A prosecutor says he is satisfied that a man convicted of killing an Anaconda woman in 2018 has been sentenced to life in prison and won't be eligible for parole for 30 years, when he would be 83 years old.
And just because Troy Douglas Johnson will have a chance at parole in three decades doesn’t mean he will get it, Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Attorney Ben Krakowka said Tuesday.
“I think the community can feel sure that they are safe from him now,” he said.
Johnson had pleaded guilty in September to deliberate homicide for killing 64-year-old Shelley Schafer on May 15, 2018. Schafer had just overcome cancer and let Johnson and his girlfriend stay in a room connected to her house in Anaconda.
District Judge Ray Dayton imposed the life sentence Friday. As part of a plea deal, Johnson admitted killing Schafer and prosecutors dropped four additional charges, including theft and burglary.
Johnson’s public defender, Josh Demers, said his client grew up in an abusive home and was beaten by his father on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. His mother was beaten often, too, he said.
“He kind of grew up in a world of violence and those are the only things he really knew,” Demers said Tuesday.
Johnson has a long criminal record and had been released from prison a year before he killed Schafer.
According to prosecutors, Johnson was on probation in Billings when he started living in a room attached to Schafer’s house in Anaconda five days before the homicide. Schafer had recently beaten cancer and worked as a recess attendant at local schools.
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A neighbor heard a “ruckus” coming from Schafer’s house on May 14 and her body was discovered the next day. She had lacerations and blunt-force trauma to the head, court documents say.
The day after the homicide, Johnson reportedly admitted to his ex-wife that he killed Schafer, saying he had hit her twice with a bar then took credit cards, money and jewelry from her house and stole her car.
After talking to witnesses and collecting evidence, police quickly identified Johnson as the suspect and located the stolen car at Eddy’s Motel in Butte. While waiting for backup, they saw Johnson and his girlfriend, Becky Hayden, pulling out of the motel parking lot.
At one point he stopped and got out of the car, pushed Hayden out and took off again. He ultimately crashed and fled on foot into the foothills near Little Basin Creek and Beef Trail roads. He was ultimately caught and arrested.
Johnson has convictions for partner-family member assault that date back to 1998 and 2006 but his record also includes numerous probation and program violations and times he went missing while on supervision.
In the past 10 years, he had been in state prison in Deer Lodge, regional prison in Great Falls, the Crossroads Correctional Center in Great Falls, the Helena Pre-release Center, an assessment center in Missoula and jails in Broadwater, Deer Lodge, Yellowstone and Lewis and Clark counties, according to a Department of Corrections location report.
Several incidents and probation violations had occurred since his supervision was transferred to Billings, according to a probation report filed the day he was arrested in Butte for Schafer’s death.
Krakowka said Tuesday that Johnson had a long, violent criminal history that included assaults, a standoff with police and once harming a police dog. But cracks in the justice system continually “allowed him to get back on the streets,” he said.
Now, he said, “I feel that justice was done.”