The saga of a four-year, cold-case killing in Charlotte ended Wednesday after a three-day trial – and the first-degree murder conviction of Markcus Johnson.
Johnson, 30, will spend the rest of his life in prison after a jury found him guilty of the 2008 shooting death of Julio Antonio Paniagua, 32.
The victim’s body was found alongside a driveway leading to an apartment complex on Farm Pond Lane. He had been shot in the head. The killing occurred in a portion of east Charlotte that police said at the time was marred by violent crime.
Investigators did not solve the case until 2012, when witnesses came forward and filled in missing details, placing Johnson at the scene. He was charged four years later.
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During the three-day trial, which began nine years after Paniagua’s death, Mecklenburg assistant district attorneys Jodi Anderson and David Kelly told jurors that Johnson and two companions were leaving the apartment complex in a car when Johnson spotted Paniagua and yelled at him. Paniagua, who was walking near the driveway, turned and ran.
Johnson didn’t know Paniagua, prosecutors said, but he opened fire on him anyway – the fatal shot hitting the fleeing man in the back of the head.
Johnson has a lengthy history of violent crime, including multiple convictions for robbery with a dangerous weapon. At the time of his murder trial this week before Superior Court Judge Hugh Lewis, Johnson was serving a federal prison sentence for a weapons conviction. The Mecklenburg jury also found Johnson guilty of possession of a firearm by a felon.