The Johnson family reacts to Rodney Berget's execution

Published: Oct. 29, 2018 at 10:40 PM CDT
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“I fought hard,” Lynette Johnson said.

The wife of Senior Corrections Officer Ronald RJ Johnson said her goal for the past seven years since her husband’s murder has been to hold the people responsible accountable.

Monday night, the years of legal battles pursuing that goal finally came to an end as Rodney Berget took his final breath.

It’s a moment the Johnson family feared would not happen Monday after an appeal to the U. S. Supreme court held up the scheduled execution for hours.

“Everything just comes with a lot of stress and pain, obviously today we had to sit here for six hours before we even knew this was going to happen,” RJ’s son Jesse Johnson said.

“It was a long day,” Lynette said.

The hours of waiting, just more time for the bad memories of the day their husband, father and grandfather was killed.

“The day it happened, I’ll never forget that day,” RJ’s daughter, Toni Schafer said. “I was in the trauma bay when my dad rolled through that door and I stood there and I watched him lifeless, with no heart rate on the monitor.”

“What sticks in my mind is the crime scene. Ron laid in a pool of blood. His blood was all over that crime scene,” Lynette Johnson said.

Johnson spoke directly to people who believe the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment after the execution Monday night. She said what the state did to Eric Robert and Rodney Berget was quick, painless and clinical. Nothing compared to what happened to her husband.

“The back of his head was gone. That’s cruel and unusual punishment,” Lynette said.

The Johnson family says those gruesome details are something RJ’s grandchildren are now old enough to learn about online. Something that requires constant shielding whenever a new legal proceeding brings RJ’s murder back in the public eye.

“They know their Papa was killed at the penitentiary and that it was bad guys that did it,” Schafer said.

Schafer said her oldest son was 10 when RJ was murdered and it’s had a profound impact on his life.

“Seeing some of the pictures that I saw and knowing what happened to him, it’s not easy to see,” RJ’s grandson Drake Schafer said.

The Johnson family said the execution does bring some level of closure.

“He’s not going to hurt anybody anymore and that kind of brings a peace of mind to the family,” Jesse Johnson said.

But they said no amount of closure can mend the hole in their broken family.

“Our life changed that day. It will never be the same,” Schafer said. “There are no holidays, no birthday’s. My mom’s house is a shrine of sadness.”

“We don’t do holidays because Ron’s not here,” Lynette said. “If Ron can’t, I can’t. How do you move on, how do you move forward? My life was taken the day his was taken.”

The Johnson children hope Berget’s execution and the end of the legal battle will help Lynette and everyone in the family move forward from the terrible memories this case has continually stirred up.

Immediately after the execution Monday night, Lynette also thanked everyone in the Attorney General’s office who has helped their family over the years and worked to hold the perpetrators accountable.