ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – A man is accused of fatally beating his wife after being released from jail earlier in the day.
According to court documents, Samuel Lee Scott, 54, first hit his wife in January of 2019.
Court documents state Scott struck Marcia Johnson, 54, on the right side of her face, causing pain to her ear and cheekbone, on Jan. 6. After allegedly hitting his wife, Scott reportedly told her that he “might as well finish what [he] started since [she] was going to contact the police.”
Officers responded to that incident, and placed Scott as "wanted" for assault in the fourth degree.
On April 5, the circuit court issued a warrant for Scott's arrest, calling him a danger to the public.
Scott was arrested and charged, and four days after the arrest was served with an Ex Parte Order of Protection, which prohibited him from being within 300 feet of his wife or from entering her home.
The same day he was served with the Order of Protection, Scott’s $5,000 bond was posted by the nonprofit St. Louis Bail Project and he was released from custody.
Officials with the nonprofit said the order of protection was issued after the bail was posted, and they did not know about it. The organization would not answer questions about its policy for helping people with an order of protection or its vetting process.
After being released, Scott allegedly went to Johnson’s home on Wisconsin and Chippewa around 7:45 p.m.
Less than four hours later, Johnson was taken to the hospital by a friend who found her in her home saw blood coming from the woman’s head and body. Court records state Johnson was unconscious, had a broken eye socket, several broken ribs and was bruised from head-to-toe.
According to investigators, preliminary findings show Johnson died from blunt force trauma on April 14, five days after the assault.
Two days after Johnson’s death, the Circuit Attorney’s Office said they had charged Scott with first-degree murder in connection with her death. Court records state that Scott admitted to striking his wife.
Following Johnson’s death and the murder charge against Scott, News 4 reached out to the nonprofit that posted his bail on April 9. Mike Milton, manager of The Bail Project’s St. Louis site, issued the following statement:
"We’re deeply saddened by this tragedy. Many of us and our close relations have lost family members to violence and we are heartbroken that this has happened to yet another member of the St. Louis community. Our deepest condolences and sympathies go to Marcia Johnson’s family. Moments like this are devastating and a symptom of St. Louis’ failure to address the underlying issues. It’s important to remember that bail didn’t cause this tragedy -- Mr. Scott, a 54-year-old father of eight, was charged with a low-level misdemeanor, and if he’d just been wealthy enough to afford his bail, or bonded out by a commercial bail bond agency, he would have been free as well. We provided bail assistance based on the fact that the court had deemed him eligible for release before trial. No one could have predicted this tragedy. In times like this, we must come together for Marcia’s family and also keep sight of the injustices of incarcerating poor people before trial and the need to invest in community-based services that can support St. Louisans during times of crisis.”
The State of Missouri says they attempted to notify Johnson when Scott was released from jail. It is unclear if she ever received the message.
The Circuit Attorney's Office later released a statement:
Domestic violence matters are especially complicated for both the legal system and for families dealing with these heartbreaking disputes. As various organizations attempt to address bail reform, we believe every case should be reviewed on its own merits rather than on broad classifications that may increase greater harm than it reduces.
In our efforts to reduce community harm, we all must keep the safety of victims and the public as our top priority for all criminal justice policies or procedures. I have scheduled a meeting with the Bail Project for later this week to review their policies and practices to help them better understand the risks to victims and witnesses when posting bail for any type of domestic violence cases or for any defendant who is a potential safety risk to an individual or to the community.
Mayor Lyda Krewson said the incident is heartbreaking, but the issues of bail and judges' discretion is complex.
"This criminal justice system that we have is complicated. Its hard to make the right decisions there. I don't blame the Bail Project or the Judge," she said. "I think that individual takes the responsibility for his actions, but its not one of those things where its an easy decision."
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you can get in contact with one of the area resources here.