New details of the Jesse Faris murder emerge in the early days of the Janelle Johnson trial

New details of the Jesse Faris murder emerge in the early days of the Janelle Johnson trial

March 17—Bemidji — More than two years after she fatally shot Jessie Faris in her Bemidji home on Dec. 25, 2020, a jury trial is underway for Jenelle Johnson in Beltrami County to determine whether she will be convicted of second-degree murder. .

After a two-day jury selection process, State of Minnesota v. Jenelle Lauren Johnson officially began Wednesday with statements from the prosecution and defense. Janell is represented by Jill Brisbois with Danielle Vlieger Justice for the State of Minnesota.

“I shot Jesse Faris today, my name is Janelle Johnson,” Vlieger said at the beginning, repeating a phrase from the 911 call Johnson made to Beltrami County dispatcher Amanda Pederson after the Christmas Day incident. “That’s the call (Pederson) got and that’s the call he’ll testify to.”

Brisbois also gave an opening statement during the trial, alleging that Jenelle was not the one who shot Jesse that night.

“Janell Johnson did not shoot Jesse Faris,” Brisbois said, adding that during the trial the jury will hear about the lack of forensic evidence linking Janelle to the shooting, her inability to recall information about the specifics of the incident, as well as her level of intoxication during the events that led to Jesse being shot three times. can affect the ability to

“In Christmas 2020, Janelle Johnson was a sister, Janelle Johnson was a wife, Janelle Johnson was a mother,” Brisbois said, adding that someone’s dedication to those roles could force them to make certain judgment calls, “including admitting to a crime they didn’t commit to.” .”

Brisbois also touched on the domestic abuse allegations in the case and what role those allegations played in the events that occurred that night.

“(Jenelle) was listening to her sister’s revelations, she was helping her escape, she was sheltering her,” Brisbois said. “Janelle begged (Jesse) to do the right thing — leave her sister alone.”

According to initial reports of the incident,

Beltrami County dispatch received a call from a female — later identified as 36-year-old Janelle Johnson of Bemidji — on December 26, 2020 at approximately 12:11 p.m.

She reported that about an hour earlier, she and her husband, Austin Johnson, also of Bemidji, went to the home of their brother-in-law, 48-year-old Jesse Farris, on Lavinia Road NE in North Township. Allegations of domestic abuse between him and Janelle’s sister, Justina Faris.

A verbal argument ensued, which soon turned physical, the report said. Janelle then allegedly took a firearm that Austin had brought with him to the residence and fatally shot Faris.

Janell was initially booked into the Beltrami County Jail on a charge of second-degree murder, and Austin was booked on a charge of assisting a felon.

Jesse’s preliminary autopsy results, performed by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office, confirmed the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds and ruled it a homicide.

During witness testimony on Wednesday and Thursday, additional details about what happened on December 25, 2020 were revealed.

That day, Justina and her children went to Janelle’s house for an afternoon family dinner, but Jesse was not invited to the event because of his tension with his sister-in-law Janelle.

One of Jesse and Justin’s sons, Indy Faris, testified that the relationship between Jesse and Janelle was “uncomfortable” and that he knew his father was not allowed in the Johnson home.

“I wouldn’t say hostile,” Indy testified of the relationship between Jesse and Janelle, “but it was an unpleasant relationship.”

Justina left Jenelle’s house sometime in the evening and testified that when she returned home, she and Jesse got into a verbal argument and Jesse tried to take her phone. Justina then goes back to the Johnson house where Janelle, Austin, and a few other family members are still hanging out.

Justina testified that she told her family members that she and Jesse had a verbal argument, but said she just wanted to go to bed and did not want to discuss the incident further. He indicated during his testimony that he had previously shared details about Jesse’s abusive behavior, including physical abuse, with Janelle and other family members.

There were times when the couple were not living together and they discussed divorce for years leading up to Jessie’s death.

Indy also testified that the relationship between Jesse and Justina was “rocky.” He noted that while he had witnessed verbal arguments between the two in the past, he had never seen the argument become physical.

Although Justina testified that Jesse was not physically abusive on the night of December 25 and that she returned to Johnson’s house so he could go to bed, Jenelle and Austin decided to drive to Faris’ house and confront her. Jessie.

Before leaving, Justina’s testimony indicated that Jenelle ordered Austin to take something out of a bedroom drawer. Justina had not seen the item, but had reason to believe it was a weapon.

When Janelle and Austin later returned home, Justina testified that she heard the pair say the shots had been fired. Justina then yelled, “You shot my husband?” Before leaving the house shortly after.

Janelle and Justin’s other sister, Jeanine Wiley, who was also at Janelle’s home at the time, testified that Janelle “said she shot Jesse,” when she returned home.

Janelle then told Willie that she would go for a walk and call law enforcement.

Beltrami County dispatcher Amanda Peterson received Janelle’s 911 call at 12:11 a.m. on Dec. 26 as she and Austin were walking on Paul Miller Lane near their home.

According to an audio recording of the 911 call played during the trial, Jenelle began the call by telling Pederson, “I got some *** I got to share. I shot Jesse Faris today, my name is Jenelle Johnson.”

When Pederson asked if Jenelle knew if Faris was injured, Jenelle replied, “Not entirely sure, but I think so. She pushed me and my husband… I was confronting her about her abuse… We were just going. To talk to him and he pushed us and it just kept growing.”

Beltrami County Deputy Alison Critchfield was dispatched to the area of ​​Paul Miller Lane after Janelle’s 911 call.

Body camera footage played at trial showed that, after arriving at the scene with Beltrami County Sergeant Tony Petrie, Critchfield took Janelle aside to question her about the incident.

In the footage, Janelle describes her and her husband’s confrontation with Jesse that night.

“I’m sick of beating my sister,” Janelle tells Critchfield in the footage. “(Austin) had (the gun) in his pocket and when (Jesse) pushed us, I grabbed it.”

Janelle then told Critchfield that she believed she shot Jesse three times and that she and Austin brought the .357 Magnum revolver back to their home after the incident.

Janelle also told Critchfield that she had been drinking that night and had more than usual because of the Christmas holiday. Critchfield testified that he remembered Janelle being intoxicated during their interaction, saying he could smell alcohol on Janelle’s breath and that she was slurring her speech slightly.

Bureau of Criminal Apprehension forensic scientists Sarah Pfeiffer and Jessica Hunt were part of the crime scene team that helped process evidence in the case.

The testimony showed that the partial fingerprints taken from the revolver used to shoot Jesse were not suitable for comparison and therefore could not be definitively attributed to Janelle or Austin.

A luminol test discovered trace amounts of blood in the truck that Janelle and Austin took to Jesse’s house, but it was not possible to determine the age of the blood or whether it was human blood.

Partial shoe prints discovered in the snow at the crime scene could not be definitively attributed to Jenelle or Austin.

Other witnesses who testified Wednesday and Thursday included Beltrami County Deputy Tony Hanson, BCA Homicide Agent Jacob Hodup, Dr. Rebecca Ash-Kendrick of the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office and Michelle Perlson of the BCA Biology Department.

The trial continued Friday and is expected to continue into next week.

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