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The Case of the Teenage Killer

Shekelia Johnson was 15 years old. She was going to be in the 10th grade. She was a good student, with a B average. She was pretty. She was on the track team. She lived with her mother and some of her siblings on Middle Street in Cape Girardeau.

Shekelia Johnson

She was shot to death in an alleyway behind her boyfriend’s house on Lorimier Street on August 10, 1993.

The police were called immediately when her body was found. So many people gathered at the scene so quickly that when the police arrived just minutes later, at 9:07 p.m., they had difficulty getting to her body.

The police were able to get to her, though. Ambulance personnel arrived, but she was not breathing and had no pulse by the time they got to her. They rushed her to Southeast Hospital, where heroic measures were taken to try to save her life, but she was officially pronounced dead at 10:00 p.m.

Although dozens of people were milling around the crime scene by the time police arrived, no one had seen her get shot.

The Major Case Squad was activated, eventually piecing together a story of teenage love gone horribly bad, of a teenage killer who took the attitude that if he could not have Shekelia as his girlfriend, then no one would ever have her.

The investigation revealed that on August 10, 1993, John Wes Selvy, age 16, shot and killed his 15-year-old girlfriend, Shekelia Johnson. He shot her one time in the face in an alley behind his house. The bullet went into her left cheek, through the front part of her brain, and came out the top of her head.

John Wes Selvy

When he was questioned by police that night and the next day he gave different versions of what happened. His first story was that he wasn't even present when she was shot. He claimed he'd been at Wal-Mart. When the police told him that other witnesses placed him with her just minutes before her death, he came up with his second version -- she committed suicide right in front of him because he was breaking up with her; distraught, she put the gun to her face and shot herself. He claimed that he didn't even touch the gun. Then the investigator said, "Remember the swabs we took of your hands? They will show whether you fired the gun." He then offered his third story, claiming she had put the gun to her face to kill herself, and he reached out and grabbed the gun and it went off.

Andy Wagoner, a gunshot residue expert from the Southeast Missouri Regional Crime Laboratory, confirmed that the testing of the hands of John Wes Selvy and Shekelia Johnson showed that John Wes Selvy had amounts of gunshot residue on his hands consistent with holding a firearm as it was being fired; Shekelia Johnson did not.

John Wes Selvy, 16, lived with his mother, her boyfriend, and her younger children on Lorimier Street in Cape Girardeau. Randy, age 21, a friend of John Wes Selvy, had been living with them for a few weeks.

John Wes Selvy and Shekelia Johnson had been dating for several months. Their relationship was up and down -- they'd argue, then make up, then argue again.

During the summer prior to the murder, John Wes Selvy once told Shekelia’s 21-year-old brother that if Shekelia ever broke up with him, he would kill her.

He had told a 16-year-old cousin of Shekelia’s that if Shekelia ever went out with another dude, he'd kill the dude and Shekelia, too. If he couldn't have her, nobody would.

The 16-year-old cousin also reported that in late July, about two to three weeks before Shekelia was killed, she saw Wes fighting with Shekelia in the street, and he wrestled Shekelia to the pavement and pressed her face against the concrete. He threatened at that time to kill her.

Several witnesses established that Shekelia was afraid of guns and wanted nothing to do with guns. No one ever saw her with a gun.

On the other hand, several witnesses confirmed that John Wes Selvy often carried a gun with him. He had been seen with both a silver-colored .25 caliber semi-automatic and a black .38 revolver with black tape on its handle.

Investigators located the people who were with Shekelia Johnson earlier in the day on the last day of her life.

Her 16-year-old cousin reported that she was at Indian Park with Shekelia that afternoon. They were playing games, watching guys play basketball, just hanging around. John Wes Selvy was there. Toward the end of the afternoon he asked Shelekia to go get him a hamburger from Don’s Store 24. She went and got the food. Wes went back to his house, about a block from Indian Park, and the two girls took the food up to Wes' house.

The 16-year-old cousin said that when they got to Wes' house they went down to the basement. Wes was in the basement and the three of them were alone together in the basement for ten minutes or so. Shekelia seemed to be acting normal, but Wes seemed unusually quiet. While she was there, the cousin saw two guns. One was a silver-colored gun. Wes held it in his hands. The other was a black gun with black tape on the handle. It was lying on the bed in the basement and the cousin nervously pushed it under a pillow on the bed. She said Shekelia and Wes were not arguing while she was there. When she was about to leave, Randy, who lived with Wes, showed up and asked her to go to Don’s Store 24 and get him the same thing Wes had to eat. The cousin left to go get the food. When she last saw Shekelia alive, Shekelia was down in the basement with John Wes Selvy and Randy.

