Duane Johnson, who sexually assaulted Tricia McCauley and then murdered her as she tried to fight him off, has entered a plea agreement under which he will serve thirty years in prison for first-degree felony murder, U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips and DC Police Chief Peter Newsham jointly announced today.
According to a proffer of facts offered jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the defense, the 30-year-old Johnson entered Ms. McCauley’s car on Christmas day of last year, assaulted her, and then used her scarf to strangle her when she struggled with him. After McCauley died, Johnson put her body in the back seat.
After Ms. McCauley was reported missing, police initiated a search which eventually led to a pharmacy on the 2200 block of M Street NW. Johnson was inside, and McCauley’s keys were in his pocket. A subsequent search discovered the car, and McCauley’s body. Johnson has been in police custody since that point.
Johnson initially reported that McCauley had committed suicide.
McCauley, who was 46 when she was murdered, was a DC actor, voiceover artist, yoga teacher, and herbalist. Her performances on the Washington stage included On Approval, Elling, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, and Major Barbara (a Helen Hayes nominee for Outstanding Resident Production) for Washington Stage Guild, The Last Seder for Theater J, Lyle the Crocodile for Imagination Stage, Cloud 9 for Catalyst Theatre Company, Dreams in the Golden Country for the Kennedy Center National Tour, and Oleanna for the Scena Theatre tour of Slovenia and Croatia. In her final work as a theater artist, she was the assistant Stage Manager for It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at Washington Stage Guild.
Under the plea agreement, supervised release will follow Johnson’s prison term and he will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. While the plea agreement does not specify the length of the supervised release, under DC law it may last for the rest of his life.
Under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. Attorney will dismiss two other charges pending against Johnson, and will not pursue charges related to Johnson’s alleged theft in a Petco store, his alleged theft and assault in a CVS pharmacy, or his alleged theft of McCauley’s property.
The plea requires the approval of D.C. Superior Court Judge Hiram E. Puig-Logo before it becomes effective. The Judge has scheduled sentencing for November 17. In the event Judge Puig-Logo rejects the plea agreement, Johnson will be entitled to withdraw his plea and receive a trial. The maximum sentence for felony first-degree murder in the District of Columbia is 60 years’ incarceration plus a $250,000 fine.
In announcing the plea, Phillips and Newsham commended the work of Assistant United States Attorney David Misler, who investigated and prosecuted the case, and acknowledged the additional efforts of Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon Donovan, Paralegal Specialists Sharon Newman and Lornce Applewhite, Victim and Witness advocate Jennifer Clark, and Litigation Technology Specialist William Henderson, as well as the U.S. Park Police, the FBI’s Cellular Analysis Survey Team, and the D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences.