DENTON The former Marine who was found guilty Monday in the killing of a University of North Texas student early New Year’s Day 2016 was sentenced by a Denton County jury to 44 years in prison Tuesday.
Eric Jamal Johnson, 21, was found guilty of murder on Monday in the shooting death of Sara Mutschlechner, 20, who was driving a car with three passengers in the 1700 block of North Elm Street in Denton about 2 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2016.
Johnson will be eligible for parole in 22 years, according to the Denton County district attorney’s office.
“The loss of Sara affected not only her family, but the UNT community as well,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement Tuesday.
Mutschlechner and the passengers had been at a New Year’s Eve party and Mutschlechner was the designated driver, police said.
Witnesses said the gunman was the driver of a dark-color SUV with five or six men inside that pulled up beside the sedan, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
A man with the Twitter handle Santana Sage — later identified as Johnson — was identified by witnesses as the SUV driver, according to the affidavit.
Before the shooting — and as the two vehicles were stopped at the intersection of North Elm and University Drive — the men in the SUV made derogatory comments of a sexual nature toward women in Mutschlechner’s car, the affidavit said. A man in Mutschlechner’s car threatened to fight the men in the SUV and that’s when the driver of the SUV threatened the occupants of Mutschlechner’s car with a black semiautomatic handgun, witnesses told investigators.
A clerk at a nearby gas station, who was standing outside, heard two shots and saw a dark-color SUV speed away as Mutschlechner’s car crashed into another vehicle and then a telephone pole, the affidavit said.
Investigators linked Johnson to the killing by locating surveillance video from the gas station and several other businesses, as well as tracing posts made on social media sites, a police spokesman said.
Johnson was arrested several days later by U.S. marshals outside the gate of the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Yuma, Ariz. The arrest warrant affidavit listed addresses in Arizona and Fort Worth for Johnson.
Johnson has remained in custody in the Denton County Jail since January 2016, according to jail records.