COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Richland County Sheriff's Department's Cold Case Squad has solved a 30-year-old murder case with the confession of a man already serving four life sentences for murder.
Patricia Ann Green's body was found on May 10, 1987 just steps away from the entrance of McEntire Air Base in Hopkins in what he called a "gruesome scene," according to Sheriff Leon Lott.
Green was shot multiple times and left in a culvert.
"It was a case that they had absolutely no leads on," Lott said. "At that time, we didn't know what DNA was. Our forensics back then was fingerprints. That was about it."
All the evidence collected at the scene was sent to the FBI Crime Lab, but federal investigators came up empty-handed. However, with no leads, the case went cold quickly.
"The case was filed away, but not forgotten," Lott said.
Fast forward to 1997, when the county's Cold Case Squad was formed. Two more decades passed, but DNA evidence collected at the scene finally linked to a man already behind bars.
Phillip Johnson, 53, who Lott says is already serving time for four other murder cases in Sumter County, confessed to the crime. "He gave information in his confession that only the killer would have known," Lott said.
Lott said Johnson's motive was simple.
"There was no motive, just that he was on a killing spree," Lott said. "She was just somebody he shot and killed."
Johnson has a lengthy criminal history including assault and battery with intent to kill, armed robbery, criminal sexual conduct, and kidnapping. He is currently charged with four counts of murder and with the crack in the case of Green's murder, it will soon be five counts.
Lott credited the sheriff's department's professionalism and attention to detail, even 30 years ago, for finally bringing this case to a close.
Cold Case investigators are now looking more closely at another unsolved killing involving Green's sister, 26-year-old Brenda Green, who was sexually assaulted and murdered two years prior to Patricia. Her body was discovered on Columbia's Pine Street on Christmas Day, 1984.