Husband shoots wife, self to death

By Joe Brogan, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 7, 2000

RIVIERA BEACH -- A Veterans Affairs Medical Center worker who had earlier sought a restraining order against her husband was shot and killed by him Monday morning as she left for work.

Rebecca Johnston, 40, of 190 Woodbine Way, already had packed her things and was planning to flee. She was on the walkway outside her apartment in the Archstone complex when Gary Johnston, 49, shot her several times with a revolver and then shot himself in the head, investigators said.

A neighbor who wanted to be identified only as Jason said he awoke to the sound of gunshots and looked off of his third-floor balcony to see Johnston sitting next to his wife's body.

"She was lying on the ground and he shot her again and then put the gun in his mouth and fired," Jason said. "He didn't say anything."

The neighbor said he went outside to check and found Mrs. Johnston still breathing.

"She was alive when they took her out of here," he said.

Police, however, said she was dead of head wounds when she arrived at St. Mary's Medical Center.

Jana Francis, a friend of the murdered woman, helped her pack Sunday because she was moving to Boston to get away from her husband.

"She was a wonderful person, and I was with her all day yesterday," Francis said. "She baked banana bread for my kids and gave me these earrings."

Francis said she didn't know the victim's husband but Mrs. Johnston told her he was very possessive and she was divorcing him.

"She told me some things about him, and every time we entered the apartment, we locked the door," Francis said.

Mrs. Johnston had sought a court order Sept. 19 to keep her husband 500 or more feet from her home or workplace and giving her sole use of the couple's apartment because she was in fear of her life, according to court documents.

Johnston came to the apartment Sept. 16, began drinking whiskey and beer and stated, "If you won't stay with me, I can't live without you," documents show.

Police responding to a 911 call on that occasion found Johnston with a .38-caliber revolver. He was taken to a mental health center for evaluation, investigators said.

The victim also wrote, "He has not been working, reads my mail, reads my e-mail, questions me about everyone I know, walks by to 'check' on me at pool, calls me at work. When told about wanting to break up, cut his wrists."

Gary Johnston was a licensed physical therapist, but hadn't worked for more than two years, and creditors were calling her, his wife wrote in the application for a protective court order.

Her request for the order was denied Oct. 3 when she failed to attend the hearing or add anything in support of the original document, court papers showed.

Staff researcher Geni Guseila contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2000, The Palm Beach Post.

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