“I didn’t see strangling her as something wrong”
Born on 6 January 1969, Vincent Johnson was just 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in) tall. He was also a tramp and a crack addict. On 26 August 1999 someone — later dubbed the Brooklyn Strangler — began killing prostitutes in the Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhoods of Brooklyn, New York.
The first victim was Vivian Caraballo who was found in the lift room on the roof of 237 South Second Street in Williamsburg. Joann Feliciano, 35, was found strangled with trainer laces and speaker wire on 16 September 1999, on the roof of 171 South Fourth Street. Rhonda Tucker, 21, was discovered inside her apartment on Park Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant on 25 September 1999, strangled with the drawstring from her trousers. In early October the body of Katrina Niles, 34, was found in a Marcy Avenue apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant, strangled with electrical cord and her throat slashed. In February 2000 firemen found the decomposed body of Laura G. Nusser, 43.
All the women were found nude or partly clothed and all were strangled with a ligature. The police leapt into action and arrested a tramp who was known to hang around with whores. However, a DNA test cleared him of any involvement. Not one to bear a grudge, he began hanging around the precinct house of the Brooklyn North Homicide Task Force.
After a short time, he told the police of another tramp — a crack addict with a penchant for sadomasochistic sex. It was Vincent Johnson. When he was picked up by the police he refused to give a sample of his DNA and denied all knowledge of the murders. Fortunately, one of the Task Force had seen Johnson spit into a cup as he left the station after his first interrogation. A sample of the saliva was taken from the cup and sent for testing. It came back as a positive match for four victims. At 6.45pm on 4 August 2000 Johnson was arrested on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge.
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Thursday 26 August 1999-February 2000
On 5 August 2000, Johnson was charged with strangling five prostitutes: Patricia Sullivan, Rhonda Tucker, Joann Feliciano, Vivian Caraballo and Laura Nusser. He denied any involvement in the sixth death, that of Katrina Niles, although police believe he was the perpetrator.
Johnson was charged under the so-called serial killer statute, a section of New York state law that provides for a maximum of the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole if a defendant is convicted of killing two or more people in separate crimes over two years. Johnson blamed his mother for his murderous spree. “The thoughts of my childhood and foster care and mom came into my mind,” he said of killing Patricia Sullivan, “I didn’t see strangling her as doing something wrong at the time.” His mother took just one day off work – a Thursday and Caraballo, Feliciano and Sullivan were killed on Thursdays. Johnson was jailed for life without parole.