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Mother of Riley Whitelaw takes the stand on day two of witness testimony

Posted at 10:22 AM, Sep 28, 2023

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — Witness testimony continued Thursday in the trial of Johsua Johnson, the alleged killer of Riley Whitelaw.

On day one, the prosecution brought forward detectives, crime scene investigators, and Riley's best friend. The prosecution walked the jury through the layout of the Walgreens and the events that led up to Riley's killing.

Today, the prosecution called Courtenay Whitelaw, Riley's mother to the stand. Prosecuting attorney Gaia asked Courtenay to go ahead and explain a little more about who her daughter was.

Courtenay explained nuances of Riley's day-to-day life, from working at Walgreens to being in the marching band, and more. Before the prosecution went into detail about statements made by Riley to her mother, the court paused to outline the next part of the testimony as limited evidence. Much like the testimony of Anna Shelton, this testimony establishes a motive.


Remembering Riley Whitelaw

The prosecution walked Courtenay through the day of events on June 11, the day Riley was killed. Courtenay became visibly emotional when talking about the moment she arrived at Walgreens and saw the crime scene.

"I was upset, you're just going through all the things that you think of because I maybe just thought it was a robbery when I got there," said Courtenay. "When they were asking me if there was anyone Riley did not like, the only person I could think of was the defendant," she continued.

This was in response to what Courtenay described as comments Joshua had made towards Riley. Courtenay said Riley told her that Johnson had a weird "vibe" as Riley would say. These conversations began in the fall of 2021.

One incident that made Riley extremely uncomfortable, was from an alleged incident where Johnson brushed his hand along her butt while the two were at the photo booth area. Another incident came when Johnson allegedly asked Riley to go out with her, Courtenay said. Riley politely told Johnson she was not interested.

Courtenay testified that after having multiple conversations about Johnson's advances, Courtenay told Riley she should bring this up to the manager. The testimony then began to shift towards Riley's new relationship.

Riley and her boyfriend Jake met while Riley was working at Walgreens. According to Courtenay, Riley had a feeling that Johnson had become "salty", especially after Riley's boyfriend Jake began to work at the store.

The prosecution ended their examination of Courtenay and went ahead and showed an image of a Social Security number that was found in Johnson's locker. When asked who's Social Security number was Courtenay said it was Riley's. When asked if that was either her or Riley's handwriting, Courtenay said no.

The prosecution went ahead and ended their examination.

The defense began their cross-examination focusing on the conversations between Riley and her mother. Defense attorney O'Riley asked Courtenay if Riley was documenting the incidents that had occurred between Johnson and Riley. After a short questioning, the defense stopped their cross-examination.

The next witness called to the stand was Jonathan Roe. Roe was the shift lead in the Walgreens where Riley worked. Roe started working there in 2020 and left in 2022 before Riley was killed.

According to Roe, Johnson was already an employee when he began in March of 2020. Riley began working after Roe was already working. Roe was instructed to identify Johnson in the courtroom and he pointed to him.

Johnson provided testimony on the interactions he had with Riley and Johnson on shift. Roe explained that during interactions between the two, Riley seemed uncomfortable. The defense attempted to object to this section of testimony due to the "lack of foundation" on the testimony, but it was overruled.

Roe went on to describe an extremely uncomfortable interaction he heard between Johnson and Riley, where Roe allegedly heard Johnson telling her "I bet you like to be choked". Roe said after hearing this he admitted that he was not a person of confrontation, but spoke with Riley and said she should talk to their manager and he would sit in if it made her feel comfortable.

Roe went on to explain an interaction that he had with Johnson where Johnson used his phone. Roe explained he came to find Johnson searching through his phone. Roe would later realize certain text conversations were deleted from his phone him and Riley.

Roe said there was one time when he had heard a large bang in the photo lab of the Walgreens. After investigating he witnessed Johnson in distress. When asked if everything was okay, Johnson told him there were people working there who should not be there.

The prosecution went on to bring up photos of a text conversation between Riley and Roe after his employment at Walgreens. The conversation went on between the two and Riley attempted to ask for advice from Roe.

The text said Riley was feeling uncomfortable following more advances from Johnson and that he appeared to be jealous when Riley would hang out with her boyfriend and another male employee in the store.

