LA CROSSE, Wis. – A La Crosse county judge ruled this week that the Grant County man charged last month in connection with the death of a Platteville cab driver is competent to continue legal proceedings against him.
In La Crosse County Circuit Court Wednesday, members of the Wisconsin Forensic Unit reported their findings about Timmy Johnson Jr. Last month, Judge Todd Bjerke ordered the evaluation of Johnson. Despite the report, Johnson’s attorney said he is worried about his client’s mental health.
Public Defender Vincent Rust said he has concerns about Johnson’s ability to help in his defense and revealed Johnson had previous hospitalizations and suicide attempts including one recently.
Johnson will appear in court for a preliminary hearing July 16.
Investigators believe after being released from jail in Grant County on June 12, he assaulted, and may have killed, cab driver Merle Forbes of Platteville, putting him in the trunk of the cab, and driving off. An alert La Crosse police officer spotted the car that had been reported missing the next day. Johnson tried to flee the officer and ended up crashing the car in Holmen. Johnson received minor injuries but officers discovered the body of Forbes in the trunk. Investigators believe Forbes died from injuries sustained in the assault according to autopsy results.
Johnson faces six felonies in La Crosse County including first-degree recklessly endangering safety, car theft and fleeing officers and faces homicide charges in Grant County.
It also appears that Johnson had a previous run-in with Forbes over cab fare. Prosecutors say Johnson stiffed the Forbes for a $90 cab fare last year.
Prosecutors say Forbes picked up Johnson in Darlington last August and took him to Boscobel. Court records say Johnson told Forbes he needed to retrieve the $90 cab fare from an apartment, but failed to return with the money. Forbes called police.
Previous Story La Crosse Police are now reporting that what looked like a high speed chase and crash has turned into a homicide investigation after they discovered the body of a missing Platteville man in the trunk of the car that fled. The discovery came about when an alert La Crosse officer noticed a suspicious vehicle. La Crosse Police say at approximately 1:10 a.m. La Crosse Officer Matt Geenen observed a suspicious vehicle in the area of 7th and La Crosse Streets. Officer Geenen ran the registration plate of this vehicle and learned that on June 12, 2014, Grant County Sheriff’s Department had issued a Missing and Endangered Person alert for the registered owner of that vehicle. The officer’s squad computer alerted him that the vehicle and the 79-year-old taxi driver were Missing and Endangered from Platteville, WI. Officer Geenen noted the driver did not match the description of the missing person and attempted to stop this vehicle at 2nd and La Crosse Streets. The driver fled from Officer Geenen north onto Copeland Ave. The pursuit continued northbound through La Crosse and continued into and through Onalaska on Hwy 35. As the pursuit continued towards Holmen, WI, the driver of the fleeing vehicle was involved in a crash with another vehicle and left the road and rolled over. The driver of the vehicle was taken into custody by Officers. Officers discovered an elderly male victim in the trunk of the vehicle and began life saving measures. The victim was pronounced deceased at the scene. Officers observed what appeared to be injuries consistent with the victim being assaulted prior to the crash. The La Crosse Police Department, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation, Grant County Sheriff’s Department, Platteville Police Department, Wisconsin State Patrol, the La Crosse County District Attorney’s Office, and the La Crosse County Medical Examiner’s Office are investigating this incident as a homicide. An autopsy is scheduled today for the victim. The identification of the victim is being withheld at this time pending notifications. La Crosse Police say this is an ongoing investigation involving multiple agencies and no further information will be released at this time. The male suspect is in custody pending criminal charges and is identified as: Timmy Lansing Johnson Jr.
Previous Story A La Crosse police officer spotted a car that had been reported stolen and tried to pull it over just after 1 a.m. Friday. The driver fled and headed north on Highway 35 toward Holmen. The car was heading north when it rear-ended another vehicle, then rolled over near the Highway 53 interchange. Two people were in the stolen car and one of them was killed. No names are being released at this time. Two other people were reportedly taken to a local hospital. One of them had what are described as life-threatening injuries, the other had non life-threatening injuries. A number of law enforcement agencies are investigating the crash including La Crosse Police and the Wisconsin State Patrol. The State Patrol is doing a traffic accident reconstruction. Highway 35 was re-opened to traffic around 6:30 a.m.
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