Murder sentencing postponed for Topeka man who pleaded guilty to killing another man with a bat

Sentencing of Arthur Lee Ford IV, who pleaded guilty to killing a central Topeka resident with a bat in 2016, stalled Tuesday while Ford’s criminal history is re-examined.

 

On Oct. 3, Ford, 37, made pleas to a reduced charge of intentional second-degree murder and a charge of aggravated burglary in the slaying of Mark Everett Johnson, 52, and the break-in of Johnson’s apartment at 630 S.W. Taylor.

Johnson’s body was found shortly before 7:51 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2016, after a 911 caller reported an unresponsive man at 630 S.W. Taylor in Apt. 5, on the building’s third floor.

Ford, of Topeka, originally was charged with felony first-degree murder in Johnson’s death, but as part of the plea, the slaying charge was amended to second-degree murder.

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The question focuses on whether Ford violated a registration requirement linked to a 2002 felony marijuana conviction, defense attorney Josh Luttrell said Tuesday.

Ford contends he wasn’t required to be registered, Luttrell said. If registration applied, it would move Ford’s conviction up on the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines and result in a longer sentence.

The longer sentence would be as much as 51 years and six months, and the shorter sentence would be as much as 23 years and nine months.

Ford also is mulling whether to seek to withdraw his plea if his criminal history would move him into the higher sentencing range, Luttrell said.

Ford’s case next will be in court Jan. 25 for a scheduling conference.

A second defendant, Ebony L. Porter, 31, of 630 S.W. Taylor, was arrested Dec. 28, 2016, after detectives interviewed her, then she was charged with intentional second-degree murder in Johnson’s death.

In a plea agreement, Porter was convicted Oct. 24, 2017, of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and interfering with a law enforcement officer.

On Dec. 14, 2017, she was sentenced to two years and three months to the conspiracy conviction and a concurrent term of six months in the interference conviction, according to court records.

Johnson suffered 12 to 15 “separate impacts” to his head, according to court testimony. One or more blows caused a skull fracture and bleeding of the brain, and those were consistent with the victim being struck with a bat, the witness said.

Johnson also suffered two stabbing wounds to the neck and a stab wound to the lower abdomen, according to testimony.

Contact reporter Steve Fry at (785) 295-1206 or @TCJCourtsNCrime on Twitter.

 

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