decides he is not guilty by reason of insanity.


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