Caldwell Police want to know: Who killed Gary Johnson?

Caldwell Police want to know: Who killed Gary Johnson?
CALDWELL, Idaho (KBOI) - It was April 13, 1980.

A 51-year-old man named Gary Johnson finished up his shift at a local grocery store in Caldwell. But Johnson never made it home to his wife and daughter.

"All of a sudden I heard six, what I thought at the time were fire crackers going off, just bam bam bam bam bam," a witness told KBOI 2News. "I looked over, saw these flashes and at that point I saw two people running away - didn't think anything of it."

Describing this night in April is a witness to the only murder case in Caldwell that's gone unsolved. Gary Johnson died that night, and the person who pulled the trigger is still on the loose

"It blew me away," said the witness, who asked not to be identified. "It was Caldwell, stuff like that didn't happen here. It totally shocked me."

Even though the killing happened three decades ago, the shock and eventual fear never went away.

"I went to my first homicide in 1966 (where) a man killed his wife - I remember the scene but I couldn't tell you their names. But I've never forgotten Gary Johnson - I've never forgotten the name Gary Johnson," said Roy Mullens, a former Caldwell Police detective who was assigned to the case.

Johnson had just finished working his night shift at what used to be a Safeway.

"There was diagonal parking along the side to his car," Mullens said. "He actually got to his car because the door was open and things that he was carrying were laid on the seat of the car."

But then something grisly happened - something that involved one, maybe two other people and led to Johnson's last moments alive.

"The major thing that sticks out is how blatantly he was murdered - he was shot at least six times," Mullens said.

One bullet ruptured his heart, while another pierced his lung. A bullet entered his the left arm, two went into his head and another took off Johnson's left earlobe.

"He died a gruesome death, somebody wanted him dead," he said.

There are still many unanswered questions about April 13, 1980 - especially what happened to Johnson after work. One of the questions police still have after almost 32 years is how Johnson ended up across the street at the East Cleveland Laundromat and Beverage.

"The only speculations is the shooter took him there," Mullens said.

The Safeway parking lot was a popular hang out for kids in the 80's.

"There were quite a few people in the parking lot that both saw and heard the shots fired," he said.

According to archived Idaho Press-Tribune articles, two College of Idaho students stumbled on Johnson's body. Police interviewed a slew of witnesses. They put together sketches of two men in the area earlier but with so little to go on investigators never got their man, which means a murderer is still on the streets.

"There was people that i knew, myself included, ... that started carrying a firearm under the seat of their car," the witness told KBOI 2News. "You didn't know if it was an isolated deal or it was something else."

Neither did police. And they never nailed down a motive.

Gary Johnson was known as a nice guy who lived in Boise with his wife and daughter. Why someone wanted him dead is still a mystery.

"We believe that there are people still in this area that know something about this case that could help us and we are pretty confident about that and we just need someone to come forward," said Caldwell Police chief Chris Allgood.

This is the police chief's only unsolved murder in his 26 years on the force. And he wants justice.

"We are not interested in prosecuting the people on the sidelines - we want to find the murderer," Allgood said. "There was one person that pulled the trigger and we want to find out who that was."

Seven years after putting her husband in the ground, Gary's wife, Cleo, passed away. Their only child struggled after her parents' deaths, left the state and lost contact with police.

And while the family never got closure, there's hope that it can come for the many affected by this case - the more than a dozen witnesses who live with questions.

"It's really strange if the guy actually got away with murder and has lived in this same area his whole life," the witness said. "That just blows my mind away."

The retired investigator lives with the memory.

"Some cases stick with you and this is one that's always stuck in my craw," Mullens said. "I remember it very clearly because it's the one that got away."

And so do Johnson's friends, coworkers and community living among the person who pulled that trigger six times.

"We just feel like it's something that was left undone," Allgood said. "It needs to be finished."

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If you have any information about this case please call Caldwell Police at 455-3115.

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