Guyanese siblings claim set up in murder of Washington woman

By Kim Lucas
Stabroek News
July 22, 2003

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Two Guyanese siblings seem to be fighting an uphill battle with the American justice system to prove they had nothing to do with the January 2002 murder of a Washington woman.

Sean Correia, 20, and his 24-year-old sister, Sophia Johnson, both migrated to the US with their parents when they were just three and seven years old. However, their lives changed dramatically after the murder of Sophia’s mother-in-law last year. After a speedy trial, the young woman was sentenced to 43 years in jail, while the young man returned to Guyana earlier this month after spending a year behind bars.

Both Correia and his father, George Correia, are maintaining that Sophia Johnson is innocent of the crime and that Sean returned here voluntarily and not as a deportee.

Responding to newspaper reports on the incident, George Correia told Stabroek News that his son “was not an alleged murderer. He was used as a witness by the state to make false allegations against his sister... He [told the immigration judge], ‘I don’t want to stay in your country. I want to go back to my country”. The man strongly condemned the American justice system for the treatment meted out to minorities.

“Three [categories of] people get put away in America - poor white people, coloured and if you are a fool and especially if you are a foreigner,” the older Correia said.

Relating the sequence of events leading to the young man’s arrest, the Correias said Sophia had promised Sean some money for his divorce and the two, along with Sean’s then girlfriend, drove to the mother-in-law’s home in Vancouver, Washington.

The young man maintained that when they arrived, the woman was not at home, but since his sister had access to the house, she went in to get him the money. He and his girlfriend reportedly waited outside in the car.

He said after a while, he went to the door and told his sister he had to leave. Sean told this newspaper that his sister’s mother-in-law was not home at the time of their visit. According to the young man, Sophia invited him in and went upstairs, by which time he heard a car drive up. He claimed to have heard a sound at the rear of the house and shortly after his sister ran downstairs to the direction of the sound.

“After they go back in, he sit down waiting for her while she was upstairs. He said he heard a knocking at the back and Sophia fly down the steps and run round and scream and when he go he see a woman dead...Which means that, according to him, this is a set up,” George Correia stated.

The older Johnson was bludgeoned to death. Throughout the interview, the man maintained that both his children were set up to take the rap for a murder someone else had committed. He questioned what had they to gain from the crime, since the beneficiaries of the woman’s insurance were her husband and son, Sophia’s husband.

“They had no case on him nor her, and judging from the contents from what [a man] told me when he called me, I know that he [the caller] should have been arrested. When he called me, he said, did you hear what happened? I said no. He said [Johnson] was killed and both of your children will be picked up for the murder...they will spend a long time in jail. People saw [the caller’s] vehicle around the neighbourhood,” George Correia stated.

Both men maintained that Sophia and her mother-in-law had no problems since the Johnsons were preparing for the birth of their first grandchild. Some three months after the murder, Sophia gave birth to her first child, a girl, who is now being cared for by the father.

Another disturbing incident during the trial, Correia said, was that the people who attempted to post bail for his children were reportedly threatened. He said, too, that someone had cashed a US$15,000 cheque he had given his daughter several months prior to the murder.

The younger Correia told his father that he was threatened to testify against his sister. Reports state that last year Correia pleaded to residential burglary, theft and rendering criminal assistance in the January 10, 2002 murder of Marlyne B Johnson.

His sister was convicted April 9, but as she awaits an appeal, she told their father, “I swear upon my child, I had nothing to do with this thing.”

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