Christopher J. Johnson is accused of raping and kidnapping two young girls.Courtesy Hamilton County Sheriff's Office
For nearly 20 years Elise Johnson stayed with her husband.
They shared a bed.
She bore him two children, a son and daughter.
On Friday, after reeling from Christopher Jeffre Johnson's recent arrest on rape and kidnapping charges involving two young teen-aged girls, a new hell unfolded for the 40-year-old woman with sad, kind eyes.
"I just can't believe I'm married to this," Johnson said. "I think I'm married to a serial killer. I think there's more than one, and I think that many may never be found."
Chris Johnson, 46, is a "person of interest" in connection with a search for human remains in Lookout Valley and the slaying of 33-year-old Missy Ward in 2004.
No bones were located in the search, which took place last week, and investigators may return to the area to search again, according to authorities. They didn't rule out the possibility of finding the remains of more than one person or the involvement of a serial killer.
"We don't have anything to substantiate it at this point," Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond said last week. "We're just looking at whether or not there's credibility at this time."
It took Christopher Johnson's arrest on rape and kidnapping charges on July 3 to bring new information to light. On July 14, after Johnson was interviewed by detectives, investigators began searching for bones along Cash Canyon Road, where the remains of Ward were found in 2004.
The picture is of Missy Ward,33, who was slain in 2004. Her bones were found near Cash Canyon Road two months after her disappearance. Contributed Photo
Christopher Johnson was born and raised in Sand Mountain, Ala., but has lived in Lookout Valley most of his life, his wife said.
"He knows that area real well on Cash Canyon," Elise Johnson said Friday. "He grew up there."
Ward was last seen getting into a late model red Ford pickup truck with a white camper top. It's a description similar to the pickup Chris Johnson owns, a red 1981 Ford F250 pickup, which is now impounded for evidence, Elise Johnson said.
Johnson has not been charged with Ward's slaying, but his wife remembers how fascinated he was when authorities found her in 2004.
"When they found her bones, he was so interested in it," Elise Johnson remembers. "He would say, 'Have you seen the news? Have they said who she was? Are they looking for who killed her?'"
Elise Johnson said she had no knowledge of the slayings or whether her husband is involved.
"We're all going through a difficult time right now if people could just remember us in their prayers," said Elise Johnson. "It has just affected the whole family with what he has done."
To the victims, including Ward's family, Johnson said in a cracked voice strained with fresh tears, "I'm sorry for the families and what they are going through. They are in my prayers."
Her eyes cast toward the ground, she blamed herself in part for her husband's actions, during an interview last week.
"I'm shaking like a leaf on a tree. I feel like if I had done something different, none of this would have happened," she said Friday.
Elise Johnson met her husband when she was 18 years old. They began hanging out and eventually became a couple, she said.
"He is a very open-hearted, kind person," Elise Johnson said, thinking back.
But that was before the drugs. In the early 2000s, Chris Johnson became hooked on crystal meth and prescription drugs. He would disappear for days on end sometimes.
"Nobody would see or hear from him. And then he would come back," she said.
That behavior stopped in about 2006, she said.
"I thought he had really straightened his life up," she said. "All he could do was talk about how much he loved his family."
But things grew worse again in recent years. He spent all the family's food stamps on himself, constantly leaving his family without food, she said. In late June, he disappeared for five days.
The man she fell in love with at 18 is now a stranger to her, she said.
"I feel like our whole relationship was a lie," she said, noting that she plans to divorce him.
Last week, Christopher Johnson declined an interview request while he is in Hamilton County Jail. At a preliminary hearing on July 11, General Sessions Court Judge Ron Durby sent Johnson's case to the grand jury and raised Johnson's bond from its original $115,000 to $500,000, records show. He has not made bond.
His family has not visited him. He wrote his 20-year-old son two letters from jail. His son has not read them.
Elise Johnson did.
"In there he says, 'I know they're saying what I did, but I didn't hurt nobody,'" she said. "I'll never believe anything he says."
She does plan to visit him at Hamilton County Jail, though.
"I just want to hear why. I don't understand. I'm just so confused right now," she said. "It's just so crazy."