Murder suspect faces new charge

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— Kerry St. James, the lead prosecutor in the murder trial of Thomas Lee Johnson, has obtained a letter sent by Johnson to his sister that St. James says shows Johnson attempted to influence the testimony of his sister.

Assistant District Attorney St. James filed a charge on Sept. 18 of "tampering with a witness" against Johnson, who is already accused of first-degree murder, criminal mischief and trespass stemming from the homicide of Lori Bases at her Steamboat Springs home last May.

St. James brought up the tampering charge in open court Tuesday during a motions hearing in 14th Judicial District Court.

Johnson will be in county court today to be advised of his new charge, which is a felony.

St. James said he had obtained the letter from an anonymous source. It was sent to Jennifer Johnson by Thomas Lee Johnson between Aug. 13 and Aug. 30 while Johnson was in jail, St. James contends in the court file.

St. James would not comment on how he obtained the letter, though defense attorney William Schurman said Jennifer Johnson's husband or boyfriend had intercepted it and sent it directly to St. James.

St. James alleges the letter asks Jennifer Johnson not to comment on certain issues regarding the case and constitutes tampering with a witness. Jennifer Johnson has been interviewed by police about the murder and Thomas Lee Johnson's statements to her.

Schurman said he thinks the letter was obtained illegally because the man who sent it to St. James was not the addressee.

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