Dodge Center Native Killed, Childhood Friend Speaks Out

Posted at: 01/09/2013 10:41 PM
Updated at: 01/09/2013 11:45 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- The small community of Dodge Center is morning the loss of a Triton High School graduate police say, was murdered by her husband up in St. Paul. 34-year-old Manya Johnson was killed Sunday, and we warn you, the details of her death are very disturbing.

Investigators say her husband, 34 year-old Steven Johnson admits shooting her in the head, dismembering her body, and hiding the remains in plastic bins in a friend's garage. Johnson is behind bars tonight charged earlier Wednesday with Second Degree Murder.

Manya's childhood friend calls it, horrific. She'd known Manya since the second grade and talked with her just days before the murder.

"She's been my best friend since I was 8 years old," cried Katy McNeilus. She has known Manya Johnson since they were little girls and the two kept in touch as they grew older. "I just talked to her last Thursday and she was saying how happy she was, so I was shocked," she said.

Three days later, she got another phone call. This one saying Manya had been murdered.

"We are following through and putting together the pieces in the trail that happened moments before, during, and after," said Sgt. Paul Paulos with the St. Paul Police Department.
Katy says Manya never expressed to her any worries with her husband Steve, the man who's now being held responsible. "I don't want anyone thinking negatively of her because she was with him. She was a wonderful person, she's smart. I'm sure she saw the best in him and everyone," said Katy.

She says that's just who Manya was, a loving person and a light in her life. "I mean no matter how bad your day was, you would talk to Manya and you would feel happy. She had a way of making everyone feel wonderful," said Katy.

She was tearing up thinking of how much Manya made her smile. 'When I was around her, I would just laugh so hard it would hurt, every time," said Katy. She says Manya made others happy because of her own love for life. "She has a baby and he's wonderful and she has a good  job, just everything. She was so happy," said Katy.

Which is why her sudden death is something Katy may never understand. "I don't know... Manya would want us to move on and be happy, so I'm going to try..." she said.

Manya graduated from Triton High School in 1998. Her parents and sister still live in Dodge Center. We talked with them, but they were too distraught to go on camera.