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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Police: Spokane man says he killed girlfriend because he ‘couldn’t let her go’

Alicia Marie Johnson is seen as a teenager in a family photo. The 24-year-old was shot and killed early Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019, in her apartment at 2928 E. Diamond Ave. in Spokane. Her boyfriend, Joshua Forrester, is charged with first-degree murder. (Virginia Kelly / Courtesy photo)

During yet another argument, Alicia Marie Johnson told her boyfriend, Joshua Forrester, that she’d had “the worst Christmas ever” and repeated her desire to break up with him. Then she went to sleep on a mattress on the floor of the living room, and he spread out on the couch.

According to records filed Friday in Spokane County District Court, the threat of a breakup motivated Forrester, 27, to retrieve a gun from his safe in the middle of the night, place it in a kitchen drawer and hesitate for several hours before shooting and killing Johnson as she slept. She was 24.

When a detective asked Forrester why he killed Johnson, Forrester – who has no prior criminal record – claimed he “woke up and something took over,” the records state.

Forrester later admitted he shot her “because I couldn’t let her go,” the records state.

The shooting occurred at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday in a four-unit apartment building at 2928 E. Diamond Ave. in Hillyard. Johnson had lived in the building, which Forrester owns, for about three years. In another room of the couple’s apartment, police found their 22-month-old son, alive and unharmed.

According to court records, another tenant of the building heard the gunshots, looked outside and saw Forrester “covered in blood” with a gun in his hand. Forrester allegedly told the neighbor he had done “something bad,” so the neighbor slammed his door and locked himself in his bathroom to call 911.

Forrester pounded on the neighbor’s door, trying to get inside, then left before police arrived, the neighbor told police. Forrester later told a detective he had returned to his apartment after talking to the neighbor, placed his gun on the floor and fled through the back door.

Another neighbor said Forrester approached the passenger side of her car after she parked outside her home at Queen Avenue and Haven Street, just around the corner from Forrester’s apartment. She, too, said he was covered in blood and noted he wasn’t wearing shoes.

Forrester made strange remarks, including something to the effect of, “You remind me of my sister,” the woman recalled to police. When she asked the man if he needed help, he replied, “Just tell them that I denied Jesus,” then walked away.

The woman called 911, and police took Forrester into custody near Queen and Haven. He told one officer, “I hurt Jesus,” according to court records.

Spokane police responded to an apartment building at 2928 E. Diamond Ave. where a woman was shot and killed early Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. Within minutes, officers detained a male suspect who was “covered in blood” about one block away. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane police responded to an apartment building at 2928 E. Diamond Ave. where a woman was shot and killed early Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. Within minutes, officers detained a male suspect who was “covered in blood” about one block away. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

During his interview with a detective, Forrester said he rose from the couch at about midnight to retrieve his gun from a safe he kept in the entertainment stand in the living room. After loading the gun and wandering into the kitchen, he placed the weapon in a drawer, according to court records.

He got up again at about 2 a.m. to grab his gun, but again hesitated and returned to the couch, the records state. He told the detective he wasn’t ready to “do it” at that time.

At about 5:30 a.m., Forrester told the detective, he pulled the gun out of the drawer again, returned to the living room, stood over Johnson and began shooting. A detective who reviewed the scene said there did not appear to have been any struggle.

“It was apparent that the defendant had planned on shooting Victim Johnson at least several hours before he actually did it,” court records state.

Forrester told the detective he tried to perform CPR on Johnson after shooting her. He also claimed he wanted to call 911 but couldn’t find his phone, and when he dialed the number on Johnson’s phone, the call “wouldn’t go through,” according to court records.

Forrester remained in jail Friday, and a judge set his bond at $1 million. He is charged with one count of first-degree murder.

Johnson, who also used the name Alianna Grace Johnson, grew up in foster care in Stevens County from the time she was 5 but reconnected with her biological parents when she turned 18, said her mother, Virginia Kelly, who lives in Colville.

Kelly said her daughter began dating Forrester several years ago. She said Forrester had mental health issues and had acted aggressively toward Johnson and other members of the family on numerous occasions.

“He’d go psycho on her. He went ballistic on all of us,” Kelly said, adding that her daughter had tried to break up with Forrester several times.

“Every time she would try to escape, he would go off,” Kelly said.

Johnson always went back to him. Kelly said she last spoke to her daughter about a week ago, and Johnson was enthusiastic about her relationship with Forrester.

“She said they were going to buy a house together,” Kelly said.

Property records show Forrester has owned the apartment building in Hillyard since 2016, but he appears to have struggled to hold a job.

The detective wrote that Forrester “had recently quit his job at UPS, though he could not tell me why.” And records from an unrelated civil case show he stopped working at a Safeway store in January. A credit union had been garnishing his wages from Safeway because he fell behind on car payments.

Johnson, meanwhile, was working at the Walmart store along Newport Highway and recently bought a car, her mother said. Despite her rocky relationship, things were looking up.

“Alianna was big-hearted. She was kind. She was loving. She was generous. She would give the shirt off her back to help somebody,” Kelly said.

“I tried to get her away from him for over a year, and now I’m dealing with a funeral,” she said.