2004-02-06 / Front Page

Slain Teen’s Mom: Leave Out Memorial Alone

Flowers Gone After Killer Is Convicted
By Brian Magoolaghan
Slain Teen’s Mom: Leave Out Memorial Alone

Slain Teen's Mom:
Leave Our Memorial Alone -

Charles Sealey was convicted this week of murdering Thomas Johnson, 17. He faces 25 years to life in prison.Charles Sealey was convicted this week of murdering Thomas Johnson, 17. He faces 25 years to life in prison.

A heart-shaped flower mem orial to teenage murder victim Thomas Johnson mysteriously disappeared after a Queens jury returned a guilty verdict against his killer.

Juanita Johnson told The Wave this week that her family was deeply upset to see that the red and white flowers, in the shape of a heart for Valentine's Day, had been deliberately removed from a utility pole, at the murder-scene, where it had been hung less than a week before.

Juanita said the memorial, which was placed several feet off the ground, was "cut down" the night after a jury convicted 23-year-old Charles Sealey in Thomas' murder. Sealey, a Far Rockaway resident, will be sentenced later this month.

"We're trying to keep a decent memorial to our son," Juanita said. The family changes the theme of the memorial to reflect special occasions.

Thomas Johnson was a talented student and athlete when he was murdered in 2001.Thomas Johnson was a talented student and athlete when he was murdered in 2001.

"Before we got a chance to put his name up there they ripped it down," said Juanita, then in a tone void of anger, she added numbly, "They should just leave that area alone."

Sealey's conviction for the 2001 murder marks the end of two-and-a-half-week trial that, at times, was so difficult for the Johnson family to endure that they excused themselves from the courtroom.

"The act of what went down was so unfair85 Reliving it was really hard on us," Juanita said.

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for two hours before finding Sealey guilty of second degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon. He could spend the next 25 years to life in prison.

"I hope that the conviction brings a measure of solace to [the Johnsons] and their family and that they take some comfort knowing the defendant will be severely punished by a long prison sentence for what was a senseless crime of random violence," said District Attorney Richard Brown. He also called Thomas, a top student at Christ the King High School and a star football player, "a role model for the youth of Far Rockaway."

Sealey was 19-years-old when he drew a .380 semiautomatic handgun and fired off several shots - striking Thomas, who was 17, above his eye, killing him. Sealey, who was already "well known" by the 101 Precinct police officers, and had four prior arrests including one for weapons possession, turned himself in three days after the shooting.

Three years later, the family sees the conviction as "a blessing," Juanita told The Wave. She said she cried when she heard of the conviction.

"I'm happy to know that the person who took the life of me is going to pay for the crime he comm itted," she said adding that she hopes Sealey finds God and way to "become an asset" to society.

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