Have you ever heard the expression, “the devil made me do it”? Arne Cheyenne Johnson, claimed he was possessed by a demon and pled not guilty during his murder trial in 1981.
Arne Johnson was convicted of stabbing his landlord, Alan Bono, more than 20 times with a pocketknife, on February 16th, 1981. The murder rocked the tiny community of Brookline, in Connecticut, this would be Brookline’s first murder in the 193 years of it’s existence.
This story truly begins at least 9 months prior to the murder. In May of 1980, Arne Johnson moved in with Debbie Glatzel, his girlfriend. Debbie had a younger brother named David. He was 11 years old and by July of 1980, he began having terrible dreams. On July 3rd of 1980, he woke from one of these vivid dreams, screaming that he had seen a man with black eyes and animal features, jagged teeth, pointed ears, hoofs and horns. David called it the Beast Man and said it told him, “beware”.
Over time, there was a huge change in David’s behavior and he woke daily with unexplained scratches and bruises all over him. Many times Arne would hear strange noises coming from the attic, but during his inspections of the attic, he found nothing. David continued to become withdrawn, quiet, and always nervous. In many of his dreams, David described this Beast Man as an old man, with a white beard, who wore a flannel shirt and jeans.
The Glatzel family became extremely worried for David and turned to the church. They asked a priest to come and bless their home, but this did nothing other than make the sounds louder and David’s dreams more vivid. And now poor young David had visions occurring in the daytime. David would often claim that the old man would appear and taunt him.
David began to hiss like a snake at his family when spoken to as well as speak in various voices. And oftentimes, David would quote the book, ‘Paradise Lost’. The book, Paradise Lost was written by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. The poems in this book revolved around a Judeo-Christian story of the Fall of Man. Particularly Adam and Eve and their temptation by the angel Lucifer.
Odd for an 11 year old to memorize and recite back. Worry turned to fear for David. The family took shifts to stay up and watch David at night as he would awake with seizures nearly every 30 minutes throughout the night. David would kick, bite and swear and at times the family would witness what appeared to be David being choked by an invisible force, his body shaking like a rag doll.
Further discussions with the priest led them to none other than Ed and Lorraine Warren. When the Warrens arrived, Ed, a demonologist, spoke with David while Lorraine watched nearby. Lorraine noticed a black form that resembled mist or smoke near him and suddenly David felt hands around his neck, choking him.
Red marks appeared around his throat and he said he felt as if someone was hitting him. The Warrens believed David was possessed.
The Warren’s recommended an exorcism for David. Alongside four priests, Ed and Lorraine Warren performed an exorcism on 11 year old David, attempting to free him from a terrible demon.
Three exorcisms took place and during each, David would levitate, at times stop breathing and it is said that he predicted the murder that Arne would go on to commit.
There is no full explanation as to why Arne Johnson chose to taunt the demons during the exorcism. Though, it seems he was scared for the child and told the demons, ‘leave my little buddy alone’. He further taunted them stating the demons were scared to enter him.
After the last exorcism, it appeared young David was free from the demon.
By November of 1980, David’s parents took him to the family doctor and a psychiatrist for a check up. He had some issues sleeping at night, but the doctors all believed he was fully functioning as a normal child would.
Debbie and Arne moved into their own apartment together, but almost immediately Arne started exhibiting odd behavior, she worried that he also had become possessed. The apartment was rented to the couple by Alan Bono. Alan owned a kennel as well in the area and hired Debbie as a dog groomer. Arne worked for a local tree service and often times Debbie would see him go into a trance or growl at nothing
By February 16th 1981, the odd behavior had continued but never caused any major troubles. On this day, Debbie was at work at the kennel, alongside Wanda, which was Arne’s sister. Debbie had also brought along her 9 year old cousin Mary.
When Alan Bono arrived, to the kennel and offered to take the entire group to lunch. They all went to a local bar, where Alan proceeded to drink heavily. The group went back to the kennel and Debbie took the girls quickly to get pizza. She didn’t want to leave drunk Alan with Arne and his odd behaviour for too long, alone.
Arriving back with pizza, it was obvious that Alan Bono was extremely drunk and agitated. They chose to all leave the room, though, as soon as they did, Alan grabbed 9 year old Mary and would not let her go. Arne headed back into the room and an argument ensued. Mary was able to get away and ran for the car. Debbie ran back into the room and attempted to stand between the two men.
Wanda tried desperately to pull her brother Arne away from the situation, but he began growling like an animal then pulled out a 5 inch pocketknife. Stabbing Alan Bono multiple times, primarily to the chest.
After the stabbing authorities found Arne about two miles away from the crime. He was arrested and held on $125,000 bail. Alan died several hours later. This would be the first murder Brookline, Connecticut had ever seen.
Once this crime was picked up by the media, it became a huge frenzy. Mostly due to Ed and Lorraine Warren’s involvement.
Arne hired a lawyer, Martin Minnella. Martin met with other lawyers who had also participated in court cases with possession being an element.
The trial began on October 28th, 1981 and it was held in Connecticut’s Superior Court, in the town of Danbury. Arne’s lawyer submitted his plea, ‘Not Guilty by Virtue of Possession’. The judge, Robert Callahan, immediately rejected this plea and stated there could be no actual evidence of this. Later, they submitted a self-defense plea.
Deliberation went on for 15 hours over a period of three days. On November 24th, 1981, Arne Johnson was convicted of first degree manslaughter, with a sentence of 10-20 years in prison, he was released early and only served five.
While in prison, Arne married his girlfriend Debbie, obtained a high school diploma and was released one month early as he was described as an exemplary inmate.
Was this demonic possession or an alcohol induced rage? We will have to leave this the realms of the unexplained…