Police in suburban Detroit first had convicted drug dealer Jimmy Lattner as the prime suspect in the 2017 murder of his girlfriend, Julii Johnson, before eventually charging Lattner’s ex-girlfriend and two others, per sources, in a case that will finally make it in front of a jury this week in Macomb County Circuit Court. Lattner is out on bail awaiting a trial of his own on a weapon-possession case stemming from the investigation into Johnson’s slaying.
The Johnson case is rife with compelling, often vexing and intricate subplots, regarding the crime itself, the alleged players involved and the way it’s been adjudicated through the court system. The case is on its second judge and the start of the trial has been postponed four times in the last 16 months.
Johnson, 34, was gunned down on the morning of January 13, 2017 outside Lattner’s condominium in Warren, Michigan. Marci Griffin, Lattner’s ex-girlfriend, George (G.G.) Rider and Eric Gibson are facing first-degree homicide charges in the case. Griffin was feuding with Lattner and Johnson over Johnson’s treatment of Griffin and Lattner’s child.
Gibson’s DNA is on the murder weapon and prosecutors believe Rider acted as a middleman for Griffin in hiring Gibson to kill Johnson. Rider, a folk hero of sorts on the streets of Detroit’s Eastside who served a prison stint for federal narcotic trafficking in the 1990s, has been in the government’s crosshairs for years.
After his release from prison in 2003, Rider built a robust real estate portfolio while the FBI hounded his every move trying to build cases against him. In 2015, he sold the historic Fine Arts Theatre in downtown Detroit for 1.3 million dollars. The feds have long tried linking him to a murder that occurred at the theatre in 2007 to no avail.
The 44-year old Lattner once led what was known as the World Domination Gang, a drug crew operating out of Detroit’s near Westside in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He did six years in prison for peddling cocaine and heroin and got out in 2010. His behavior in the aftermath of Johnson’s murder brought scrutiny. An eye-witness account of Johnson’s killer and results of a police-dog scent test drove detectives further towards pegging him as a suspect.
By February, however, they had moved their attention away from Lattner, eliminating him as a suspect and focused the investigation on the current set of co-defendants. There is video of Griffin screaming at and threatening Lattner at Lattner’s car wash in the months before Johnson was slain and texts between Griffin and a cell phone registered to a company owned by Rider expressing her anger towards Lattner and Johnson.
The only evidence connecting the 60-year old Rider and the 26-year old Gibson are “pings” from cell phone towers in the Metro Detroit area placing them in the same vicinity on the day Johnson was murdered. Nonetheless, Rider, Griffin and Gibson were indicted together on February 24, 2017 and have been held without bail ever since.
Lattner’s defiant posture towards investigators had them eying him with suspicion from the morning Johnson was found lying clinging to life outside his condo. When Warren Police arrived on the scene, Lattner was emotionally distraught, screaming at someone on his cell phone and cursing at the responding officers. He refused to answer any questions, a pattern that has continued to this very day, even in the face of time behind bars.
A neighbor’s description of how the shooter was dressed matched Lattner’s appearance that morning (gray-colored jacket over a hooded sweatshirt). The neighbor would later say she thought the assailant was younger than Lattner, but admitted that the shooter “could have looked like him (Lattner) from the back.” A police dog from the K-9 unit traced the shooter’s scent on a “back track” motion that went away from property and then returned in the direction of Lattner’s condo.
The police got search warrants for the condo and the Ford F-150 pickup truck in the driveway. Inside the condo, police found $533,000 in cash. Inside the vehicle, they uncovered a gun (9 millimeter Ruger) with the serial number filed off, a bag of marijuana and another $12,000 in cash. The truck was equipped with custom-designed hidden compartments, normally a common accessory for people in the drug game to travel with concealed contraband. The money and the truck were seized.
Lattner pleaded the Fifth Amendment when called to answer questions about Johnson’s murder at a pretrial evidentiary hearing and was jailed for contempt. He was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon. He’s been on “lifetime probation” since 1997.
Authorities were at first hot on the idea that either Lattner had something to do with Johnson’s killing or an enemy of his in the drug world was, sources claim. Upon a possible tie-in to Rider emerging, federal prosecutors, per sources, pressed police in Macomb County to refocus the investigation towards the “Marci Griffin angle.”
This article was originally posted here