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Deadly ambush suspect was eyed in sex assault

Divorce sent the 38-year-old Michigan man suspected of shooting young swimmers at a river into a tailspin, his mother says.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Divorce sent the 38-year-old Michigan man suspected of shooting young swimmers at a river into a tailspin, his mother says.

His ex-wife moved away, taking his two children. He hadn't had a girlfriend in years. Being investigated for sexual assault just might have caused him to snap.

Scott Johnson is suspected of ambushing a group of young revelers swimming at a river hangout last week. Three teens died of gunshot wounds, and a 20-year-old was injured.

Judy Johnson described her son to The Associated Press as a once-carefree father of two who became introverted after his wife left him seven years ago and took their children with her to Ohio.

"He kept saying, 'I lost everything; I have nothing,'" his mother said. "He just grew heartsick and started turning inward."

She said she didn't think her son had had a girlfriend since his divorce.

Johnson was something of a regular at the swimming hangout, said teens who knew him. He even showed up a few days before the killings to help people off a rope swing over the Menominee River, they said.

"He was always really nice to us," said Conrad LaPointe, 14, who lives in the neighborhood. "But when girls were down there he would just stare at them from the bridge."

Johnson occasionally built a bonfire near the river and would invite LaPointe and others to join him for warmth.

"Sometimes he'd say stuff like, 'I wish I could get a girlfriend,'" LaPointe said. "Otherwise we'd just talk about life, the world, whatever."

Police visited home Thursday
On Thursday afternoon, police officers went to the Johnson residence and told Judy Johnson that they wanted to talk to her son. He wasn't home. They left a business card and suggested he give them a call.

The officers didn't tell her that they were investigating a complaint that her son had sexually assaulted a woman 14 years younger than him on Wednesday at the river hangout.

Her son returned to their home a few hours later. She gave him the card, and he said he would take care of it and walked out, she said.

"He seemed calm but looked like he was anxious to leave," Judy Johnson said tearfully. "He walked out, and that's the last time I saw my boy."

According to police, Scott Johnson ended up at a bridge about 3 miles from the river handout. He jumped from bushes and opened fire on about a half-dozen young people relaxing by the bridge, police said. Two teens ran to a nearby house, where the homeowner called police.

Authorities launched a 16-hour manhunt that ended when Johnson, dressed in camouflage, came out of the woods Friday morning and tossed down his rifle.

Killed were Tiffany Pohlson, 17; Anthony Spigarelli, 18; and Bryan Mort, 19. Twenty-year-old Daniel Louis Gordon was wounded.

Johnson was being held in jail and could be charged in the deaths as early as Monday. Authorities have not commented on a possible motive for the shooting or said whether it and the alleged sexual assault might be linked.

Johnson hasn't been charged with sexual assault. Authorities have said they don't know whether he has an attorney yet.