First Alert 4 Investigates: 18-year-old Clayton murder suspect violated bond, concerns raised months before

Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 6:48 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The night 18-year-old Trenell Johnson is accused of murdering 41-year-old Joshua Harris in the 7500 block of Wydown Boulevard, court records show Johnson never should have been on the street let alone with a gun.

At the time of the shooting, Johnson was on bond for multiple felonies and wearing a 24/7 GPS monitor. Under conditions of his bond Johnson was only allowed to leave his house for work, school, and medical or legal appointments. Another condition of his bond, Johnson was not allowed to posses a firearm.

Court records show Johnson’s bond stems from a March 2023 case where he is accused of driving a stolen car, leading St. Louis County Police officers on a high speed chase which resulted in him hitting a Metro bus and a truck. Investigators say Johnson then ran from the car, armed with a pistol.

Johnson was charged with lower level felonies. Judge Jeffery Medler initially set bond at $30,000 but dropped it to $3,000.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell says his office objected to the bond reduction, but understands the judge’s decision.

“Judges have a lot of tools that they that they use, one of those tools is not a crystal ball,” Bell said. “If I thought that the courts did something that was out of line, I tell you.”

“In this case, someone is charged with a “D” and “E” felony. In hindsight, I wish we could go back in time, for the sake of that victim’s family but what they did is in line with someone who’s only been charged with “D” and “E” felonies, who’s also 18-years-old,” Bell added.

St. Louis University law professor Dr. Anders Walker says in Missouri judges have the final say on bond decisions.

“Judges have to decide if the suspect poses a risk, if they might flee, or commit another crime,” Walker said. “Everyone is innocent till proven guilty. However, when setting bond if the court has reason if the suspects dangerous, i.e. they pointed a gun at a police officer, that’s grounds for higher bond.”

There’s also a question if Johnson broke his bond before the shooting. First Alert 4 Investigates found in September a “Pre-Trial Assessment” was filed by the courts and it notes Johnson had violated his bond. The record itself isn’t public but it was sent to the latest judge on the case, Judge Bruce Hilton.

A month after it was filed, a hearing was held where Johnson’s bond did not change.

The courts won’t comment on any of this and provided the following statement:

“Per Missouri State Supreme Court Rule 2, A judge shall not make any public statement that might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court.”

First Alert 4 Investigates asked Bell if he was aware of the Pre-Trial Assessment and if he office was so concerned about bond

why didn’t they take action. Bell responded, “What you have to understand with GPS, when we are notified of a violation, we get what’s called a a violation alert. This was filed as a Pre-Trial Assessment, which we were not CC’d on. We were not given this information.”

“When someone commits a crime after getting out, the first thing is to look for, look to point the finger at someone and let’s be clear, the finger should be pointed at the defendant who committed these crimes period,” Bell added.