Sometimes it takes a mother’s love and persistence to get to the bottom of things. In the case of Judy Weaver, that grit and determination finally gave her the answers to her son’s death some eight years later, a murder that the police had labeled as “accidental.”
Despite early eyewitness testimony that her son, Ronnie Johnson died when he accidentally fell off his bike doing tricks and hit his head on the curb, the Florida mother became suspicious because his bike was in good condition with no scratches, according to the Daily Mail newspaper. She had doubts about Jason Gailey, 33, who was at the scene, and Weaver used her wily skills to get at least the partial truth from him.
News that Johnson was recovering
Together with her daughter Deborah Murray, Weaver spread the word that her son (who lay in a coma on life support in the hospital) was recovering. The ploy worked in that Weaver got Gailey to confess to hitting Johnson with his fist, although he claimed it was an accident. In point of fact, her son Ronnie Johnson had been breaking up a fight between Jason Gailey and another man, Harry “Cowboy” Taylor.
When Johnson intervened in the fight, Gailey struck him with his handgun, sending him flying to the ground where he hit the concrete. Before that story could be established, however, Weaver and her family had to make the difficult decision to remove Ronnie Johnson from life support and he died nine days later in the hospital, having never regained consciousness.
Police initially refused to accept mother’s investigation
Despite the fact that Judy Weaver was able to obtain a partial confession (that Gailey had at least hit her son), the police refused to consider the case of her son anything but an accident. Still, Weaver and her daughter did not give up. For eight years, they kept careful notes and worked as a team to collect all the details (“names, numbers and locations” according to the Daily Mail) to put a complete picture together.
They were helped in part by one of the eyewitnesses who subsequently had a stroke himself in the intervening years and felt he needed to tell the truth for the sake of himself and his family. According to the Huffington Post, the witnesses were intimidated by Gailey, “who was known to carry a firearm.”
Ronnie Johnson’s mother also got lucky when Lieutenant Paul “Spike” Hopkins, a detective working the cold case, came into the restaurant where the Florida mother worked. Without knowing who he, Weaver began sharing the details of her son’s case, sparking the officer’s interest. The case was soon reopened fully, and earlier witnesses who had said Ronnie fell off his bike recanted their stories.
Said Judy Weaver of Detective Hopkins: “I knew if we got the right people, eventually it would be solved. It’s getting the right person, and eight years later, we got that right person. I never gave up.”
Weaver also took consolation from the fact that her son did the right thing, noting: “My son was a good Samaritan, and he lost his life. If he had to lose his life, I’m proud he lost his life doing a good thing. I think he is looking down on us and just so proud that we never gave up, that we got to the bottom of this.”