Memorial service held for Johnson
Hartselle man's parents raise funds for prison ministry
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
The parents of Keith Johnson, the Hartselle man who last week became the first Alabama death row inmate executed by lethal injection, are working to assist a group devoted to prison ministry.
Alton and Frances Johnson held a memorial service for their son Wednesday night at Oak Ridge United Methodist Church. Johnson was executed Dec. 12 for his part in the 1984 murder of Hartselle jewelry dealer K.L. "Ken" Cantrell.
Frances Johnson said her son wanted to be cremated, but the family asked that donations be made to Kairos Ministry, a group of men that minister to prison inmates.
"They are men from all walks of life who go to the prisons and share their testimonies," Frances Johnson said. "They prepare food for the men two times a year, including at Christmas."
Frances Johnson said members of the group were with her at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore last week.
"They are just a wonderful group of Christian men," she said.
Johnson, who became a Christian after he was incarcerated, led a Bible study while in prison. His execution was attended by Oak Ridge Pastor Tom Elder.
Johnson's execution prompted a firestorm of controversy because prosecutor's acknowledged he did not fire the bullet that killed Cantrell. The other suspects in the case were never arrested.
Shortly before his execution, Morgan County Districty Attorney Bob Burrell spoke out about the question surrounding the lack of additional arrests in the case.
"It was common public knowledge prior to, during and after Johnson's trial that other people were directly involved in this crime," Burrell said. "This is not a case of mistaken identity but rather a situation of one member of a gang of criminals being caught and prosecuted."
Previous Morgan County District Attorney Mike Moebes obtained Johnson's conviction and he was sentenced to death by then presiding court Judge R.L. Hundley.
Burrell dismissed claims by Johnson's attorneys that new evidence existed in the case.
"The so-called new evidence they offer was known to law enforcement years ago and was insufficient for any useful purpose then and remains so today," he said.
Burrell stopped short of short of saying Johnson's execution closed the book on Cantrell's murder.
"I have personally never told anyone that this investigation was closed, that it should be closed to should not be pursued," he said.
Donations to Kairos can be made to Alton or Frances Johnson at 5906 Norris Mill Road, Hartselle, AL 35640.