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Day three of witness testimony heard in the trial of Joshua Johnson

Posted at 10:50 AM, Sep 29, 2023

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — On Friday, The trial of Joshua Johnson continued with day three of witness testimony.

Thursday the courtroom heard testimony from various friends, coworkers, and Riley's mother, Courtenay Whitelaw.

Opening testimony began with defense attorney O'Riley continuing her cross-examination of Crystal Ishmael, the Shift Supervisor at Walgreens at the time of Riley's murder.

The defense explored the relationship between Ishmael and Johnson. According to Ishmael, Johnson was a figure she could speak to about personal and family issues as their relationship at work developed.

The defense focused on the events right before Riley's killing during Ishmael's testimony.

According to Ishmael, while taking the trash out on the day of June 11th, 2022 she discovered a person by the dumpster she could not come close to identifying.

According to Ishmael, after the incident, she was still working, on pick-up orders and propane tank buying even after the mysterious person concerned her, that concern turned to fear after realizing her employees were missing.

Ishmael said she did not think to check the break room for her missing coworkers and was more concerned about how the person by the dumpster may have been involved in their disappearance.

The defense circled back to the flashlights purchased by the defendant on Ishmael's Amazon Prime account. When asked if she bought them, Ishmael reiterated that Johnson bought them himself through the use of her phone. When asked if she knew Johnson was buying them to see if his cats peed at home, Ishmael said she did not know what Johnson was buying them for and that she did not even know that he had cats in the first place.

The defense circled back to the relationship between Ishmael and the defendant, focusing in on the kiss between the two. Asking where it had occurred and if it was in her vehicle. According to Ishmael, the kiss occurred in the storage room.

In redirect, the prosecution questioned the interaction between Ishmael and the mysterious individual behind the dumpster. Ishmael replied that the person had a deep, raspy, unrecognizable voice and the overwhelming smell of bleach emanated from the area.

The prosecution rested after questioning if Ishmael knew what bodily fluid the defendant wanted to identify with the UV flashlights he had purchased on her account. Ishmael said she had no clue what he would be using them for.

The jury had multiple questions for Ishmael after the morning recess.

The jury was curious about the relationship between Alan Wise and Ishmael, Ishmael said they were just friends and he would work on her vehicle from time to time. The jury was also curious about the conversation between Johnson and Riley where Johnson said something along the lines of according to Ishmael, "I know how you like it", Ishmael said she recommended Riley report that to upper management at the time.

This ended the testimony of Crystal Ishmael and she was released from court. The court was excused for a break around 10:30 a.m. following her testimony.

The next witness the prosecution called was the manager of A&M Auto located on Fillmore at the time of Riley's murder, Kenneth Khalaf. The prosecution began by questioning the surveillance systems at A&M Auto.

Khalaf stated that he had extensive knowledge and had already downloaded footage and turned it over to the Colorado Springs Police Department. The prosecution introduced still images from the auto shop surveillance.

The images show a man Khalaf says is Alan Wise, a team member of the auto shop. The defense in a quick cross-examination asked Khalaf what the color of Mr. Wise's shoes was. Khalaf described them as being black.

The next witness called to the stand was Alicia Schwenke, a store shopper at Walgreens on the night of Riley's murder. Schwenke said she was there shopping for deodorant when she heard a loud noise from the back of the store followed by a scream and more loud noises. Schwenke was concerned but at the time thought it was just a work accident that had occurred in the back.

Schwenke, who was visibly emotional during testimony, was traumatized by the situation. Once she had found out that Riley had been murdered, there was no way she thought that was what she had heard.

Schwenke only realized that something terrible had happened as she was heading to the Garden of the Gods resort later in the evening of June 11th. It was then that she saw the police vehicles and crime scene tape around the Walgreens. She stopped and told a reporter at the scene she needed to speak to police and then relayed the events she had heard to officers at the scene.

Following Schwenke's testimony she was dismissed from the case.

The final witness testimony of the morning came from Rida "Bev" Crider, the cosmetic department head at Walgreens. She described herself as a people person and loved to get to know people. When asked about her working relationship with Johnson, she said she did not get to know him that well as he was quiet around her.

When describing Riley, Crider said, "she was a great kid, I loved her, just a shining bright star... just a great kid.”

Crider went on to describe a time when Riley came to Crider about a concern that made her uncomfortable. During that conversation, Johnson came over to Crider and Riley and interrupted. He asked the two to check on Crystal Ishmael and see if she was okay after Johnson reported a weird man was following her.

Crider says she was not trusting of the man and wanted to ensure that Ishmael was okay so she kept an eye on the two and listened in. The prosecution did not identify who this man may be.

Crider says later in the day on June 11th, Johsnon asked Crider to relieve Riley for her break. According to Crider, she was confused as to why Johnson was asking this as it was his responsibility to relieve Riley and she would be leaving at 6 p.m. According to Crider, Johnson insisted that she had to relieve Riley at the registers at 5:30 p.m.

After asking Johnson several times, he told her that he had something to take care of. When Crider relieved Riley, she seemed tense like she did not want to leave the register. But Crider did not think much of it at the time. The prosecution ended their questioning.

During the cross-examination, the defense asked if Crider had ever gone to the back area of the store following Riley's disappearance, Crider said no as she was covering the register. After a series of short questions, the defense rested.

The jury questioned Crider is she noticed any signs on the restroom saying they were out of order. She said she did not see them. The jurors also wanted clarification about a stack of red totes previously testified about. Crider answered she saw Johnson stacking the totes oddly blocking areas of the store.

The witness was excused for the day and the court dismissed for lunch recess at 12:10 p.m.

