DALLAS - A former college football player with a history of mental illness went on trial Monday for the random murder of a jogger in Dallas.
Thomas Johnson, a graduate of Dallas’ Skyline High School who played one season at Texas A&M, is charged with the 2015 killing of David Stevens, 53. Police said Johnson admitted to attacking Stevens with a machete on the White Rock Trail in Northeast Dallas.
Johnson's family and his lawyers say he suffers from schizophrenia. He went through extensive psychiatric evaluations and was recently found fit to stand trial.
Prosecutors said in opening statements that evidence is overwhelming to convict Johnson, pointing to an eyewitness account, a confession from Johnson and DNA evidence. Defense attorneys said the case isn’t about who committed the crime, but about the mental state of Johnson. A not guilty plea was entered, but they are claiming Johnson was insane and off of his medication.
Members of the jury were shown photos of the injuries to Stevens’ hacked body during testimony from the medical examiner. The ME said there were multiple “chop wounds” and skull fractures to Stevens’ head.
An eyewitness testified that Johnson approached her on the trail that day and asked to use her phone. She refused and said he was running around so frantically she called 911. Shortly after she came across Stevens’ body and called 911, again.
Another man testified that he was cycling on the trail and witnessed the murder. He said he saw a man in a hoodie taking overhead swings with a machete down onto the neck of a person who was face down on the ground.
"At the time it looked like somebody was hitting somebody with a baseball bat. As I got closer, 25 feet maybe, I could tell it was a machete and there was some... I mean, it was pretty intense," Brandon Davenport said.
Johnson played football at Texas A&M in 2012, but left the program before the end of his freshman season. He was already exhibiting signs of mental illness, some people said.
Members of Stevens’ family will testify and attend the trial. Stevens’ wife killed herself weeks after his death, apparently distraught by his gruesome murder.