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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery - To avoid arrest
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 5, 1991
Date of arrest: 2 days after
Date of birth: 1969
Victim profile: Russell Bagshaw, 28 (Connecticut State Trooper)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Windham County, Connecticut, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on June 10, 1992. Commuted to life in prison without parole on May 2000

Terry Johnson

No 186495

Sommers Correctional Institution

Somers, Connecticut 

...Year of Birth


...Marital Status




...Date of offense

June 5, 1991

...Sentenced to death

June 10, 1992


sentence reduced May, 2000 from the death penalty to life in prison without parole

Terry Johnson was sentenced to death for the murder of Connecticut State Trooper Russell Bagshaw. He & his brother Duane were burglarizing a gun shop when Bagshaw arrived at the scene. Before Bagshaw could get out of his cruiser, Terry Johnson fired a semiautomatic pistol into the darkness. One of his bullets found a gap in Bagshaw's bulletproof vest. Terry Johnson pleaded guilty to the murder. His brother Duane received life in prison without parole.

The sons of a former police officer, Terry & Duane Johnson were vilified by the press as cop killers. Duane was tried as an accomplice; he was 18 at the time & barely involved in the crime-his older brother had dragged him along. But being inside the prison walls is no protection from the condemnation he received on the outside. Now the corrections officers taunt him for killing one of their own.

"You try to keep as low profile as you can to keep from getting flak. You know you'll be walking down the hall..."You're getting the electric chair, Joe." They'll make buzzing noises or "You're going to fry"

Terry has not lived enough of a life to have anything much to say, or even the tools to say it with. At twenty years of age, he was just a punk kid who recognized no authority.

"...I was doing things to impress friends & help friends. Do things to try to impress family members. Doing everything for people for all the wrong reasons...

When I grew up I used to do a lot of things: take cars, break into businesses, steal cars, motorcycles, the whole nine yards.... I was like the center of attention. And when I'd steal something, like, a car stereo, or something, it wasn't for the money. It wasn't for the object. I'd get it & I'd end up giving it to my friends, because I thought that's what I needed to do to please them..."

Terry's father had sixteen children by two wives. Terry had two children by different women.

"Two of my older brothers are in the military. One's in the Marine Corps, one's in the Navy. He's a sergeant down in Key West, Florida. One of my other family members, my sister's a bus driver. My other brother works in a factory, electronic factory. My other brother is going to college, right now, for criminal law."

Maybe with so many siblings, Terry found it hard to get much attention or approval. Maybe he simply got lost in the crowd. But seeking forbidden thrills & exhibiting asocial behavior to get noticed usually backfires.

"...being afraid how my father would feel that I got my brother involved. My younger brother was my father's-hate to say it-apple of his eye. My father's life revolved around my little brother. To have one son taken away was devastating but to have two at once is a total big loss. And at my father's age & everything. My brother Duane was all he had left living in the house with him."

Or maybe, being the son of a cop, Terry thought he was above the law & could avoid the consequences of his sprees. Until the murder, Terry had been charged only with misdemeanors.

We also learned Terry had done a short in the National Guard. That might explain his erect posture, his machine-gun responses, & his clipped sentence structure. His long hair was a concession to his rebel tendencies.

Terry shared his philosophy about prison.

"It shows that everybody can make mistakes. Everybody gets in trouble. Jail isn't prejudiced. It lets in white, Black, Indian, Hispanic, Mexican, thin, fat, strong, short, men, women, & children. Jail is not prejudiced. There's no certain quota...

When somebody hears of a crime & they hear of somebody being on death row, the first thing they think of is like, Charles Manson. Somebody deranged lunatic. They pick up the paper & they say, "Man, if I ever saw that dude on the street, I'd know for sure that he was a monster." It's not that way, at all."

And with that revelation, at such a young age, he has been shoved into adulthood. He had been headed for trouble, had embarked long ago down the wrong path. Now one event defined his entire life.

Throughout the interview, Terry said all the right things. He stood before us in the little prison courtroom, with shackles on his legs, & expressed sorrow for his actions. He was maybe a little too sincere. Had he learned how to push the right buttons since he was arrested?

His answer seemed a bit too fast, too pat. Terry was not the first person we had met on death row whose emotional maturity was less developed than his chronological age would suggest. But for each of us childhood ends the moment we realize we can die.


Terry, Marjorie and Daughter  Alicia - Taken 1990.


Terry & Sherri- Taken May 1991.


The victim

Trooper Russell A. Bagshaw, 28,  was shot and killed when he interrupted
a burglary at a sporting goods store.



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