Searles death case moves forward

Omnibus hearing set for Feb. 26

NEW ULM — A case involving a 58-year-old Searles man facing felony criminal neglect and felony receiving stolen property moved forward in Brown County District Court Friday.

Duane A. Johnson, 18151 Sperl Avenue. S., Searles, appeared in court for the second time in the case. His attorney, John Yost of New Ulm, requested an uncontested omnibus hearing within 28 days. The hearing was set for 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 26.

The case involves the death of Debra L. Johnson, 69, and Johnson’s admission of having at least 47 guns, many of which he said were stolen, at his residence.

According to a complaint, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office learned of a deceased person at 18151 Sperl Ave., Searles at 11:44 a.m. Jan. 24. The sheriff’s officer responded to the scene and were met by Duane Johnson, who said his wife was deceased and was inside the residence.

Authorities including the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, New Ulm Police and the Brown Lincoln Renville Redwood (BLRR) Drug Task Force found the body of Debra L. Johnson in the residence and it was determined that she was dead.

Johnson was arrested without incident and taken into custody at the Brown County Jail. His bail was set at $250,000. He remains in custody.

The sheriff’s office and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigated the scene as what is being considered a suspicious death, according to a sheriff’s office press release.

Johnson told authorities his wife had been in a nursing home and that she begged him to get her out because she wanted to die at home. In addition, Johnson said he began a “death party” for his wife about five days earlier because that was what she requested.

The body of Debra L. Johnson was transported to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office where an autopsy will take place to determine the cause and manner of death.

Brown County Attorney Chuck Hanson said autopsy results are pending completion of the toxicology report, which he said could take up to six weeks.

Items found at the Johnson residence included many boxes of ammunition, a Henry .22 Magnum rifle, Springfield & Savage .22, Connecticut Valley Arms .54 Cal. muzzle loader, a Harrison & Richardson .12 gauge shotgun, Springfield .12 gauge, and three prescription bottles with Deborah Johnson’s name on them, one empty, two of which read Benztropine and one that read Hydralazine.