A pre-sentencing report sheds new light on the triple murder that devastated the Loleta and Bear River communities


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If 19-year-old Mauricio Johnson feels remorse for having gunned down a newly engaged couple and a 16-year-old girl in their home on the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria Reservation last year and then working to flee the county as they lay bleeding, he didn't express it during a pre-sentencing interview with his probation officer.

In the interview, a summary of which is included in Johnson's pre-sentencing report, Johnson said he fatally shot Nikki Dion Metcalf and his fiancé Margarett Lee Moon after they first attacked him but "had no explanation" as to why he then shot Moon's 16-year-old daughter, Shelly, before fleeing the residence before dawn Feb. 10, 2021.

"Defendant stated he had no excuse for the shootings and the whole incident could have been handled differently," states the probation report, which includes no mention of Johnson expressing any contrition for his actions nor empathy for his victims and their family members.

The report — which was made public following Johnson's being sentenced Feb. 16 to serve 150 years to life in prison and will remain unsealed for 60 days as required by state law — includes a summary of the investigation, an interview with Johnson, other witness statements and autopsy results, as well as impact statements from relatives of the victims. Because Johnson pleaded guilty to three murder charges and didn't stand trial in the case, the probation report offers the public its most complete record to date of the crime and its terrible toll.

On Feb. 9, 2021, around 8 p.m., Metcalf picked up two of Shelly's cousins — Margarett Moon's niece's daughters, both juveniles — in Eureka, picking up pizza and sodas from Winco, before taking them back to the family home on Carroll Road in Loleta, where the cousins hung out in Shelly's room watching movies and listening to music until late into the night, after Margarett Moon and Metcalf had gone to bed.

According to the report, Johnson — whose mom was a second cousin of Margarett Moon's and he told the probation officer he considered the girls his cousins — showed up at Shelly's window with a bottle of brandy and cocaine. Johnson told his probation officer he'd been on a four- or five-day run of doing cocaine by the time he arrived there that night. One of the cousins told investigators she woke up sometime later that night with Johnson, who was then 18, "grabbing the back of her neck and trying to kiss her" and that Johnson later was "getting aggressive" with her sister, "grabbing her throat and pinning her down to the bed." Shelly's younger sister, then 13, also told investigators Johnson had been interested in her sister but she had "turned him down multiple times."

Around 3:30 a.m., Shelly's younger sister and her 11-year-old brother were awoken by a commotion in the house, according to investigators. Margarett Moon and Metcalf had woken up and found Shelly and one of her cousin's had been drinking and Margarett Moon was upset, breaking the bottle of brandy and shouting out the kids. Margarett Moon ultimately called her niece and asked her to come get her girls, which she did, picking them up shortly before 4 a.m. According to the report, Johnson was hiding in Shelly's room at the time, her parents unaware of his presence in the home.

What happened next is not entirely clear. Shelly's brother reported seeing Johnson run from her room while pulling up his pants and at some point Metcalf confronted him.

Johnson told his probation officer that Metcalf came back into Shelly's room "several minutes" after Margarett Moon broke the brandy bottle. He denied reports that he was sexually assaulting Shelly Moon or had been sexually involved with any of the girls in the house that night in any way — "they're my cousins," he told the probation officer, adding, "there are all sorts of stories going around but that stuff never happened." But what exactly he was doing when Metcalf entered the room, Johnson reportedly wouldn't say.

"While defendant would not say what he was doing at the time Mr. Metcalf reentered the room, it was apparently enough for Mr. Metcalf to begin beating defendant, according to defendant," the report states, adding that Johnson then drew a 9 mm handgun out of his backpack and shot Metcalf in the head. "According to defendant, Ms. Moon had come to the room about the same time he shot Mr. Metcalf. She proceeded to rush and attack defendant, so he shot her, as well. ... When asked about (Shelly), defendant had no explanation as to why he shot her."

According to an autopsy report, the gunshot wound to Metcalf's head had stippling around it, indicating it came at very close range, while a muzzle print was visible on Shelly's right cheek, indicating she was shot at point-blank range.