In cross-examination, the defense focused on the conversations Roe had with detectives following the killing of Riley. Pointing out that Roe described both Riley and Johnson as intelligent, smart, and a good team. The defense pivoted to Roe's observance of the uncomfortable incidents that he had observed.

Roe went on to describe the working relationship between Crystal, a manager at the store, and Johnson. Roe said that Crystal and Johnson had known each other and did have some sort of friendly relationship outside of work.

The court entered its morning recess following these questions.

After returning from the morning recess, the defense opened their questioning with Roe about a man named Alan Wise. According to the defense, Wise allegedly was known by store employees for rummaging through the dumpsters. while Roe said he had heard of the name, he had never had any interactions with Alan Wise.

The defense pivoted their question to focus on the surveillance systems of the store. Roe was detailed about seeing Johnson interacting with the surveillance system.

According to Roe, at no point were any of the passwords, and security codes for doors or the surveillance system computer would ever be changed and there was no instruction on doing so ever from upper-level management.

The jury asked Roe was asked if it was normal for employees to stack the red crates that they had. Roe said if the crates were full then they would stack them but if they were empty then they would nest them inside each other.

Roe was excused from this case.

The next witness called to the stand was Billy Archuleta. Archuleta was an assistant manager at Walgreens where Riley was killed. Archuleta was employed for less than 6 months.

Archuleta's witness testimony was given as limited evidence and will be considered as motive of the defendant based on a conversation Whitelaw had with Archuleta about Johnson.

Archuleta described that at first, he had heard something about the conflict between Riley and Johnson, but did not really understand the issue until he was instructed to not schedule Riley and Johnson together. Archuleta detailed a conversation he had with Riley where she told him that Johnson was acting "salty".

In cross-examination, the defense asked about interactions that Archuleta had seen between Johnson and Riley. Specifically, any interactions that made Riley uncomfortable. Archuleta said he had never seen anything himself.

When asked if Archuleta was responsible for disciplinary action, he said he was training to do so but no more than verbal warnings and had not received the training of writing an employee up for disciplinary actions.

This ended the testimony of Archuleta and he was dismissed from the court.

Another friend of Riley was called to the stand. Rebekah Wheeler attended Air Academy High School with Riley. Wheeler outlined her relationship with Riley and different aspects of their time in high school. Wheeler accounted for a time Riley was trying to convince Wheeler to work there.

Wheeler detailed conversations between her and Riley regarding Johnson. The prosecution brought forward text messages between Wheeler and Riley.

In the conversation, Riley talks about how she should not have to worry about Johnson being mad at her for talking to other guys in the store. Riley told Wheeler that there was no one besides Johnson that could tell Riley and Jake were in a relationship at the store.

The conversation delved into Riley being worried about talking to store manager Crystal concerning Johnson after learning Crystal and Johnson had become close friends. The conversations continued over Riley's concerns and how she should handle the situation.

Following the reading of these text messages, audio messages of Riley were submitted as evidence. In the recording, you can hear Riley saying she felt Johnson would be respectful of her declining his advances. In the recording, Riley was audibly concerned over why it would just be her and Johnson working the closing shift that evening.

The prosecution ended its questioning of Wheeler after she read a message between the two that stated "the feminine urge to flirt with Jake in front of Josh (Johnson) to make him jealous". The defense opened their cross-examination by getting to understand her relationship with Riley.

The defense focused on the fact that the messages shown by the defense were not date-stamped. This was due to the girls' use of Instagram to communicate with each other.

In the cross-examination, the defense asked Wheeler if Riley told her she felt threatened by Johnson. Wheeler said Riley was only made uncomfortable by these advances but felt she could still work with the individual.

The court entered recess until 1:10 p.m.

After the afternoon recess, another of Riley's friends-- Jordan Swain-- was called to the stand. Swain considered Riley one of her best friends. Swain's testimony is also being heard to establish a motive for the defendant.

Messages from Riley Whitelaw were presented in court, the messages referred to Johnson as "pedo Josh" and detailed the account of Johnson telling Riley he would like to ask her out. Riley continued to message her friends about feeling uncomfortable around Johnson and how that feeling would only be elevated working with Jake, her boyfriend at the time.

Following the audio recording the prosecution asked if was fair to say that Riley did not have a high opinion of Johnson. The cross-examination hammered home the idea, that Riley never explicitly told her friends she was threatened or scared of Johnson.

