WEST JORDAN — Albert Enoch Johnson did not kill Tony and Katherine Butterfield the first time he went inside their West Jordan home to rob them.
Prosecutors say a masked Johnson forced the couple from their bed early on the morning of April 18 and demanded money before eventually leaving with just $20 and a pair of cellphones.
But police say Johnson, 31, returned to the house once he realized that he had left his car keys there.
That’s when Tony Butterfield recognized Johnson, asked him “why?” and then stabbed him as Johnson tried to reenter the home, according to charging documents filed Wednesday in 3rd District Court.
“Johnson said it was so painful that he shot Tony,” the charges state. “Katherine began screaming and Johnson thought he saw a neighbor nearby, so Johnson shot Katherine.”
Johnson, of West Jordan, now faces two counts of aggravated murder, a capital offense, in the shooting deaths, plus eight other felony charges, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced Wednesday.
“Johnson admitted that he was the person who killed the Butterfields,” Gill told reporters.
The couple’s three young children — ages 4, 2, and 6 months — were inside the home at the time but were uninjured, Gill said.
While each homicide is “an assault on our community,” West Jordan Police Chief Ken Wallentine said, “we’re very mindful of the tremendous heartache. We’re very mindful that we’re also doing our work here for three orphan children.”
Johnson told detectives he went to the home of the couple — who owned a landscaping business and lived less than 1 1⁄2 miles away from him — “to get money” because he was concerned about his own finances and believed they had money, the charges state.
Police have declined to say how Johnson knew the couple and told reporters Wednesday that he was not employed by them.
Johnson’s wife, Sina Johnson, who faces a charge that she helped cover up the alleged crimes, told officers her husband had tried to work for the Butterfields, according to court documents in her case.
On April 18, when Albert Johnson first arrived at the home, he said he put on a mask and kicked in the door, the charges state. Gill said home surveillance footage shows Johnson forcing the couple out of their bed and taking them downstairs.
Johnson pointed a gun at Tony Butterfield and told him “he just wanted money,” according to the charging documents.
The gunman eventually left with $20 and two cellphones, cut through a neighbor’s yard and tossed the phones, the charges say.
“When he got to his car, he removed his mask and realized that he did not have his car keys. He returned to Butterfields’ house and Tony was standing inside of the door. Tony saw Johnson without his mask on and addressed Johnson by his first name and asked him, ‘Why?’” the charges state.
Tony Butterfield then started stabbing Johnson “to prevent him from coming back into the house.”
After then shooting Tony Butterfield in the head and shooting Katherine Butterfield in the torso, Johnson went back into the house, retrieved his keys and fled to his apartment, according to the charges.
The bodies of the Butterfields were found at their home, 3277 W. 6920 South, after a neighbor called to report gunshots and a woman screaming about 1:15 a.m. Tony Butterfield’s body was found in the backyard and his wife’s just inside the doorway.
West Jordan police said they received several tips that led them to find Johnson in Stockton, California, including from one person who gave the exact address of the home where he was staying with either family or friends.
Police in California, along with U.S. marshals, said Johnson tried to escape when they arrested him April 22. In a booking mugshot from that day, he has bruises on his face and his right eye appeared swollen shut, injuries police said he sustained while they took him into custody. No officers were injured.
Johnson was extradited to Utah and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail Tuesday night. Prosecutors have requested that he be held without bail and noted he has a previous conviction in California for aggravated burglary.
Gill praised the “good, old-fashioned hard work” of West Jordan police, who teamed up with West Valley City police and the State Bureau of Investigation.
“It was really quite remarkable to identify the perpetrator so very, very rapidly and then start to get a fix on his movements so that ultimately we could work with the California authorities in bringing him into custody,” Wallentine added.
“We’ve done our best, and we will continue to do our best,” he said.
Detectives who went to Johnson’s West Valley City apartment found $200 and a shotgun, but Johnson told investigators he threw the handgun he’d used that night into the Sacramento River, according to police.
Gill declined to say whether he will seek the death penalty if Johnson is convicted, but he feels confident his office met its legal burden to file charges of aggravated murder.
In addition to the aggravated murder charges, Johnson was also charged with two counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary, first degree felonies; plus obstruction of justice and two counts of possession of a firearm by a restricted person, second-degree felonies.
Sina Johnson, 29, separately faces a charge of obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, after police said her husband came home in a rush about 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. and told her he’d stabbed someone and “that his life was over” before showering and leaving. She is accused of throwing out his bloody clothing in a dumpster and cleaning blood from hallway walls and a bathroom.
Police said she spoke about a plan to fly to Arizona but would not specify where. She is due in court Monday.