It's been more than five years since Hank Johnson was brutally beaten in his Hearne hotel room, his guitars taken and the 27-year-old left behind with injuries so severe he would die 11 days later. 

Since that night, Johnson's mother, Sandi Johnson, has been fighting to bring some form of justice to her son, who was also a husband and father to two. 

Sandi Johnson said that moment finally came for her Monday when 28-year-old Trae Deandra Thompson pleaded no contest to criminal negligent homicide and was sentenced to 15 months in jail. 

"We lived in a world of fun and laughter, we just sent out love our whole lives," Sandi Johnson said of herself and her family. "So to have someone beat us to death ... how can you even think someone could do that?" 

Thompson was indicted for murdering Hank Johnson in May 2013 while he was in prison for a 2008 assault on a public servant offense. He was arrested for the murder charge immediately upon his release from prison.

Robertson County District Attorney Coty Siegert wouldn't go into details about any specific evidence against Thompson since his plea is still legally pending, but described the case as difficult. 

He said a key part of the case against Thompson was that after the murder, the defendant had possession of the guitars that had been stolen out of Hank Johnson's hotel room the night he was beaten. 

Thompson's defense attorneys, Shawna Roscom and Lonnie Gosch, said their client agreed to the plea deal as means of an end for everyone involved. 

By pleading no contest, Thompson was neither admitting nor denying he killed Johnson, Roscom said. 

"Unfortunately, as it goes with a lot of incarcerated individuals with that kind of case, they start to feel defeated and they want a quick resolution," Gosch said. "He said he wanted to 'give closure to Sandi Johnson.'" 

Because he'll receive credit for time served, Thompson is looking at a July release date. 

The Hearne Police Department handled the investigation of Hank Johnson's murder before sending its findings over to Siegert's predecessor, John Paschall. 

The case was presented to a grand jury more than once under Paschall and the panel failed to issue an indictment each time. In 2012, former Brazos County District Attorney Bill Turner agreed to look into the case, but no indictment was issued despite being brought before grand jurors four times. 

In 2012, a civil jury found that enough evidence existed to find Thompson responsible for Hank Johnson's death. 

Attorney Ty Clevenger, who represented Sandi Johnson in the lawsuit, said during the civil trial jurors heard video-taped testimony from a woman who claimed Thompson had implicated himself to her. 

However, that woman would not cooperate in criminal proceedings, Clevenger said.

"This was a very emotionally charged case," Gosch said. 

For Sandi Johnson, "emotionally charged" doesn't begin to cover it. 

"For a while, it was just tough for me to get out of bed," she said. "When you wake up from something like that, you think, 'This is a nightmare.'"

She continued, "You're just in shock a long time; then, as you're walking and floating along, you finally realize that this did happen. It's real." 

When Sandi Johnson talks about losing her son, the grief in her voice seems tangible. But that changes when she starts describing the way he lived. 

"Hank was a comedian," she said. "Hank made people smile and laugh. That was his goal with his family and his friends." 

She and her son worked together in puppet performances for many years, taking their show in front of thousands of kids. Recently, she's been talking with another performer about getting back into the puppeteering business, something Sandi Johnson said she thinks her son would appreciate. 

"Hank loved to entertain," Sandi Johnson said. "He was just so very special." 

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(8) comments


Hes not a cold blooded killer,,,Sandy needs to tell u all tha truth and shes not,,,,,attention is what she wants,,,u can talk about Trae all u want,,,,call him all kinds of names,,,,at tha end of tha day,,,he didnt do it!!!! And we will never know who did,,if he did it y offer 15months!!!!! Have yall ever heard of EVIDENCE!!!!! Where is it???


Dont b so quick to judge!!! He plead No Contest,,,,u still dont know who killed Hank Johnson,,,they didnt have any evidence against Trae Thompson!!! So if u dont know tha story y speak on it!!! Sandy u lookin to blame anyone from Hearne,,,but tha truth is Trae Thompson didnt do it!!!! Yea he had two guitars and told tha police where they was and thats how they got them bk,he didnt have to tell them anything!!!


How horrible for Hank and his family. For this guy to murder a person and get a mere slap on the wrist is horrendous. How could the government let this happen over and over again?! I am absolutely mortified at this injustice. I've always tried to believe in the judicial system, but my feelings are REALLY starting to change. You can't count on anything with the system the way it is. I TRULY don't understand how this could happen. Soo very sorry Hank that they could let you down so easily and thoughtlessly. My thoughts and prayers go out to all involved.

Sandi Johnson

I have just cried and cried over this. I did everything I could do. I will never hold my only son again. I am his mother and I can tell you our family has suffered extensive health issues over this. Hank, you deserved so much more justice. I never wanted anyone else to go through this by the hands of Trea Thompson.


Shame belongs to the courts on this one. You all dropped the ball, not once but over & over. Well now you will have a cold blooded killer walking your streets again soon. Good luck with that. To the Johnson family, I am so sorry for you, justice was not served. 15 months.... what farce..........


15 month's for taking someone's life so brutal what does this say to the criminals
"do the crime and not the time" because that"s whats happening, this is justice insulting not only his family but anyone he comes in contact with in the future we are all his potential victim"s Thank you lawyers,courts and everyone who helped make this happen, i hope you can sleep at night


Unfortunately Mr. Tent, it's 15 months minus "time served" so this scum bag will be getting out in July, 6 months from now, on charges of criminally negligent homicide... 6 months... That's not justice. That's placation. It's insulting to the deceased, it's insulting to the deceased's loved one's and it's just going to let a cold blooded dirt bag back on to the streets.

I can only cross my fingers and hope that karma serves up what justice the government could not, or should I say, would not...

We're sorry Hank. You deserved better.

Mr Tent

Wow. 15 months? That'll teach him not to murder.

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