Saying “I am not often at a loss for words, but this case leaves me almost speechless,” Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes on Tuesday sentenced 24-year-old Amy Brown of Edmonds to 18 years in prison for attempting to murder 29-year-old Nicholas Johnson of Lynnwood by repeatedly stabbing him in the chest with the intent of cutting out and eating his heart.
At the sentencing, Prosecutor Jarett Goodkin asked for the maximum penalty provided for within the state sentencing guidelines, citing the cruel nature of the crime, the fact that a deadly weapon was used in its commission, and that despite her guilty plea prior to her scheduled trial, throughout the intervening months Brown has shown an “egregious lack of remorse” for what she did.
Brown was accompanied in the courtroom by her public defender Jennifer Bartlett, who argued for leniency on the grounds of her age, that this was her first scrape with the law, that she had plead guilty prior to her trial, that she had a long history of mental illness, and several prior suicide attempts. She also noted that Brown had abruptly stopped taking her prescribed anti-psychotic medications shortly before the crime. “We do not dispute the facts in this case,” Bartlett said, “but Amy’s youth, lack of criminal history, and guilty plea prior to trial mitigate for less than the maximum sentence.”
Brown’s mother Lois Caroline Brown was in court and read a statement. While not disputing that her daughter committed these acts, she pleaded with the judge to recognize that Brown was not the kind of person who could do this, and this act was out of character for her. “This was not my daughter,” she concluded.
In his remarks prior to sentencing, Judge Downes began by saying that there is no dispute that Brown has suffered from mental illness, adding that “I’m no stranger to mental health issues.” But on the other hand, the judge said, Brown’s “egregious lack of remorse,” for what she has done leaves the door open for him to go above the standard sentencing range.
Referencing Lois Caroline Brown’s comments, Downes reiterated that “it was indeed Amy on that night,” who made a “cruel and conscious decision to kill this guy.”
Addressing Amy Brown directly, he said: “You admitted that you’ve thought of killing someone and eating their heart since you were a teenager — a fairly young teenager. You said you wanted to become a serial killer and that Mr. Johnson was to be your first victim. You wrote that you would eat his heart and that you would strike again. Years ago you even purchased special gloves to use in the killing and kept them with this purpose in mind.
“I am not often at a loss for words, but this case leaves me almost speechless,” he continued. “It is cruel, bizarre and beyond the pale in terms of how humans treat each other. Your behavior is anathema, and not tolerated in a civilized society. This is not a situation where a low-end sentence is appropriate.”
Downes then handed down a sentence of 18 years in prison to be followed by three years of community custody. He went on to stipulate that after her release she may never possess firearms and loses her right to vote. He also imposed a lifetime restraining order, prohibiting any contact with her victim.
According to papers filed with the court, the attack took place on Jan. 29 at the Rodeo Inn Motel, 20707 Highway 99, Lynnwood. The pair had met earlier in the evening, linking up through an online Craig’s List ad placed by Johnson soliciting companionship. The date ended up at the Rodeo Inn where after a short conversation lying on the bed, Brown climbed on top of Johnson, produced a knife, and proceeded to stab him multiple times in the chest, saying “I am a serial killer.”
A note written by Brown and later found in her pocket said that she was a serial killer, that she planned to eat her victim’s heart, and would “strike again.”
Johnson managed to break away and ran to the motel office, where he told the clerk that he had been stabbed by a woman named Amy. He then limped to the adjacent Walgreen’s Drug Store at 20725 Highway 99, where responding officers found him leaning up against a counter near the checkout register. He was taken to Harborview, and has since recovered. Brown was apprehended in the motel parking lot, taken into custody, and on Feb. 16 was formally charged with attempted first-degree murder.
For more details, see My Edmonds News coverage here.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel