A Mora man charged with killing a woman at a local hotel in February has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Jackson Duce Johnson, 31, entered a plea of guilty in Kanabec County District Court on Wednesday, Aug. 31, to one count of second-degree murder. Johnson admitted to strangling Christeen Jo Massey in a room at the AmericInn Hotel in Mora on Feb. 11, 2022.
In his allocution of the crime, Johnson admitted to not only strangling Massey, but also to placing a plastic bag over her head. He did so, Johnson said at the hearing, because, “I didn’t want to see her face.”
According to court records, Johnson and Massey, who were homeless at the time of the murder, were observed on surveillance video entering the a room at the hotel on Feb. 9. Aside from Massey being seen via video just after 1 a.m. on Feb. 11, placing items outside the room, no one was seen entering or exiting the room after that.
The Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office was called to the hotel at approximately 12:20 p.m.on the 11th, when staff members reported they were unable to make contact with the people in one of the rooms, and the door was locked from the inside.
Once a deputy was able to gain entry into the room, Massey was found in the bathroom with the bag on her head. After a search warrant was obtained, officers indicated that the room was in disarray, and it appeared that a disturbance had taken place.
The window of the room was open and the screen was pushed out. A single set of bare footprints was noted below the window of the room — which was on the second floor —leading away from the hotel.
Earlier on Feb. 11, at approximately 2:45 a.m., the sheriff’s office received a call that a naked man was running down Highway 65. deputies followed tracks from the hotel to a makeshift shelter between the Snake River and Mora Regency trailer park. Massey and Johnson were known to have lived in such a shelter.
The footprints then led to a trailer nearby, where deputies heard Johnson’s voice. Because they were unaware that anything untoward had happened at the hotel, they moved on when they determined that Johnson was safely inside and away from the cold.
Later, when deputies learned of the body at the hotel, they returned to the trailer. The son of the trailer’s owner said his father was not on the premises, but Johnson was. The owner later indicated that Johnson did not have permission to be there.
Johnson refused to leave the trailer. With assistance from Pine County SWAT, Johnson eventually left the trailer through a window. He was naked and covered in a blanket.
Because of his history of domestic violence, Johnson was originally charged with two counts of second-degree murder, and a grand jury indicted him on one count of first-degree murder in June. In his plea deal with the prosecution the first-degree murder charge was dropped in exchange for the maximum 40-year sentence for second-degree murder.
Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 2.