Crime

Arlington man sentenced to 22 years for killing his mother

Johnathan Peter Lannon
Johnathan Peter Lannon Handout photo

Thirty minutes before Melanie Spencer died on Sept. 2, 2013, she called 911 to report that her son had a shotgun and she was afraid he would hurt her.

When police arrived at her residence in the 3600 block of Montridge Court, they found Spencer shot in the chest. She was taken to Medical Center of Arlington, where she was pronounced dead in the emergency room.

Spencer’s son, Johnathan Peter Lannon, then 20, was arrested at the residence a short time later.

A year after the slaying, prosecutors offered Lannon a 40-year prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. He rejected the deal, according to court documents.

Lannon went to trial on May 11, and five days later, a Tarrant County jury convicted him and sentenced him to 22 years in prison.

“This was a tragic case that has torn this family apart,” said Samantha Jordan, district attorney’s office spokeswoman. “We hope the jury’s verdict will bring some degree of peace to Melanie Spencer’s parents.”

No motive became clear during testimony, according to Lannon’s attorney, Dan Pitzer, but mitigating circumstances came up during sentencing.

“He was high on drugs when he shot her,” Pitzer said. “Drugs destroy families and destroy lives, and I think that’s what the jury saw at the time.”

Before the trial, a psychologist interviewed Lannon and submitted a competency evaluation to state District Judge Louis Sturns. The evaluation was to determine whether Lannon understood the consequences he faced and could effectively help his attorney prepare a defense.

Psychologist Kelly Goodness reported that Lannon was in remission for amphetamine dependence and was stable and showed no sign of illogical or psychotic thinking.

The competency report also said Lannon dropped out of school in 10th grade because of poverty, a bad home life and his mother’s involvement in drugs. Lannon told Goodness that he took LSD, mushrooms, pills, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and alcohol, and checked himself into a rehabilitation program when he was 18. Lannon said his treatment “did not take,” and he resumed his drug use.

Goodness interviewed Lannon’s maternal grandfather, Joseph Spencer, who said he suspected that Lannon had mental illness but never got a diagnosis. Lannon frequently told his grandparents that he heard things that other people could not hear and was concerned that people were listening to him and making threats toward him from the attic. His grandparents tried to help Lannon get treatment, but he never went to his appointments, Spencer said.

Spencer also testified at the trial.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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