COLUMBUS — After coming before the Ohio Parole Board for review last Tuesday, Johnny White, 62, formerly of Gallipolis, will have to wait another five years before being considered for release from prison for the murder of his former wife, Bonnie White.
White was convicted on April 6, 1995 for the murder of his wife on December 2, 1994. Bonnie White’s aunt, Beverly Chapman of Centenary, said she called Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren to attend a hearing in Columbus with the board to put forth reasoning for why White should not be released from prison.
“It was a tragedy,” said Chapman. “It’s something we have to live with for the rest of our lives… Being a relative of the victim, the victim’s advocacy notifies us when he’s coming up for parole. This is not the first time we’ve gone… We’ve been up there at least three times… We went again in 2014 and we were notified he was coming up for parole again this time… “
“He (White) is not able to control his anger,” continued Chapman. “I think if he was let out we think he would try to retaliate against us because he would know we were there testifying and telling them (reasoning) for him to stay in prison.”
“We received a call from the family and had received correspondence from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections,” said Holdren. “White was (originally) charged with aggravated murder. The jury read a guilty verdict of just regular murder. It’s a lesser included charge. Aggravated murder, the key (legal) language has ‘with prior calculation and design.’ The state had to prove he committed this murder with prior calculation in mind. (The jury) said they didn’t think he had prior calculation but he did kill Bonnie. He was sentenced for 15 to life with a gun specification for an additional three years.”
White has been in prison for roughly 25 years now.
“There was a partial board in September of this year who said (White) had engaged in risk-relevant programming and had taken classes where they felt he had limited his risk of reoffending,” said Holdren. “They felt his conduct had been a acceptable and so by a majority vote, there were six of the 10 board members (at the partial board hearing), they voted six to nothing that he was suitable for release. That triggers the family’s right to ask for a full board hearing at which time my office was contacted.”
Holdren said his office had the ability to challenge the decision and so his office, members of the family and Gallipolis Police Chief Jeff Boyer, who had been a young officer on the case, went to the hearing.
“We went to Columbus and had a full hearing in front of the board,” said Holdren. “When I had the opportunity to speak, I went through the facts of the case which I felt was important because he committed crimes in Ohio and West Virginia. He held a gun on four different people. He killed one and shot another.”
The following recounting of events is based upon a discussion with Holdren concerning this case:
On the evening of December 1, 1994 going into the morning hours of December 2, 1994, Holdren said, was the primary time frame for events leading to Bonnie’s death and issues after. The morning of Dec. 1, Johnny and Bonnie had signed papers for divorce. That evening they decided to go to a business in Henderson, W.Va., around 8 p.m. to eat. Johnny called his daughter, Angela, who had a friend staying the night and told her they would be late. They got home around 11:30 p.m.
Meanwhile at the same establishment, Donald White, cousin to Johnny, was playing pool.
Johnny had suspected that Bonnie was having a relationship with Donald. Reportedly, Bonnie and Johnny were both having extramarital relationships according to previous testimony by Angela during Johnny’s 1995 trial.
Angela and her friend were woken to arguing in the house between Bonnie and Johnny. Angela went out of the bedroom to ask them to stop fighting. She reportedly saw her father go into another bedroom and come out with a gun. She went back to the bedroom and then heard her mother yelling for help. She went out of the room and saw her dad reportedly on top of her mother with a gun placed into her cheek. She yelled for him to stop and put the gun away. Holdren said that Angela struggled with her father to get off her mother. Reportedly, Johnny pushed her off him and ordered her back into the bedroom.
The prosecutor said that once Angela was in the bedroom, she then heard the first gunshot. She got her friend onto the floor.
Reportedly, Johnny shot Bonnie six times. Angela and her friend would eventually exit her bedroom, finding her mother.
Angela was 15 at the time. She went to a neighbor’s house to call for help. Police established contact with her and asked her where Johnny may have gone to which she reportedly replied that he may have gone to West Virginia to shoot Donald.
Johnny did appear at the establishment to find Donald where he then reportedly shot him in the eye, saying he was going to kill him. Johnny also reportedly threatened the bartender with the gun to put a phone down when she was attempting to make a call. Eventually law enforcement was called but Johnny left the establishment before anyone arrived.
Johnny then went to the home of Marcus Rice and told him he had vehicle trouble. Rice let Johnny in the house. Johnny reportedly pulled the gun on Rice and demanded money. Rice struggled with Johnny and wrestled the gun away from him. Johnny left the home.
Johnny then found his way back to Gallia County, Holdren said, and arrived at a relative’s home where he reportedly made a phone call to Donald’s wife saying that he intended to kill him and would attempt to do so again if charges were pressed against him. Holdren said that Johnny loaded a shotgun and then threatened to take his own life.
Angela called her father at the residence and Johnny informed her he shot her mother and he was looking to kill himself – Angela reportedly pleaded with him to not do that. Johnny also contacted his lawyer during the incident.
Law enforcement was ultimately able to talk Johnny out of killing himself before he was taken into custody. Johnny was eventually convicted in both Ohio and West Virginia for crimes relating to the incidents.
“We started working with the family to find out about the case and read everything we could find to put it in timeline form,” said Holdren. “We knew this was going to be an uphill battle… Something interesting occurred November 8, 2019. Johnny White was in prison and a corrections officer gave him an order to get off a certain location. He fails to comply with the order and yells at the corrections officer… He already knows he’s been voted (positive to leave).”
Officers reportedly attempted to cuff Johnny while he resisted, said Holdren.
“At this hearing, I thought it was important for (the board) to hear the history and egregious nature of his crimes,” said Holdren. “By anyone’s yardstick, this was not typical…We camped on the argument that if he can’t follow the law while in prison, he cannot follow the law outside of prison and we will only place people in harm’s way if we let him out.”
Holdren and Chapman said the board deliberated and informed them that they had denied Johnny’s parole by a six to four vote.
“We felt Jason (Holdren) did a great job,” said Chapman. “I’d never heard anyone present anything like that before.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.