Primetime Crime: Teen Charged With Parents' Gruesome Murder

PHOTO Sara Crime

Sarah Johnson has one last chance. One last try to convince a judge that she did not shoot her parents to death because they tried to prevent her from seeing an older man.

In late June, judges in the Idaho Supreme Court upheld a jury verdict that Sarah had brutally murdered her parents in 2003, a case solved by DNA and the then-16-year-old's suspicious behavior shortly after the bodies were found.

It was a case that made headlines and tore apart the Johnsons' family. Now Sarah Johnson's last chance hinges on convincing a trial judge in Hailey, Idaho that her attorney didn't provide her with proper representation.

Five years ago, Alan and Diane Johnson seemed to have a picture-perfect life. The longtime sweethearts, who had been together for 20 years, lived in a beautiful home on the outskirts of Sun Valley, Idaho. Alan was part owner of a landscaping company and Diane worked at a medical clinic. They treasured their family, which included two children, 22-year-old Matt and 16-year-old Sarah.

Sarah Johnson

But just after Labor Day weekend in 2003, that happy family life abruptly came to an end -- Alan and Diane were brutally executed in the bedroom of their home.

For investigators, the first clues in the shocking case came when they discovered that Sarah had fallen in love with an Mexican man, who was in the country illegally. Alan and Diane did not approve of their daughter's relationship with Bruno Santos, a 19-year-old high school dropout from a poor home across town.

'She Could Do a Lot Better'

Santos became the source of heated family arguments and relatives and friends feared that the relationship was tearing the once close-knit family apart. Syringa Stark, one of Sarah's friends, said, "I felt she could do a lot better. He was a high school dropout and was selling drugs and she was from a nice family. It just didn't seem like it was right."


Tensions mounted the Saturday of that Labor Day weekend, when Diane and Alan discovered that Sarah was sleeping over at Santos' apartment. When Alan picked up Sarah, he told Santos that he was to stay away from his daughter. He even threatened to report him to the police for having sex with an underage girl.

But Alan never went to the police. The next Tuesday morning, he and his wife were dead. Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling said it was the most disturbing crime scene he had ever seen.

"There was blood and hair on the carpet," he said. "It was on the ceiling. It was on all the walls. There was part of a skull cap in the hallway."

Femling immediately closed down the street and in doing so stopped a garbage truck that had just made its rounds. The garbage truck turned out to contain the key evidence in the case: a bloody bathrobe, a left-handed leather glove and a right-handed latex glove; all containing someone's DNA.

As family and friends began arriving at the house, everyone began to worry about Sarah and talk about Santos. Investigators fully expected Santos' DNA to tie him to the evidence they'd found in the garbage. But while they were focusing on Santos, devastated family and friends noticed something troubling about Sarah.

Sarah's Suspicious Behavior

As investigators removed Alan and Diane's bodies from the house, they too noticed a coldness and distance from Sarah, something Femling remembers asking his team to take note of.

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