As the cousin was leaving to go get Randy's food, she ran into Shekelia's 14-year-old sister, who was coming to find Shekelia. The sister was with some other girls.

Shekelia’s 14-year-old sister reported to investigators that she went to the basement briefly and told Shekelia she was going to Don’s Store 24 and wanted to see if Shekelia wanted to go, too. Shekelia said to come back for her later. The sister noticed the silver-colored .25 gun on the bed near John Wes Selvy while she was talking to Shekelia.

Both the sister and the cousin reported that they went to Don’s Store 24 with the other girls and got Randy’s food, then started back to John Wes Selvy's house. They had been gone about 20 minutes to half an hour when they found Shekelia's body in the alley behind John Wes Selvy's house.

When they saw the body lying in the alley, they didn't realize at first it was Shekelia. They turned and ran out of the alley, screaming. When they looked back, John Wes Selvy's mother was standing by the body and she shouted for them to go get Shekelia’s mother, that Shekelia had been shot.

A crowd of people immediately began forming.

An adult cousin of Shekelia's was one of those who knelt next to her and tried to help her. He asked her, "Who shot you?" She said: "Wesley shot me. Wesley shot me."

So many people gathered so quickly that when the police arrived minutes later, they had difficulty getting to her body.

Randy, a friend of John Wes Selvy, told investigators that he had been living with Wes for several weeks. They were like brothers. He had seen Wes with the .25 silver automatic, and had also seen a black .38 revolver with tape on the handle in the house. It belonged to Wes' cousin.

Randy said he had left Wes and Shekelia alone in the basement after Shekelia’s cousin left to get his food. He went for a walk with another girl and when he returned, people were saying that someone had been shot. He went into the basement and Wes was on the bed. Randy said, "Someone's been shot!" Wes jumped up and said, "I didn't mean to do it! She might have been carrying my baby! I don't want to go to jail!"

Wes handed Randy the .25 semi-automatic and Randy took it outside.

Several witnesses reported that once Randy was outside with the .25, the Johnson family members assumed that Randy had been the one who shot Shekelia. They started chasing him. The police ended up rescuing him from the Johnsons, and collected the .25 as evidence.

Detective Kenton Martin interviewed John Wes Selvy that same night, shortly after the shooting, Wes told him that Wes had been at Wal-Mart at the time of the shooting.

Later that night, the police got a search warrant for John Wes Selvy's house and found the clothes Wes had been wearing earlier in the evening. The crime lab analyzed them and found Shekelia's blood on his shirt, his shoes, and his shorts.

Detective John Volkerding, interviewed John Wes Selvy the next day at 2:00 in the afternoon, after he'd found out the facts from other witnesses. John Wes Selvy first stuck by his first story that he had been at Wal-Mart. Volkerding pointed out that other witnesses had seen them together just minutes before the shooting. Selvy then claimed Shekelia had come by, asked him to go walking, then had put the gun to her head and shot herself. He had not even been close enough to touch the gun. Investigator Karen Buchheit, also at the interview, pointed out that his hands had been swabbed, and would show gunshot residue if he had fired the gun. He then changed the story again and said she had put the gun to her head, but he had reached out and grabbed it and it went off. First he said he grabbed it with both hands. Then he said he had grabbed it with one hand. He claimed that she had been holding the gun in her right hand. He said the gun she used was a black revolver with black tape on the handle, but that she must have brought the gun with her, because he'd never seen it before except one time when it was lying on the street in front of his house. He said afterward, he grabbed the gun and threw it in the high weeds behind his house and ran inside the house.

Dr. Michael Zaricor, the pathologist who did the autopsy of Shekelia Johnson, confirmed that she died of one gunshot wound to the head, that the caliber of the gun was larger than a .25, probably a .38, and that she could have been awake and thinking and able to talk long enough to make the statement to her adult cousin. He added that in his opinion, the wound was inconsistent with a suicide by a right-handed person.

Many witnesses established that Shekelia was right-handed.

John Wes Selvy took his case to jury trial in April of 1994.

The jury found him guilty of second degree murder and armed criminal action, recommending sentences of life in prison and 50 years. Scott County Circuit Judge Anthony Heckemeyer imposed the sentences, ordering that they run consecutively.


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