"Speculation surrounds the actual reason for their demise at defendant's hands, as there are only four people who know the actual truth and three of them are deceased," the probation report reads. "Regardless, defendant is singularly responsible for extinguishing the light of his three victims from the community and must be held accountable."

Shelly's sister was the first to find the grisly scene around 8 a.m. and sent her brother running to a nearby community center where a relative worked. "Auntie," he reportedly told her, "they're dead." While Shelly and Metcalf were pronounced dead when an ambulance arrived on scene, Margarett Moon was found to still have a pulse and rushed to the hospital, where she was deemed brain dead a couple hours later and taken off life support at the request of her family.

By the time investigators arrived on scene, where they found Shelly's 11-year-old brother and 13-year-old sister in shock, her wrapped in a blanket and shaking uncontrollably and him pale and swaying slowly from side to side, Johnson's attempted escape was well under way and he'd enlisted the help of his mother, Melissa Sanchez-Johnson and her friend Von Keener, to flee the county and the state. According to the probation report, investigators used a GPS device installed in Sanchez-Johnson's car by the used car dealership she bought it from as a condition of her car loan to track the vehicle's movements. Ultimately, they worked with the Utah State Highway Patrol, which used a spike strip and a high-risk traffic stop to take Johnson, his mother and Keener into custody.

While Johnson is perhaps the only person who knows the precise motive for the killings, the probation report makes clear he has long been on a path of escalating violence and criminality. Soon after his parents separated when he was 9 years old, leading to Sanchez-Johnson living homeless in her car and his father moving to Mexico, Johnson began falling into trouble. He was arrested on a vandalism charge when he was about 10. A few years later, he was arrested again for assault likely to cause great bodily injury, followed by arrests for resisting arrest, burglary, criminal threats, threatening to kill his girlfriend's mother, violating his probation and, finally, assaulting his uncle with a deadly weapon. He told his probation officer that he'd started drinking alcohol excessively and regularly by his 16th birthday, around the same time he started regularly using cocaine.

In a letter to the court, Margarett's older sister Cassandra Moon described herself as "shattered," saying Johnson's crimes had reverberating impacts on a family he was a part of. She said she used to babysit Johnson and his brothers.

"I used to watch them, protect them and treated them like my own kids," Cassandra Moon wrote. "Never in a million years would I have imagined that one of them would end up killing my baby sister, my beautiful niece and my brother- in-law."

In the letters, many family members registered their objection to the plea deal Johnson reached with prosecutors, which could leave him eligible for parole under state law. Some talked of the challenges they have faced in trying to overcome the trauma inflected by the murders and to come to grips with all that was lost.

"We all lost a beautiful Native family that was going to do good things for Indian families and communities in providing safety, good healthy healing events and hope for our future," wrote Jewel Frank, who'd been Metcalf's foster mother, telling the court that when she thinks of the killings she still becomes overwhelmed, sometimes throwing up, her body trembling and her heart racing.

Fawn Lopez described her cousins Margarett and Shelly, both of whom worked as aides and in the after-school program at Loleta Elementary School, as happy, outgoing people who would do anything for anyone and light up any room they walked into. Others talked of Metcalf and Margarett Moon's newfound relationship, noting they'd just become engaged the prior Christmas and the crime left family members planning three funerals when they'd anticipated a wedding.

"You could tell they were soul mates," wrote Cherri Moon, Margarett's niece. "They brought out the best in each other."

"I feel suffocated," wrote Geraldine June Moon, Margarett's sister. "It hurts every single day and night."

In perhaps the most haunting impact statement, Shelly's younger sister, meanwhile, wrote that Shelly had understood her like no one else and there's no one in the world she can talk to like she did her mother. She said she'd always felt her life was "so great and wonderful" but on the morning of Feb. 10, 2021, came to realize "there is not a perfect life in the world." She wrote that she shut down, trying to "sleep (her) sadness away but it did not work."

"I still see the images of what I saw that morning," she wrote. "My life is forever changed and I miss my sister and my mom."

Thadeus Greenson (he/him) is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.



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