Houston Herald 21 Jul 1977 JLT
Survivor describes triple murder COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) The lone survivor among four teen-agers allegedly shot by a military policeman from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., took the witness stand in the soldier's trial Tuesday Juanita Deckard, t. in a shaky voice, Identified the defendant, Johnny Lee Thorn-Ion, 21. of Russellville. Ark . as the man who shot three persons to death and wounded her in the chest and arm. She said Thornton stopped the four, shoo ting the two males, and taking the girls to a game warden's cabin where tfley were forced to perform sexual acts. . Thornton has pleaded innocent to federal charges of murder, rape, kidnaping and assault with intent to kill Two previous attempts lo get Junes at St. Joseph and Springfield, Mo., were unsuccessful. A Jury of four men and eight women was sworn in here late Monday. Miss Oeckard of Lynchburg, Mo . said after the girls were forced lo perform sexual acts during the night of Jan 12 at the game warden's cabin in a remote section of the fort, they were later taken outside the cabin into a wooded area where they were both shot. She said she and Linda Need ham, 18, of Plato. Mo, both fell onto snow-covered ground after they were shot Miss Deckard testified Thornton pulled Miss Need-ham by the shoulders to an area nearby and Miss Deckard said she heard the woman scream and what she thouKht was another shot. Miss Deckard also was pulled by the shoulders and he said Thornton kicked snow over her. Then, she testified she heard Thomlon tell Anthony Bales, IS. of Plato, Mo., wounded from an earlier shot, to get out of the military Jeep. Miss Deckard said she then thought she heard another shot After she felt It wbb safe, she tearfully said she rose from the snow and discovered Wesley Hawkins, 18, of Plato. Mo., and Miss Needham and tned to gel them to talk lo her She said she tried to revive them, but got no response. She said she then tried lo find Bates and began walking through the snow, looking for help. She went about four miles over rough terrain before she found a farmhouse. She said Thornton had stopped the car containing the four to Inquire about a robbery at a gasoline station and the night of horror followed lor Miss Deckard. The chief of Military Police at Fort Leonard Wood. Col.-Perry B Elder, testified that Thornton told him when he was apprehended the day after the crime that "I know I've done something bad. but I don't remember what It Is." Elder testified that Thornton asked him what had happened and Elder told him three persons were shot and killed dead and one was alive. Elder said Thornton then said, "I thought 1 did II but I don't remember, "and he said Thornton then began to cry Thornton had asked Elder and his Immediate supervisor. Sgt. Robert Jensen, to meet him at a rendezvous point and to come unarmed, Elder testified The FBI had already entered the Investigation by that Thornton was armed with an automatic pistol and Jensen and Elder tried to convince him to drop the weapon, Elder testified Thornton agreed tn drop Ihe weapon on the condition thai he be allowed to talk to bis wife, that he would not be handcuffed and that no military police would be present when he went to the police station. Elder testified After conferring with the FBI agent in charge. Elder told him the requests would be honored. Elder also testified that al the lime. Thornton said he had a headache, and said he and bis wife had been having problems bul they were being straightened out. Under defense questioning several officers called lo the stand testified thai Thornton was a good soldier with a good military rrputalion. was enlhusiasUc in his work and outstanding in his performance ol duties. Bul one officer. Capt Robert D Rawbourn. a supervisor in military operations, testi-fii'd he once reprimanded Thornton for an incident ol improper procedure and arrest hich allegedly involved marijuana. Rawbourn said Thornton seemed (o understand the reprimand and learned from the mistake n Springfield Newspapers!