STARKE, Fla. – A 22-year-old woman found shot to death early Tuesday morning at a home in Starke was killed by her husband, police said.
Police said a 7-year-old child witnessed his father killing Kiana Thomas, and information from the boy helped them charge Kion Johnson, 25, with second-degree murder.
Johnson is also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Police said they were called about 5:30 a.m. to the house on Oak Street by Johnson, who said he found her shot on the front porch. Police said Johnson's young son told a far different story: The couple got into a heated argument before dawn, and Johnson shot Thomas as she ran to a neighbor's house to get help.
Johnson's son even told police where they could find the gun.
"Evidence supports what the 7-year-old child says," Capt. Barry Warren of the Starke Police Department said. "At this time he seems to be handling it pretty well. He's very talkative, very social and I pray that he will grow up and get through this."
News4Jax spoke with local attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters about the case and she shed some light on how jurors would react to a testimony coming from a 7-year-old witness.
Peoples-waters said In Florida the question isn’t just about the child's age, but whether or not the child is able to relate and give the jurors and the judge credible facts -- which could mean the difference between a second-degree murder and first-degree murder charge.
“If he (the child) says I heard him (Johnson) say to my mom ‘I'm going to kill you’ and then shot the gun, that would do more to support of first-degree premeditated and intentional killing, but if it was more of an accidental description based by the child, then that may amount to more of a manslaughter,” Peoples-Waters said. “So the child's testimony is definitely critical.”
“The fact that the child was able to lead police to the gun would corroborate the child's account of things. I certainly think that adds credibility to his testimony,” Peoples-Waters said.
Family members and friends said Thomas, who they knew as Keke, married Johnson in March.
Public records show that Johnson was investigated in February on a complaint of domestic violence involving Thomas. He was also investigated last year after a report of lewd assault on a child. The state attorney's office did not file charges in either case.
Family said they opposed Thomas' marriage to Johnson because of domestic violence between the two in the past. They said Thomas graduated from Bradford County High School and worked as a hairstylist and at Walmart.
"I've known her since school," friend Takasia Burch said. "She was very nice to me; never got into trouble. (A) real good girl."
Friends said Thomas sang in the choir at Mount Moriah United Methodist Church and had the voice of an angel.
"She was the nicest person you could meet," said Toddreck Reed, Thomas' cousin. "Sweet girl, humble, honest, real."
Police said Johnson could face other charges concerning his son, saying he may have threatened the boy to lie to police about what he saw.