Woman denies killing 14-year-old daughter, admits to fatally shooting husband

SAN DIEGO — A woman charged with killing her family in their San Carlos condominium more than five years ago testified Tuesday that she shot her husband after he shot their 14-year-old daughter.

During questioning from her attorney, 60-year-old Regina Johnson denied killing her daughter, Aaliyah, but admitted killing her 56-year-old spouse, Reuben Johnson, on the morning of May 30, 2012.

“Why did you kill him?” attorney Neil Besse asked his client.

“Because he killed my daughter,” she replied. “Aaliyah was the love of my life. When I lost her, I lost everything.”

Johnson testified that after her husband killed Aaliyah, she picked up the gun from the ground and fired, fearing he might shoot her next.

On cross-examination, the defendant denied killing her husband because she was angry with him and thought he had been trying to poison her with painkillers.

She also testified that she didn’t kill her spouse because he had cheated on her with other women.

In her opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney alleged that the defendant ambushed Aaliyah, shooting her in the back of the head as she got dressed, then ambushed her husband as he came into their daughter’s bedroom. He was shot in the side, then the head.

“Aaliyah was caught completely by surprise,” the prosecutor said. “Her mother came up behind her and executed her. Reuben Johnson was ambushed just like his daughter.”

Rooney said the crime occurred behind closed doors in the family’s condominium in the 7200 block of Navajo Road.

“(There was) no one there to stop the defendant from executing her plan,” the prosecutor told the jury.

Rooney said Johnson didn’t call police and stayed with the decomposing bodies until concerned family members from Washington state made an emergency call for authorities to check on the family three days later.

The prosecutor said the defendant’s DNA was “all over the gun,” which was found next to her husband’s head, and her fingerprints were also found on the gun’s magazine.

The defendant also got rid of shell casings and pills she was taking for depression, according to Rooney, and used lipstick to write a message to her doctor on a bathroom mirror.

“You know I should not have been taking all those pills,” the message read.

Besse told the jury that Johnson was depressed over losing her job and not being able to dote over her daughter.

The day of the shootings was picture day for Aaliyah at West Hills High School, where she was a freshman, and she had picked out a blue dress from her mother’s closet, Besse said.

That morning, her father returned from a doctor’s appointment and was upset that the teen was still home, Besse told the jury.

He blamed his daughter’s tardiness on her boyfriend, but the defendant came to the girl’s defense, according to Besse, who said the argument boiled over and Aaliyah left the room and returned with a gun, pointing it at her father.

“She said, `Stop yelling at me,”‘ Besse told the jury.

He said Reuben Johnson knocked the gun from his daughter’s hands and a shot rang out, killing her on the spot.

The defense attorney said his client picked up the gun and yelled at her husband, “What did you do? You shot my baby girl!” and then fired two shots, killing him.

Besse said his client covered her daughter’s body and stayed with her until police arrived three days later.

Johnson faces 100 years to life in prison if convicted of two murder counts.