SAN DIEGO — A man who gunned down a father and son at a Golden Hill bus stop more than eight years ago was sentenced to 112 years to life in state prison Monday.
Marlon Johnson, 41, was convicted by a jury last month of two counts of second-degree murder for the Jan. 9, 2011 slayings of 49-year-old Darryl Hunter and Hunter’s son, 30-year-old Keith Butler. Jurors also convicted him of several gun enhancements, as well as a single felony count of shooting into an occupied vehicle, as one of the bullets entered a passing car, causing a piece of the vehicle to strike its driver.
The trial was Johnson’s third in less than a year in connection with the shooting.
On the night they were killed, the victims were at Butler’s girlfriend’s apartment, where they visited the woman for about an hour before Hunter decided to leave, and Butler left to accompany his father to the nearby bus stop at 30th and C streets, Deputy District Attorney Valerie Summers said.
Following an argument between the men and the shooter — the nature of which remains unknown — Hunter was shot four times, then Butler was shot in the back while fleeing the scene, she said.
Hunter was found lying in the street, while Butler ran back to the apartment and told his girlfriend to call 911. He then collapsed, gravely wounded. Hunter and Butler died at separate hospitals.
At Monday’s sentencing, Summers called the shooting “a senseless murder” and “a completely unnecessary act,” while also alleging that Johnson had a history of violence involving firearms, including previously threatening to “blow his father’s head off” and threatening two women with a gun in Arkansas.
“This is not the first time this defendant has turned to using weapons when his temper could not be curbed,” Summers said.
The prosecutor alleged that Johnson argued with and then shot both men, and fled the scene in a distinctive white Monte Carlo that belonged to his girlfriend. She said Johnson’s DNA was found on cigarette butts in the car and at the shooting scene, while cell phone tower data placed him at that location, as well as others in the city, corroborating witness accounts.
Summers also alleged that Johnson told his then-girlfriend that he’d gotten “into it with a couple guys who tried to rob me” on the night of the shooting.
Johnson was identified early in the investigation as a potential suspect, but detectives did not have enough evidence to charge him until 2016, when they said new evidence had been obtained that implicated him in the double homicide.
He was arrested in Arkansas, at which point Summers said he denied ever driving the suspect vehicle, being in San Diego on the date of the shooting or knowing his then-girlfriend, though the prosecutor said evidence collected at the apartment they shared indicated that was a lie.
Defense attorney Kevin Haughton said Johnson was near the scene of the shooting when it happened, then simply tried “to get out of there,” just like numerous other witnesses who fled the scene after the shots rang out.
The attorney said that the prosecution based its case on contradictory witness accounts, with some witnesses stating that the assailant got out of a truck or SUV, shot the victims, then left in that vehicle, differing from the prosecution’s theory that Johnson fled in his girlfriend’s car. Haughton also alleged that witnesses whose statements diverged from law enforcement’s theory were not sought after or interviewed for several years after the shooting.
On Monday, Haughton alluded to several witness accounts indicating that the two victims were the aggressors, and had his client “backed up against a wall” and were “coming at him in an aggressive manner.”
While Summers said there was an argument between the men, she said Johnson “elevated” the incident by brandishing a gun.
Johnson’s first trial, which ended last July, resulted in a deadlocked jury that voted 8-4 in favor of convicting him. A second jury deadlocked in November, voting 10-2 to convict.