A woman who may have had information about a string of prostitute murders is the latest victim, Spokane County authorities said Tuesday.
Six days ago, utility workers discovered the body of Shawn L. Johnson near a sewage treatment plant in Hangman Valley south of Spokane.
An autopsy performed Monday showed the 36-year-old woman died of a gunshot wound, Undersheriff Mike Aubrey said. “We’re not getting any more specific than that.”
Johnson’s body had lain at the bottom of a steep embankment off Hangman Valley Road for at least two days before being discovered, Aubrey said.
He declined to provide further details.
Johnson’s case was assigned Tuesday to a joint city-county task force investigating the murders of nearly a dozen women since the mid-1980s.
Many of the victims had worked as prostitutes. Their nude or partially clothed bodies were found in remote locations throughout the county. Most were either shot or strangled.
Four were discovered this year, including Darla Sue Scott, whose remains were found last month in a shallow grave about a mile from where Johnson’s body was discovered. Scott, who had a history of prostitution arrests, was shot in the head.
The four detectives on the task force are looking for connections in the cases that might point to a serial killer. So far, they have no evidence to support that theory.
While she was never arrested for prostitution, Johnson was known to associate with women who had been, Aubrey said. She was also known to hang out on East Sprague Avenue, where Spokane’s illicit drug and sex trade flourishes, authorities said.
Johnson had a history of arrests for drug and driving offenses and trafficking in stolen property, according to court records.
The latest came in September, when she was picked up for being involved in a scam in which people stole items from local stores then tried to return them for a refund.
Johnson spent two nights in jail before bailing out on Sept. 26, according to court records.
She was last seen in mid-October, when she attended a wedding in Deer Park, her mother, Margaret Dettman of Olympia, said last month.
Dettman issued a frantic plea for her daughter to call home when authorities announced on Nov. 14 they were looking for Johnson and two other women.
One of those women, Lonna Marie Hughes, was found alive and well. The other, Laurie Ann Wason, is still missing, as is Linda Marie Maybin, whom authorities began seeking last week.
It’s not known whether Johnson complied with her mother’s request. Efforts to reach Dettman for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: MISSING WOMEN Authorities are still looking for two missing women. Laurie Ann Wason, 31, vanished Nov. 3. Linda Marie Maybin, 34, disappeared on Nov. 22. Anyone with information on their whereabouts is asked to call Crime Check at 456-2233.