Man Allegedly Killed Teen Walgreens Coworker Who'd Rejected His Advances

·4 min read

A Colorado Springs man is in custody after police say he attacked and killed a teenage coworker in the employee break room after she'd rejected his advances.

Joshua Johnson, 28, has been charged with first-degree murder in the June 11 death of his Walgreens coworker, 17-year-old Riley Whitelaw, in the employee break room, according to the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Police received a 911 call from the store manager, Justin Zunino, at 6:55 p.m. on Saturday, June 11 notifying them that there was a body in the employee break room — which was covered in blood — according to the arrest affidavit obtained by Law & Crime. When police arrived less than 10 minutes later, they discovered Whitelaw's body with "significant trauma to her neck area," with an employee ID badge and store earpiece at her feet.

"There was a large amount of blood on the floor around the head of the victim," the affidavit states. "There were significant blood stains on the floor, cabinets and counter of the break room."

Zunino told police that, though he hadn't worked that day, he'd returned to the store around 6:00 p.m. at the request of the manager on duty, Crystal Ishmael, after the victim failed to return from a scheduled break. Upon reviewing surveillance footage from the time period before her disappearance, Zunino told police that he'd seen another employee, Johnson, stacking up bins in the employee break room in order to cover the surveillance camera. He reported that he then noticed that paper had been taped over the windows of the room and the "Restroom Closed" sign had been placed in the area hours earlier than it ought to have been.

Zunino entered the area and, upon opening the door to the break room, discovered Whitelaw's body, according to the affidavit.

Ishmael told police that, after Zunino arrived at the store and while they were looking for Whitelaw, she had gone outside to the covered dumpster area where she could smell bleach. When she attempted to open the door, a man's voice told her that he was changing, and she went to get Zunino. The man was gone by the time they got there, but an empty bottle of bleach was in the dumpster.

As police were on the scene, a 16-year-old customer who'd been in the store before 6:00 p.m. drove past, noticed the police presence and stopped. She told police that she'd been in the deodorant aisle around 5:45 and heard what she thought was a woman's scream and stall doors slamming but, not hearing anything after that, assumed she'd been mistaken.

Zunino told police that Whitelaw had complained about Johnson a year ago, saying that the 5'6", 270-pound 28-year-old had made multiple advances on her and it was making her uncomfortable. Zunino said he reminded Johnson to "keep things professional" and thought the man was receptive. But, a few weeks prior to her murder, Whitelaw had asked to work a different schedule in order to avoid working with Johnson — and, when she asked for more hours at the store, Zunino had to tell her that it would require her to work with the man.

It's unclear from Zunino's statement to police if she accepted those shifts.

Ishmael additionally told police that, when Whitelaw's 19-year-old boyfriend began working at the store in the early spring, she'd witnessed jealous behavior by Johnson.

Colorado Springs CBS affiliate KKTV reports that Colorado State Police spotted Johnson walking along the side of I-25 near Trinidad, Colorado — more than 100 miles south of Colorado Springs, near the New Mexico border — on Sunday morning. He was covered in cuts and bruises, including to his face, and told the troopers that he'd been attacked at a Walgreens in Colorado Springs.

The troopers called the Colorado Springs Police Department, the station reported, and learned that Johnson was, in fact, a suspect in Whitelaw's murder and not a missing assault victim.

Johnson was arrested and returned to Colorado Springs.

In an interview with police, according to the arrest affidavit, Johnson admitted to a crush on Whitelaw but said he was over it because, he claimed, he'd gotten involved with Ishmael — who is 10 years his senior and, police noted, did not mention any personal relationship with Johnson — instead. He also admitted to having entered the break room after Whitelaw's death and said that he'd slipped and fallen in her blood but, instead of reporting anything, had rinsed himself with bleach by the dumpsters — where he "talked" to Ishmael — and gone home to change clothes. He denied having stacked the bins in front of the camera.

He is currently being held with no bond in the El Paso County Jail. His next court date is June 21. It's not clear that he has an attorney at this time.