Suspect arrested, charged in murder of Johnia Berry

Suspect arrested, charged in murder of Johnia Berry

September 24, 2007

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- A Knoxville man has been arrested and charged with first degree murder in the nearly three-year-old Johnia Berry case, Knox County Sheriff J.J. Jones said Monday.

Taylor Lee Olson, 22, of Knoxville, is charged in a seven count indictment that includes felony murder, pre-meditated first degree murder, attempted first degree murder and aggravated burglary.

He was indicted by a Knox County grand jury on Monday. 

Olson was taken into custody in the parking lot of West Town Mall on Friday.

He's being held on a $1 million bond.

On Monday as he was being escorted by sheriff's deputies, Olson said he "didn't mean for it to happen. It was an accident."

What led investigators to Olson?

Sheriff Jones said Olson's became "a person of interest" four to five months ago after investigators received a tip.

The sheriff also said there's no evidence to support that Olson knew Berry or her roommate, Jason Aymami, who was wounded in the same attack that killed Johnia Berry.

Prior criminal record

Olson has a prior criminal record in two counties. The crimes include:

  • August 2007 - charged with aggravated burglary and theft
  • May 2005 - Sevierville - charged with credit card theft and forgery
  • 2004 - Knox County - charged with failure to give information and render aid, driving without a valid driver's license and harassment. 

Olson voluntarily submitted his DNA when he was charged with violating his probation on July 27. Authorities say it matched DNA samples collected in the Berry case.

Murder case is nearly three years old

Berry, who was 21, was stabbed multiple times in her apartment in the Brendon Park complex in West Knox County on December 6, 2004. Her roommate, Jason Aymami, was wounded but got away, ran to a Weigel's a half mile away and called 911.

When police arrived at the crime scene they found Berry alive outside another apartment, but she died shortly afterward.

Sheriff's detectives say they have interviewed more than 1,000 people in connection with the case and submitted over 400 DNA samples.

Several CDs and a car stereo that didn't belong to Johnia or her roommate were found at the scene, leading many people to believe the murder began as a break-in. However, there was no evidence of forced entry.

Berry was an ETSU graduate who had moved to Knoxville to start graduate school. She was also engaged to be married the next spring.

In Knoxville, Berry worked as a holiday staffer at a local jewelry store and at Peninsula Hospital.

Her roommate later moved to Colorado.

The sheriff's office repeatedly turned down requests by the Berry family to bring in a national TV show, such as America's Most Wanted, to help with the investigation. In a statement in December 2006, the sheriff's office said it continued to believe the suspect was in the local area.

DNA legislation honors Berry

Johnia Berry's parents, Joan and Mike Berry, pushed for the 2007 passage of state DNA legislation. In her honor, it was named the Johnia Berry Act. 

The law requires anyone arrested for a violent crime to give a DNA sample. It goes into effect on January 1, 2008 but it's not funded yet.

The Berrys are hoping people will call their legislators and even Gov. Bredesen's office to ask them to find a way to fund the program.

"In the end, Johnia is still gone and I'm still heart broken," Joan Berry said after the announcement about Olson's charges.

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