WARNING! THIS POST CONTAINS EXPLICIT DESCRIPTIONS OF ANIMAL ABUSE.
Erika Johnson is a nationally renowned animal cruelty investigator who worked for Joint Animal Services (JAS) in Lacey for 16 years.
As a field supervisor, she conducted dozens of investigations into reports of animal cruelty in Thurston County. Due to her expertise, animal control agencies in other counties often requested her help with their own animal cruelty investigations.
Both local and national organizations have recognized Officer Johnson’s work on behalf of animals. Pasado’s Safe Haven in Sultan, WA gave its Bucky Award for Excellence to her and Thurston County prosecutors in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Pasado’s also gave her 2 honorable mentions in 2015.
And in 2017 the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recognized Officer Johnson for Excellence in Humane Law Enforcement. She was one of only 5 individuals in the US to receive this prestigious award.
Officer Johnson’s most horrific case involved a 3-year-old pitbull named Diamond. She was a therapy dog for her owner’s 8-year-old son.
A relative of Diamond’s owner named James Leory Evans offered to watch her while the owner searched for dog friendly housing.
While at Evan’s home, Diamond killed his pet iguana. An enraged Evans sexually assaulted Diamond and hung her from a tree in Thurston County in March of 2016.
The next day a biker found the dead dog hanging from the tree. Investigators later found scratch marks on the tree that Diamond made while she struggled after Evans hung her.
Officer Johnson lead the investigation that resulted in Evan’s guilty plea to first degree animal abuse in 2017. She said it was the worst case of animal abuse she had ever seen. Dog lovers from across the US and in 26 countries closely followed the case.
The judge sentenced Evans to a year in jail, the maximum sentence possible.
Diamond was cremated 2017. After the trial, Officer Johnson promised Diamond’s owner that she would get a proper burial.
She and an investigator from Pasado’s Safe Haven who helped spearhead the investigation into Diamond’s death decided to put a headstone to honor Diamond on Pasado’s property and sprinkle her ashes in the stream that runs through it.
Officer Johnson kept the ashes in her office while she tried to organize a gathering at Pasado’s to honor Diamond’s memory.
Due to COVID and the difficulty finding a time convenient for people involved with the case to attend, Johnson wasn’t able to find a time to schedule the gathering.
The problem with who should possess Diamond’s ashes began when JAS forced her to leave. The reasons for her departure are too complex to address in this post.
When Officer Johnson went to JAS to clean out her office, Diamond’s ashes weren’t there.
When she asked if she could have Diamond’s ashes, Mary Ann Hardie, the Human Resources Director for Lacey, sent her this email saying she couldn’t have them:
The email shocked Officer Johnson, who told me that “never in the history of my thousands of cases in two states have I ever been denied the evidence upon disposition. I am the investigator and only I can decide what happens to it after the case is adjudicated and over.”
In addition, she said that “the prosecutor always returns the evidence to the person who collected it. The only reason Animal Services is noted in the Disposition letter is to identify the law enforcement agency I’m with.”
Here’s the memo from 2017 from Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim releasing Diamond’s ashes to Officer Johnson:
Officer Johnson also told me that since Diamond’s owner moves frequently, so she find and ask him to authorize the release of Diamond’s ashes to him.
I don’t understand why the city of Lacey and JAS won’t turn over Diamond’s ashes to Officer Johnson.
You could say that since Johnson no longer works for Joint Animal Services she no longer has a right to claim Diamond’s ashes.
But why should that matter?
Evans’ case had been adjudicated. He pled guilty and served his sentence. Diamond’s ashes no longer serve any purpose for the legal system. They will just sit on a shelf gathering dust until someone eventually throws them out.
Officer Johnson is a nationally recognized animal cruelty investigator. While at JAS she tracked down hundreds animal abusers.
It makes no sense that the city of Lacey would rather keep Diamond’s ashes locked away instead of allowing her to have the proper burial.
People want to honor Diamond’s memory by giving her a final resting place in a peaceful, pastoral setting surrounded by animal lovers dedicated to stopping animal abuse.
There is absolutely no reason for Lacey to keep Diamond’s ashes any longer. I urge Mayor Andy Ryder to authorize their release to Officer Johnson and allow Diamond to rest In peace.