St. Paul Realtor fantasized about killing estranged wife. Friend’s recording led to threats conviction.

A St. Paul Realtor who made detailed threats to shoot his estranged wife and her boyfriend, along with saying he’d burn down their house, was sentenced Thursday to probation.

Rex Alan Johnson pleaded guilty to felony threats of violence with intent to terrorize, though completion of up to three years of supervised probation will result in a misdemeanor conviction, according to a court document.

The LinkedIn page for Johnson, 43, of New Brighton, says he is in the top 2 percent of Twin Cities real estate agents. He has an office in St. Paul’s Highland Park.

Johnson has been in recovery and sober since the 2022 incident, his attorney, Ryan Pacyga, said Friday. He was “in a complete alcoholic blackout” when he made the statements and “he has no recollection of it,” Pacyga said.

“He had never made any statements like that before or after that event,” he said. “He made a heartfelt apology for his statements.”

Johnson’s estranged wife told police that, since they’d separated, he’d told other people he wanted to kill her, according to the October 2022 criminal complaint.

Friend’s recording

The complaint, filed by the Dakota County attorney’s office, gives the following information:

Three people arrived at the Mendota Heights police station on Oct. 17, 2022, and reported the threats. A woman explained she and Johnson were in the process of divorcing and she was living with her boyfriend in Mendota Heights (the complaint refers to the couple as victim 1 and 2).

A man who went to the station with the couple said he’s known Johnson for many years and had talked with him by phone earlier in the day. The call started with normal conversation, but later turned into Johnson saying “the only reason victims 1 and 2 were alive was because” he let them live. Johnson said he recently purchased two AR-15 rifles, magazines and ammunition.

The caller started recording the conversation because of the talk about killing the pair.

Johnson mentioned having a copy of a key to his estranged wife’s residence and said he had 900 rounds of ammunition, body armor and chest plates.

He said he wanted to put the barrel of his AR-15 into the woman’s mouth. He also said he fantasized that he would “turn her head until her eyes show the panic like you’re about to kill me.”

Johnson said he couldn’t wait to put a gun in victim 2’s mouth and he knew “he is going to beg for his life.'”

The call disconnected and the man later resumed a phone conversation with Johnson, and the threats continued. Johnson talked about burning down the couple’s house. “If that means that I have to die, I don’t give a (expletive), as long as she suffers, that is icing on the cake,” the complaint quoted Johnson as saying.

Victims 1 and 2 listened to the 36-minute recording with officers. Police saw Johnson’s estranged wife and the man who had the phone conversation with Johnson “were visibly crying and shaking.” The woman and her boyfriend “expressed fear and concern from these threats,” and they didn’t return to their residence, the complaint said.

‘Darkest moment’

Police went to Johnson’s residence to arrest him. He wouldn’t open the door, but spoke with an officer through the front window and wouldn’t exit the house. A warrant was issued for his arrest and he later posted bond without being taken into custody. Because he was not booked into jail, no booking photo exists, according to the Dakota County sheriff’s office.

Johnson’s estranged wife, through a family friend, indicated she didn’t want to comment on the matter.

Johnson was sentenced to home detention monitoring for 45 days and ordered to 80 hours of community work service, according to a court document.

Johnson’s comments in October 2022 were made to a friend who he confided in “about some rage he was feeling about the divorce, but he never called her directly to say these things” and he takes responsibility, Pacyga said.

“We’re never as bad as our darkest moments, and this was the worst night of Rex’s life,” Pacyga said. “His actions showed that he was truly sorry for this drunken episode and he’s done everything he can to make it right.”

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