The trial of Troy Douglas Johnson, who stands accused of murdering a 64-year-old Anaconda woman last spring, is on hold pending a court-ordered mental evaluation, but two recent court filings disclose more information about the case.
According to the court filings, the victim Shelley Schafer had special needs, recently overcame stage-four liver cancer, and worked as a recess attendant at local schools. The files also state Schafer allowed Johnson and his girlfriend, Becky Hayden, to live in a room connected to her residence.
This characterization is consistent with the second affidavit Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Attorney Ben Krakowka filed in the case. According to that affidavit, Johnson started living at Schafer’s residence roughly five days before the homicide.
As has been previously reported, Johnson and Hayden were described by a neighbor as a homeless man and woman loitering around Schafer’s place in the days before her death.
On May 14, 2018, the neighbor heard “a ruckus” coming from Schafer’s house, according to court documents.
Schafer’s body was discovered the next day, lying on the floor of her residence on the 700 block of East Commercial Avenue in Anaconda. According to court documents, law enforcement observed lacerations and blunt force trauma to her head.
The day after the alleged homicide, Johnson reportedly admitted to his ex-wife that he had killed Schafer after she picked him up from the Vagabond Motel and they drove to the Lost Creek area, their “special place,” court documents said. He allegedly told his ex-wife he had hit Schafer twice with a bar; took credit cards, money, and jewelry from her house; and stole her 2010 white Subaru Forester.
After speaking with multiple witnesses and collecting evidence in Anaconda and the Lost Creek area, police identified Johnson as the suspect responsible for Schafer’s death. They were able to get his cell phone number from the Vagabond Motel and use it to locate him in Butte, court documents say.
Around 2:45 a.m. on May 16, Butte police found Hayden’s vehicle parked at Eddy’s Motel on South Montana Street. Court documents stated that as they waited for backup, officers observed the car moving out of the motel parking lot. They executed a felony stop of the vehicle with lights activated and weapons drawn.
The affidavit states Johnson then abruptly got out of the vehicle with his hand under his shirt to simulate he had a weapon, pushed Hayden out of the driver’s seat, and took off at an extremely high rate of speed. Officers pursued Johnson, who intentionally hit his brakes and swerved into the oncoming traffic lane in suspected attempts to crash police vehicles during the high-speed chase.
Police were able to deploy spike strips in an attempt to stop Johnson, which worked. Court documents said he lost control of the vehicle, crashing it in a residential yard near Hansen Road and Holmes Avenue before it came to rest on its side.
But the chase didn’t end there. Johnson was able to get out of the vehicle. He waved something thought to be metallic, and an officer fired multiple shots at Johnson but did not hit him, court documents said. Johnson then fled into the foothills near Little Basin Creek and Beef Trail roads.
After police tracked Johnson through a forested creek area, they successfully tasered him on their third try. During this foot pursuit, Johnson had gestured at them like he was holding a gun and lunged at an officer with a knife. He was transported to the Butte-Silver Bow Detention Center, and officers attempted to question him and Hayden. During the interview, court documents said he yelled as loud as he could, instructing Hayden not to tell police what happened.
Evidence found in Johnson’s room at Eddy’s Motel and the details of the high-speed chase with Butte police were laid out in a second affidavit Krakowa filed in June. The affidavit accompanied the nine felonies and one misdemeanor charges that were added to Johnson’s original deliberate homicide charge.
The additional charges filed are as follows:
• Theft, a felony, for stealing credit cards, jewelry, and a vehicle valued in excess of $10,000.
• Burglary, a felony, for unlawfully entering or remaining in Schafer’s home with intent to steal.
• Tampering with evidence, a felony, for discarding credit cards stolen from Schafer in the Lost Creek Area.
• Failure to register as a violent offender, a felony, for knowingly failing to register with Anaconda-Deer Lodge County within three days.
• Tampering with witnesses, a felony, for yelling at Hayden during their questioning at the Butte Detention Center to not tell police anything.
• Four charges for assault on a peace officer, all felonies, for endangering police during the high-speed car chase and foot pursuit.
• Fleeing or eluding a peace officer, a misdemeanor.
Though Johnson's trial was originally set to begin Oct. 22, Judge Dayton vacated that schedule in an order filed July 23. The order also stated that all deadlines would be reset once Dayton received the results of a previously court-ordered mental evaluation from the Montana State Hospital.
As of Wednesday, no new trial date had been set. Krakowka said it’s hard to know when it will be.
Johnson’s public defenders, Christopher Miller, Morgan Smith, and Joshua Demers, could not comment on the case, as state policy does not allow them to, Demers said.