Sentencing Provides Details Into Grisly 2008 Murder of St. Louis County Counselor

Categories: Crime
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Luke Meiners (left) was murdered in 2008. Ronald Johnson (center) and Cleophus King (right) have been charged.
The sentencing of 24-year-old Ronald Johnson on Wednesday afternoon was a foregone conclusion, but that didn't prevent tears among those gathered -- on either side of a St. Louis courtroom.  

Johnson had already confessed: He and Cleophus King -- his former lover and accomplice -- fatally stabbed and strangled Assistant St. Louis County Counselor Luke Meiners in the Forest Park - DeBaliviere neighborhood back in 2008. They dumped Meiners' body across the river, stole his Jeep and ran up his credit cards.

By Wednesday, Johnson had struck a deal with prosecutors: He would escape the death penalty and spend his life in prison without possibility for parole, provided he testified in the capital case against his co-defendant King, age 45. King wasn't present; his case is still pending. But Johnson's fate was sealed.

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Judge Steven Ohmer
During the hearing, Judge Steven Ohmer invited the accused to make a statement. Johnson,  looking frail in orange prison garb, declined. About a dozen of his family members sat in the benches behind him, distraught but quiet.

Members of the victim's family were present too, including Luke Meiners' sister, who'd come all the way from Atlanta, Georgia. Some wiped their eyes and held each others' hands. Yet none chose to give an impact statement.

However, Assistant Circuit Attorney Rachel Smith did rise to address the court. With her boss, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, looking on, Smith felt the need to put certain things on the record.

She described the "torturous" and "extremely painful" way the murder was carried out. She called Luke Meiners a "vibrant human being" who was killed for nothing more than a mid-level robbery.

What she didn't say aloud, but wrote in a pleading filed with the court that same day, was how this case had affected her personally: Cleophus King was caught in jail writing notes to Johnson, plotting to have her knocked off. And Ronald Johnson hadn't even bothered to notify her.

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