Victoria Cox, the mother of Joshua Johnson, took the stand for the prosecution following the lunch recess at 1:10 p.m. The prosecution began to ask about the security system they had.

The prosecution went ahead and entered surveillance video from Cox's security system showing Joshua Johnson leaving on the morning of June 11th and returning around 5:40 p.m. to the house.

The last clip shown was Johnson leaving the house around 5:50 p.m. in the afternoon. Cox confirmed that it indeed was Johnson. She said this interaction was the last time she had talked to her son since June 11th, 2022.

The cross-examination by the defense began by asking Cox if Johnson was living with her in 2022, to which she answered that he was. Cox explained to the defense they did indeed have two cats living with them at the time.

Cox described the moments that Johnson returned home from work in June, saying that she did not see anything when Johnson entered the home with her back turned to him. After a short conversation, Johnson left the house. The ended the defense's questions.

In re-direct, the prosecution then asked Cox about the drive to Walgreens from her house. Cox said the drive from her house is about 20 minutes. The prosecution stated that based on certain variables, that drive could change, to which Cox stated that she supposes so.

The prosecution then shifted towards when Cox arrived at the Walgreens and her run-in with authorities. Cox testified that after speaking with law enforcement, she realized they were trying to locate her son as they suspected him as a suspect.

When asked if she would give authorities Johnson's phone number she respectfully declined them saying, "it was not my number to give out, no one should give out anyone's number without their permission".

Jurors followed up with questions about whether Cox had attempted to contact Johnson after she could not locate him at the Walgreens crime scene, she said she had texted him but nothing more. Jurors also asked if it was unusual for Johnson to come home on his work shift, Cox said it wasn’t normal for him to come home during a shift.

This ended the testimony of Victoria Cox and she was released from court.

The prosecution then called another State Trooper to the stand. Trooper Gabriel Moltrer talked about being called to reports of an abandoned vehicle in a rural area around mile marker 42 on I-25 off the highway by a quarter to half a mile located near some train tracks. He confirmed that the license plate on the vehicle matched Johnson’s.

This ended the testimony of Trooper Moltrer.

The prosecution called forward Alan Wise and began to delve into the relationship between Wise and Crystal Ishmael. The prosecution asked if Alan had planned to meet Ishmael on the day of June 11th which Alan said he did.

Wise also went on to describe an interesting interaction between himself and Johnson. Wise said while he was speaking to Ishmael-- Johnson, whom Wise did not know by name at the time-- was acting weird. He was staring at him and following him around the store.

Wise testified that after his conversation with Ishmael, he returned to work at the A&M Auto on Fillmore. He remained there for the rest of the day and evening due to the nature of his trailer being on the work property.

The prosecution followed this by entering photos of Alan Wise at A&M Auto between the times of 5:25 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. on June 11th. Other images shown were of Mr. Wise speaking with Ishmael and her son at the Walgreens around 2:30 p.m. on the day of June 11th.

Wise testified that he did indeed go into the dumpster to collect some of the items that were thrown away that Wise deemed still usable. Wise stated in his testimony that at one point he was interested in a relationship with Ishmael; however, things fell apart following Riley's killing.

In cross-examination, the defense asked again about Wise's interaction with Ishmael in the store on June 11th.

Wise said that he was just helping Ishmael and speaking with her.

This ended the cross-examination of Mr. Wise. In juror questions, they wanted to know the time it would take to make it to A&M Auto, Wise said it would take him 10 min. Following these questions, Wise was released from the court.

Detective Mike Lee was called to the stand by the prosecution. Lee was involved in the search of Johnson's home and the collection of evidence found there.

The prosecution entered photos of items recovered at Johnson's house. Among the images was that of a black sweatshirt, which appeared to have blood on it. A gray polo shirt was also shown.

The prosecution then moved to security footage of the time that Johnson left his home and then footage of when he returned home before leaving again. Lee described three separate times when Johnson changed his clothes, pointing out three different times Johnson changed sweatshirts, including returning home in the black sweatshirt collected as evidence.

The prosecution then showed Lee images of Johnson's vehicle and the items found inside. Lee talked about what was noteworthy for the search of the vehicle was how clean it was.

Lee testified saying the vehicle floor mats were missing, and that after an extensive search were unable to be found. Other items found were bloody tissues, a tactical flashlight, and a plastic Bic razor, the same as the razor found in the defendant's home.

Lee said that during the initial contact with the defendant, law enforcement went ahead and took photos, DNA samples, and clothing to attempt to recover evidence.

The images taken of Johnson were displayed for the courtroom showing his hair, which Lee said could have been cut or pulled out. The prosecution also showed the shoes that Johnson was wearing when he ran into his home on surveillance footage on June 11th, the color of the shoes was not described.

The next thing entered into evidence was surveillance footage clips from Walgreens, provided by Dave Turnis. Detective Lee had reviewed hours of footage from the day of the murder.

The first clip showed Johnson entering work from outside the Walgreens, when asked if he ever saw the defendant's vehicle on surveillance Lee said he did not.

The next clip shown by the prosecution was from the store's surveillance, picturing Ishmael and Johnson speaking. Footage of Riley being dropped off by Jacob her boyfriend at the time.

More video showing Johnson opening and closing the roll-up door and then glancing to the camera was shown on the day of June 11th. The next clip shown was that of Johnson continuing to move crates in what Detective Lee described as appeared to be an attempt to block security cameras.

The court was dismissed early for the day and Detective Mike Lee will return to the stand the next time the court is in session.

The court will not be in session Monday in observance of St. Francis Cabrini Day, the trial will resume at 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday.

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