Virginia Bombings Remain Unsolved
More than 4 years have passed since the town of Louisa Virginia was terrorized with a string of bombings. It all started in the early morning hours of December 3, 1997 when Tammy Baker, 8 months pregnant, was killed by a booby trap bomb. The bomb had been placed in front of her apartment.
A few months later, two more booby trap bombs exploded in the same area of Louisa on April 17, 1998. Those bombings injured three other people and occurred within 30 minutes of each other. Local investigators called in the Virginia State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
The Virginia State Police lead agent assigned to the bombing cases was Senior Special Agent, David M. Riley. S/A Riley was recently singled out by Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Williams for his work in building a murder case against Beverly Monroe. In granting Monroe's habeas corpus petition, Judge Williams found "the tactics engaged in by Riley were deceitful, manipulative and inappropriate."
Many Louisa residents believe that a serial or random bomber is responsible for the bombings. ATF investigators thought so, too. A September 7, 1999 press release by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary stated:
"On December 3, 1997, Tammy Lynn Baker was near term with her unborn child when a bomb exploded outside her apartment killing her and her unborn child. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) is investigating this as one of several unsolved bombings in Louisa County, Virginia. See Dominic Perella, Bombings instill fear in small town: Suspicion of serial blasts complicates life in Louisa, Va., Detroit News, Dec. 27, 1998, at A2."
As time passed with no arrests, Agent Riley devised the theory that Baker was the intended target of the first bomb and focused on Coleman ("Mike") Johnson, Jr. as the sole suspect. Riley had no credible eyewitnesses, no physical evidence linking Johnson to the crime, no confession and Johnson, who had no prior criminal record, had a strong alibi -- he was 140 miles away in Newport News, Virginia. The agent based his case against Johnson on a motive theory eerily similar to the one he fabricated against Beverly Monroe -- the impending birth of a child. Riley had claimed Monroe killed her longtime companion, Roger de la Burde, out of jealousy after Burde retained another woman to bear his child. In Johnson's case, Riley decided Tammy Baker was killed so her child's father could avoid paying child support. With no way to connect the other Louisa bombings to Johnson, Riley decided they were random and unrelated to the bombing that killed Tammy Baker. Those bombings remain unsolved, but active investigation of them has ceased.
Before Tammy Baker's death, she was uncertain as to whom was the father of her unborn child. Although the identity of the father was irrelevant, investigators knew it would be easier to build a case against the father. After the investigators performed several paternity tests, Coleman L. Johnson, Jr. was identified as the biological father.
A $36,000 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the bombings. Instead of investigating the case, authorities conducted interviews of several hundred people associated only with Johnson. During the interviews, the reward was used to solicit witnesses to testify against Johnson as "snitch" witnesses. Several were prisoners willing to do or say anything for money or leniency on their own jail sentences. Some had pending criminal charges. Others were recruited from the jail where Johnson awaited trial. Witnesses were informed of the details of the case and told what they needed to say to the court. Some were shown drawings of how the bomb was built and then taken to stores that sold components to build a bomb.
But Johnson lived 140 miles from Louisa and had air-tight alibis when all the bombings occurred. Tammy Baker had moved and Johnson was unaware of her new address. Johnson had no criminal history and there was no evidence to tie a specific individual to any of the bombs. The case was so weak, the state authorities declined to prosecute Johnson.
These concerns were not shared by the federal prosecutor. On May 17, 2000, Johnson was indicted and charged by a Federal Grand Jury with the December 3, 1997 bombing that killed Baker. When a federal judge authorized Johnson's release on bail, the government sought the death penalty to keep Johnson in custody.
One year later, Johnson went to trial. The same wholly circumstantial evidence rejected by the state as insufficient to meet the standard of probable cause was presented in federal court, woven together with a multitude of lies. A majority of the witnesses were convicted felons giving perjured testimony to qualify for payment of the $36,000 reward and other favors and promises from the prosecution.
On May 24, 2001, Coleman Johnson was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. The investigators purchased Johnson's conviction with perjured testimony. As wrong as the death of Tammy Baker and her child is, it is no less wrong to accuse and convict an innocent man so that law enforcement can close a case and give a community false assurances of safety.
Meanwhile, the bomber(s) remain at large and the community is still in danger.
help us identify the person(s) responsible for the Louisa bombings. If
you have any information, please contact us. Help bring REAL CLOSURE to
the Baker and Johnson families. Help us free an innocent man and get
real bomber(s) out of society. Coleman Johnson's supporters, and
the people of Louisa, Virginia are asking for your help. If you have
about the Louisa bombings, you can help free an innocent man. Please
us at (757) 596-1177 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.