The widow of a South Dakota State Penitentiary guard who was killed seven years ago by inmates during a failed escape is fighting to get her husband’s corrections uniform.
Lynette Johnson requested at a hearing Wednesday that the belongings of her late husband, correctional officer Ron Johnson, be returned to her since they’re no longer needed as evidence for the crimes committed by multiple inmates during the April 2011 escape attempt.
Circuit Court Judge Bradley Zell told Lynette Johnson that the uniform her husband was wearing when he was killed belongs to the state’s Department of Corrections, the Argus Leader reported. Zell turned over Ron Johnson’s shoes and belt because he had purchased them. But the judge said he was bound by state statute to release the uniform to its rightful owner, which was determined to be the corrections department.
Ron Johnson wasn’t supposed to be working on the day of the failed escape, which was also his 63rd birthday. Johnson was beaten with a pipe and his head was covered in plastic wrap. Inmate Eric Robert put on Johnson’s uniform and pushed a cart loaded with boxes, carrying another inmate hidden inside, in attempt to flee the prison undetected. The men reached the first of a two-door gate before being apprehended. Robert was executed in 2012.
Lynette Johnson pleaded with the court to release the uniform to her family.
“It’s the last thing (Ron wore) when Ron was alive,” Johnson said. “It has his blood on it. It is Ron’s.”
But Zell said he didn’t have the authority and directed her to speak to Corrections Department Secretary Dennis Kaemingk.
“The uniform he died in is not Ron,” Zell said. “You, your children, your grandchildren, family, friends, that’s Ron.”