The Kentucky preacher-turned-politician who killed himself after being accused of molesting a teenager claimed he once raised a woman “from the dead.”
State Rep. Dan Johnson also declared that he watched the second hijacked plane slam into the World Trade Center from his hotel room and spent the next two weeks blessing bodies as they were removed from the ruins at a morgue he set up at Ground Zero.
Johnson also boasted about being a White House chaplain for both Bush presidents and Bill Clinton, and professed to have been a peacemaker in Los Angeles during the 1992 Rodney King riots.
These were some of the unlikely stories that “Bishop Johnson” posted on the web site of his Heart of Fire Church, in a rural county south of Louisville.
Those tales were largely debunked in a Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting expose that revealed that Johnson was accused by a then 17-year-old Maranda Richmond of drunkenly sexually assaulting her on New Year’s Eve 2012.
Johnson, a 57-year-old Republican who represented mostly rural Bullitt County, denied the allegation Tuesday during a news conference at his church. He also defied bipartisan calls for him to resign.
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“This allegation concerning this lady, this young girl, absolutely has no merit, these are unfounded accusations, totally,” he said.
But a little after 7 p.m. Wednesday, Johnson killed himself with a gunshot to the head, police said, about two hours after posting another strident denial on a since-deleted Facebook post in which he also wrote that post-traumatic stress disorder from 9/11 “is a sickness that will take my life.”
“I cannot handle it any longer…. BUT HEAVEN IS MY HOME,” he wrote.
Not long after his death was ruled a suicide, Johnson’s wife, Rebecca, who is the “pastor” of their church, announced Thursday that she will run for his seat and called her husband’s death a “high-tech lynching based on lies and half-truths.”
KCIP found that Johnson’s claim that he had brought a dead woman back to life while serving as a missionary in South America was based on a letter written by another preacher who admitted he hadn’t seen the supposed miracle and only heard about it.
And while the Kentucky reporters found records that placed Johnson in New York City on or around 9/11, it’s unlikely he watched a plane crash into one of the Twin Towers from “The New Yorker Hotel,” as he claimed on the web site.
The Wyndham New Yorker Hotel is not a mile away, as Johnson wrote. It’s about three miles north of Ground Zero, in Midtown Manhattan.
Before his suicide, Johnson made national news during his campaign for posting racist remarks online about former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. That didn’t stop him from getting elected last year in an overwhelmingly white and conservative corner of Kentucky.
Johnson claimed to have a “doctorate of divinity” from a Des Moines, Iowa, bible school. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found no evidence to support that.
What it did discover is that Johnson was arrested back in the 1980s for torching a Cadillac to collect on the insurance money. He pleaded not guilty, and the criminal charges were dismissed in 1987 after completing a six-month, pre-trial diversion program.
In June 2000, the news organization reported, Johnson was suspected of torching his own church. He blamed the Ku Klux Klan, but the church was bankrupt at the time and rebuilt with insurance money.
Many members of Johnson’s flock were bikers and other unlikely churchgoers who reveled in his Muslim-bashing sermons and were attracted by other perks, like being allowed to smoke during services and the booze-fueled parties he hosted on weekends, the news organization reported.
Three times the church was cited for unlicensed liquor sales. But Johnson claimed the alcohol was “communion” so he didn’t need a liquor license. A judge disagreed and fined him $250.