Preliminary autopsy shows assault cause of death of body in trunk

$500,000 cash bond set for Timmy Johnson, Jr.
Preliminary autopsy shows assault cause of death of body in trunk
Timmy Johnson Jr.

A La Crosse County judge set a $500,000 cash bond on Monday for a man who was involved in a crash with a reported stolen vehicle on Highway 35 in Holmen early Friday morning.

Timmy Johnson Jr, 25, faces several charges, including reckless endangerment, fleeing officers, and bail jumping.

Authorities found 79-year-old Merle Forbes in the trunk of the stolen vehicle driven by Johnson Jr. after the crash.

“Early indications from preliminary autopsies show that the injuries from the assault is leaning towards the cause of death,” La Crosse County Medical Examiner Tim Candahl said on Monday.

La Crosse police said Johnson was driving the stolen car when police tried pulling him over. Johnson led them on a chase that ended when Johnson hit another vehicle and rolled on Highway 35 near Holmen.

Forbes was pronounced dead on the scene. He was the owner of the stolen vehicle. The investigation into his death is being taken over by Grant County.

Johnson was in court for the first time Monday.

A La Crosse County judge set a $500,000 cash bond stating Johnson’s history shows it is unlikely he would comply with bond conditions and it is likely he would endanger the public trying to avoid court or jail.

“The allegations are that he robbed and stabbed a cab driver in Grant County and then that individual was then found in the trunk of that vehicle,” prosecutor Jessica Skemp said in court. “Homicide charges are being investigated and will likely be filed against Mr. Johnson.”

Skemp said Johnson has a significant criminal history with arrests in California, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

The defense wanted the court to know about Johnson’s mental health issues.

“Since Mr. Johnson was booked into the jail on Friday he’s been in a cell by himself, a cell in the medical unit and he’s been on a 15 minute watch. He has also told me that crisis intervention has spoken with him,” public defender Tom Laconte said.

Johnson had been released from Grant County Jail Thursday morning, the same day Forbes was reported as missing and endangered.

In August 2013, Forbes picked up August and took him to Boscobel. According to court records, Johnson told Forbes he needed to get the $90 cab fare from an apartment, but did not return with the money. Forbes called police.

The defense said Johnson is supposed to be on medication for his mental illness, but was not being given any during his 36 days.

Johnson’s next court date is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.