Monday, December 5, 2016

Why the mother of a murdered Montclair girl is heaving a sigh of relief

By Beatriz Valenzuela, San Bernardino Sun

NORWALK >> It was June 1996 when Jennifer Lundy stood in a Rancho Cucamonga courtroom, faced the man convicted of strangling her 3-year-old daughter, Brittany Lynn, and made him a promise: “You have to get through me before you get out of the prison door because I will always be here.”

Twenty years later, Lundy has kept her promise. After she and others spoke at Chuck Johnson’s hearing Wednesday at Chuckwalla Valley State Prison in Blythe, he was denied parole for the second time.

“I’m relieved,” Lundy said in a telephone interview. “The denial gives me and my children the chance to live our lives and honor Brittany. I couldn’t live with the fact if Chuck Johnson got out or another child ended up getting hurt because he preys on the vulnerable.”

On Oct. 10 1993, Lundy and her then-husband, Darin Riggs, awoke in their Montclair home and couldn’t find their daughter. Frantic, they called police and were horrified when her little body was found inside their home, in the closet of a room Johnson had been renting from the couple.

The autopsy showed Johnson suffocated little Brittany with her own baby blanket as he put pressure on her neck and chest, strangling her.

At trial, the San Bernardino County coroner testified it took at least 2 to 3 minutes of sustained pressure to kill Brittany.

In 2011, Brittany Lynn’s image appeared on a billboard of murder victims in El Monte to raise awareness about violence and victims’ rights.

Frightened Johnson would be paroled into a community near her home and her children’s schools, Lundy worked for more than a year gathering signatures and letters from people in an effort to keep Johnson behind bars.

“Why does his parole plan have him paroled in L.A.?” she asked. “I moved away when this all happened and he still has family in the area in La Verne. Why isn’t he being paroled there? Why L.A., where I am? I was terrified. I felt like he was threatening me and my family.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, Lundy, Riggs, Brittany’s younger siblings who never knew their big sister and Connie S. Lasky, San Bernardino County deputy district attorney, all gave reasons why Johnson should not be allowed parole.

“He has still not told the truth about what has happened to poor little Brittany,” Lasky said. “Because he has not yet come to terms with what he did to her, because he’s not admitting what he did, he can’t be safe out in society.”

The parole board agreed, Lasky and Lundy said, and denied him parole for the next seven years.

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