Investigators Say Jessica Johnson Took Her Own Life, But Her Family Thinks There's More To The Story

The 2017 death of Jessica Johnson remains a mystery to this day. Although her death was initially ruled to be self-inflicted, friends and family firmly believe that the young mother of two was murdered.

Partially hidden in tall grass, Johnson's body was leaning against a mailbox, with two shoelaces tying her neck to the post. Johnson's mother would later describe her daughter's body as being "put on display," and a friend claimed that the scene looked staged.

The Jessica Johnson case has been the topic of a number of true crime shows, podcasts, and blogs, but there often seem to be more questions than answers, many of which the family believes police did not properly investigate at the time. Below are the known facts of Johnson's death, the events that led up to it, and a police investigation that has been criticized for years.

  • On June 2, 2017, Jessica Re'Nee Johnson Was Found Tied To A Mailbox With A Pair Of Shoelaces

    On June 2, 2017, Jessica Re'Nee Johnson Was Found Tied To A Mailbox With A Pair Of Shoelaces
    Video: YouTube

    At approximately 10 am on the morning of Friday, June 2, 2017, a mail courier in Horn Lake, MS, made a gruesome discovery: the body of 37-year-old Jessica Johnson tied to a mailbox post. Johnson was positioned on her knees next to the mailbox, her neck tied to it by two shoelaces. Her open purse sat on the ground between her legs, and her body was partially hidden by the tall grass around the mailbox.

    The courier first called another postal worker to the scene, who took photos of Johnson's body before calling police.

    Johnson had reportedly been seen at the home where the mailbox was located around 6 pm the previous evening. There was then a 16-hour period during which no one saw or heard from Johnson, with the exception of a text to her son, which she may not have written.

  • The Coroner Ruled That Johnson's Death Was Self-Inflicted, But Her Family Disagrees

    After Johnson's body was examined, DeSoto County Coroner Jeff Pounders determined her cause of death to be asphyxiation by ligature hanging. It was the coroner's belief that Johnson had tied the shoelaces together, then around her own neck in order to take her own life. However, Johnson's family and friends had a hard time believing the coroner's findings. Those who knew Johnson described her as being a devoted mother who would never have left her children.

    Also worth noting is that the death certificate stated that no autopsy had been performed on Johnson's body, but it was later learned that a partial autopsy had been conducted. Xanax and meth were also reportedly found in Johnson's system, but they did not cause her death according to the coroner.

  • Her Mother Believes That If Johnson Had Wanted To Harm Herself, She Would Have Used Different Methods

    Johnson's mother, Linda, stated in an interview that even if her daughter had taken her own life, she wouldn't have done it by tying herself to a mailbox post. Johnson's family and friends have admitted that she struggled with drug use, and Linda noted that her daughter's "drug of choice" was Xanax.

    Linda believes that had Johnson taken her own life, she would have overdosed on Xanax and looked like "Sleeping Beauty" when she was found. Johnson reportedly cared a great deal about her appearance, and Linda refuses to believe that her daughter would have put herself on display in the manner she was found on June 2.

  • Johnson Allegedly Said To Look For Her Boyfriend If Anything Happened To Her

    Leading up to her death, Jessica Johnson had been in an on-and-off relationship with a man named Garland Hart. Friends and family weren't sure what Johnson saw in Hart, though one friend noted that Johnson may have been trying to "save" him. Johnson's sister described her final two boyfriends as "mean" and "controlling." 

    According to Linda Johnson, her daughter came to her shortly before her death and said, "Mama, if anything happens to me, go find him." The "him" Johnson referred to was reportedly Garland Hart, who also had a warrant for domestic assault-bodily harm in a separate case at the time of Johnson's death.

  • Police Never Named Any Suspects In The Case

    Although authorities questioned Johnson's boyfriend, no official suspect has ever been named in her death. The Johnson family's forensic investigator, Dr. Maurice Godwin, has speculated that the police chose not to investigate Johnson's death as a murder due to her drug use. Godwin went on to say in an interview that if Johnson "had been a college female or a housewife with no background or anything, found on a mailbox, oh, you would've never heard the end of it."

    Despite never naming a suspect, the Horn Lake Police Department noted that they were following up on tips. In a statement to True Crime Daily, Captain Nikki Lanphere of the Horn Lake PD stated, " and information that we have received have been investigated. As far as we are concerned this is still a death investigation..."

  • Investigators Found A Pair Of Shoes Without Their Laces Outside The Home

    Jessica Johnson was last seen alive at the home of Garland Hart's best friend. Hart reportedly lived there on occasion, and Johnson visited there the evening of June 1. When her body was discovered tied to the home's mailbox the following morning, police searched the property and found a pair of shoes missing their laces. The shoes were eventually returned to the Johnson family with other belongings, and Dr. Godwin believed there was blood spatter on the shoes that had apparently not been tested by police.

    While examining Johnson's shoes, Dr. Godwin noted that the clasp on Johnson's purse had been broken, which he believed pointed to a struggle between her and another person. The family said they initially hadn't even noticed the broken clasp.