A glimpse into the prolonged criminal lifestyle of 34-year-old Orpheus Johnson was revealed on Monday when two life sentences were imposed on him for two counts of manslaughter.
Also known as “Magga Man” and “Orphe”, Johnson of Craig, East Bank Demerara, was indicted for two counts of murder last month by State Prosecutor Lisa Cave. He, however, opted to plead guilty to the lesser count.
Johnson pleaded guilty to the charge which stated that on June 21, 2015, at Nandy Park, East Bank Demerara (EBD), he unlawfully killed Travis Rudder. He also pleaded guilty to the other charge, which alleged that on April 22, 2015, at Agricola, EBD, he unlawfully killed Gladstone George.
It was reported that Travis Rudder, his reputed wife, Mowanza Gill, and their 18-month-old son Jaheal Rudder were shot while they were sleeping at their Nandy Park, EBD home on Father’s Day of June 2015. Johnson went to Rudder’s home where he opened fire on the couple and their baby through a window.
As a result of the attack, Rudder was shot 21 times about his body. His reputed wife was reportedly shot seven times to her legs. Their 18-month-old son received injuries to his stomach and leg. The family was rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital where the older Rudder was pronounced dead on arrival. Gill and her baby were admitted in serious condition but they survived.
Meanwhile, Johnson shot at George several times while he was a passenger in a minibus that had stopped at Agricola. Johnson walked up to the window and discharged several rounds at George. The injured man was rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital where he too was pronounced dead on arrival.
Moreover, Johnson was also indicted on two counts of attempt to commit murder committed on Gill and her son. To these charges, the confessed killer also pleaded guilty, thereby admitting that on June 15, 2015, at Nandy Park, he discharged a loaded firearm at Gill and little Rudder with intent to murder them.
Meanwhile, in a very emotional statement to the court, Gill told Johnson that he was heartless. She also asked him why he would want to hurt her and her family. “I have suffered so much pain by the hands of this man [Johnson]. I am still going through the trauma to this date. There are so many questions from my son that I cannot answer because of not knowing the reason why someone would want to hurt us.”
She added, “You have murdered my son’s father, hurt my baby and me. I am still living in fear because of you and your actions. My son is without a father. You have my son living with a bullet in his stomach…My son was just 18 months old. You are heartless. I still cannot stand on my feet because of you.”
“Why would you want to do something like this to us?” a teary Gill asked while demanding answers from Johnson who appeared in court via Zoom. “I need answers… My son and I cry every single day… You have cost us so much damage as a family. I have faith in God because he has brought us through to see this day. I know you will never get another chance to hurt another family,” the grieving woman ended.
A probation report detailed how Johnson, a father of three, lived a life of crime. Following the death of his mother when he was just age three, Johnson was abandoned by his father.
His childhood and adolescent years were spent in a dysfunctional family environment as he was forced to live with relatives.
At age 14, he dropped out of high school and commenced doing odd jobs around his neighbourhood. Soon after, he developed delinquent tendencies causing him to appear in the courts. In 2015, he was committed to the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) for simple larceny.
While officials at that institution said Johnson was quiet and withdrawn, they commended the efforts he made in doing his chores, and for encouraging others to do theirs. Information from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters revealed that Johnson was a person of interest since 2002, as he was reportedly the leader of a gang that operated in Craig, Kaneville, and Agricola.
CID records also revealed that he was involved in several criminal activities, namely, robbery under arms, possession of illegal firearm, and ammunition for which he was convicted.
According to the probation officer, although Johnson’s family members reprimanded him for his delinquent lifestyle, he continued along that path. The officer noted that while Johnson was incarcerated, the mother of one of his children attempted to smuggle marijuana into the prison for him.
The probation officer noted that his [Johnson] “situation was also compounded by the fact that he had no proper guidance and supervision during his childhood years. Hence he developed delinquent traits which resulted in him being committed to the NOC with the expectation that he would be reformed…”
Nevertheless, she pointed out that after Johnson was discharged from the correctional facility, “he gravitated to adult criminal activities.” She further pointed out that Johnson was previously charged with murder, but was acquitted by the jury giving him an opportunity to redeem himself and live a productive life. But instead, the probation officer noted that Johnson chose crime.
Johnson was previously indicted for the April 2009 murder of Kaneville, East Bank Demerara resident Brendon Charles whose lifeless body was discovered in a yard a short distance from his home. After a trial, a jury at the High Court in Demerara found him not guilty.
“It wasn’t my fault”
Even though he has pleaded guilty to the charges, Johnson still maintained his innocence. In fact, when given a chance to address Justice Sandil Kissoon, the killer said,
“I am innocent of this charge sir and I am very sorry to the family that got hurt and everything. It wasn’t my fault and them things sir. Just being at the wrong place at the wrong time mek I get caught up in this story here. I am very sorry sir…”
Cold, calculated, and brutal
Noting that Rudder was shot some 21 times while he laid in bed with his family, Justice Kissoon said that the circumstances of this case reflect a “cold, calculated and brutal slaying”. According to the Judge, it also shows that no compassion or consideration was given to the occupants of the home.
“The other aggravating factor that arises is a plethora of previous convictions; armed robbery, unlawful possession of firearm and ammunition and more importantly the fact that this accused [Johnson] has been convicted previously of offences involving fear and/or violence, to wit, armed robbery,” the Judge added.
He said that the records of Johnson “speaks to a life of crime.” Moreover, Justice Kissoon said “it demonstrates and reflects an unwillingness to reform, to rehabilitate or reintegrate into society. On each occasion members of society have each paid a penalty for attempts to treat this accused in the most humane fashion and to gave him a second, a third, and a fourth opportunity to change…”
“These killings and the circumstances of the attempt to commit murder speaks to brutality. Remorseless, callous, and merciless acts. Merciless acts of killing by this accused were demonstrated and indifference of the sacredness of life of his fellow man, of his neighbour and others in his community and which was extended on an 18-month old infant,” Justice Kissoon added.
What is worst, the Judge noted, is that [Johnson] “is a healthy man with a healthy mind.”
“This accused must feel the full force of the brunt of the law,” Justice Kisson declared as he sentenced Johnson to life imprisonment on each of the two counts of manslaughter. The two life sentences will run concurrently and Johnson only becomes eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 30 years in jail.
Johnson was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 20 years on each of the two counts of attempt to commit murder. Like the life sentences, these two sentences were ordered to run concurrently. The two life sentences and the two 20 years’ jail term will run concurrently. The prison authorities were ordered to deduct the time Johnson spent on remand awaiting trial. Johnson was represented by Attorney-at-Law Racheal Bakker.