This ended the cross-examination and testimony of Jordan Swain.

The next witness called to the stand was Jacob Leacock, Riley’s former boyfriend. Leacock met Riley while she was working at Walgreens and stated that Riley would doodle on his receipts and eventually, the two became boyfriend and girlfriend.

Riley helped Leacock get the job at the Walgreens she was already working at. Leacock began working at the Walgreens before Riley and Leacock began dating. The prosecution walked Leacock through the last day he saw her alive.

Leacock said he dropped Riley off after the two had just bought a Polaroid for the two to take pictures together. Justin, a store manager called Leacock later in the evening saying Riley had not come back from her break. Leacock drove down to the store where Crystal the other manager said something bad may have happened to Riley.

The prosecution pivoted to showing an image of a series of numbers, when asked if what those numbers were, Leacock said it was his social security number and phone number in those images. When asked if it was his handwriting, Leacock said it was not.

The defense began their cross-examination by outlining Leacock's working relationship. The defense focused on information provided by Leacock on the night of Riley's killing. Leacock went on to describe his interactions with Johnson saying "it was hard to describe, but he just seemed mad all the time".

[2:30 PM] The next witness called up was Justin Zunino, a manager at Walgreens during the time of Riley's employment. The prosecution talked about whether Riley came to Zunino regarding Johnson's behavior towards Riley. Zunino said she did say that Johnson was making her feel uncomfortable, but did not want anyone to get into trouble.

Zunino said he addressed these concerns with Johnson and told the court that at the time of that meeting, Johnson was receptive to his concerns and threat of disciplinary action if he continued this behavior towards Riley.

Zunino recounted the night that Crystal, the other manager called him following Riley and was concerned after not seeing Riley and Johnson. Zunino recalled returning to the store, then proceeded to call 911 after the disappearance. Zunino and Crystal attempted to see what happened to Riley on the security cameras where they witnessed Riley enter the break room and Johnson moving the red crates in the line the camera testified about earlier.

Zunino stated the reason he had not checked the break room was from the concerns of a report from Crystal about an unidentifiable person in the dumpster area. After Crystal had informed Zunino of the cardboard covering the break room widow, Zunino who was choking up in the testimony stated he opened the door to see Riley. Zunino stated he shut the door, cleared everyone out of the store, and waited for officers to get there.

The final witness of the day was Crystal Ishmael. Ishmael was a shift lead at the Walgreens during the time of Riley's killing. Ishmael was not supposed to be working the day Riley was murdered but was called in around 12:00 after Mr. Zunino had to leave early due to a work conference.

The prosecution focused on the people who came to see Ishmael in the hours before Riley's murder. Ishmael stated a man by the name of Alan Wise came to give her Starbucks. Ishmael confirmed that Alan Wise was known for going through the dumpster area of the store.

The prosecution shifted its focus to the communication devices used by store employees. They highlighted its ability to directly communicate with individual employees or all employees on the store floor. According to Ishmael, Johnson came over the radio asking "When are you taking a break?” After questioning who that was intended for, Johnson told Ishmael it was directed towards Riley.

Ishmael talked about the interaction she had as she headed to the back to take out the trash. When she was near the dumpster, she saw bare feet and smelled of bleach. Following the incident, Ishmael walked back inside and latched the receiving door to ensure no one would enter the store.

After not seeing either of her coworkers paired with the incident that occurred at the dumpster, Ishmael attempted to contact both Johnson and Riley to no avail. Following the incident at the dumpster, Ishmael called Justin Zunino to get advice on what to do in this situation.

After reviewing the security footage, Ishmael noted to the court it was weird to see the crates stacked as they were. Once Mr. Zunino arrived, both reviewed the footage before Ishmael discovered the paper over the break room window. Upon this discovery, she told Zunino about the paper over the window. After checking in on the break room, Zunino told Ishmael to get everyone out of the store.

The prosecution shifted their focus to an Amazon Prime order made by Ishmael on behalf of Johnson. This package was two flashlights with multiple functions. The prosecution went into the relationship between Ishmael and Johnson, while they were not intimate, however, they had kissed before.

This ended the prosecution's questioning and the court was dismissed for the day.

Witness testimony will resume Friday at 9:00 a.m.


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