The Trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson: An Unprecedented Case

The Unprecedented Trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson: A Dance with Demons

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Written By Haunting Realm

Adventurer. Cryptozoology enthusiast. Paranormal investigator. Storyteller.

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In the annals of American criminal history, few cases have sparked as much intrigue, controversy, and downright bewilderment as the Arne Cheyenne Johnson case.

A chilling narrative that seamlessly weaves the mundane with the supernatural, it remains a touchstone of paranormal discourse and a haunting echo in the corridors of legal precedent.

At the heart of this chilling saga stands Arne Cheyenne Johnson, a seemingly ordinary 19-year-old with an extraordinary story. 

Brief Overview of the Arne Johnson Case

Johnson, a tree surgeon by trade, was thrust into the limelight in 1981, not for his arboreal expertise, but for a crime most foul – the murder of his landlord, Alan Bono.

However, the cast of this macabre drama extends beyond Johnson and his unfortunate victim. 

Enter David Glatzel, a young boy plagued by terrifying visions and the alleged epicenter of demonic possession. 

His sister, Debbie Glatzel, Johnson’s girlfriend, found herself ensnared in this chilling narrative, her life forever marked by the events that unfolded.

Ed and Lorraine Warren, renowned paranormal investigators and self-proclaimed demonologists, are completing this ensemble. 

Their involvement in the case, spurred by the Glatzel family’s desperate pleas for help, added a layer of supernatural intrigue that transformed an otherwise straightforward murder case into a paranormal spectacle.

In a twist that sent shockwaves through the legal world, Johnson’s defense hinged on a claim as unprecedented as it was chilling: demonic possession

In a bold move, Johnson’s defense argued that he was not in control of his actions at the time of the murder, but was instead under the influence of demonic entities. 

This audacious strategy marked the first time in U.S. history that demonic possession was invoked as a defense in a court of law, forever etching the Arne Cheyenne Johnson case into the annals of legal and paranormal history.

The Fateful Day: Murder and the Ensuing Arrest

On the afternoon of February 16, 1981, in the quiet town of Brookfield, Connecticut, a chilling event unfolded that would forever alter the lives of those involved and send ripples through the legal world. 

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The victim was Alan Bono, a well-liked landlord and manager of a local kennel. As revealed later, the perpetrator was Arne Cheyenne Johnson, a young man with no prior criminal record.

Trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson
The Glatzel family witnessed ominous occurrences involving their son David and enlisted the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Multiple priests petitioned the Catholic Church for David’s exorcism. During the process, a demon allegedly left David and possessed Johnson.

A Detailed Account of Alan Bono’s Murder 

The day had started ordinarily enough. Johnson, along with his girlfriend Debbie Glatzel and her younger brother David, had spent the day with Bono. 

After a luncheon engagement, the group returned to Bono’s apartment. However, the convivial atmosphere soon took a dark turn. 

An argument ensued, the details of which remain murky. What is clear, however, is that the disagreement escalated rapidly, culminating in a violent confrontation.

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In a fit of rage or under some unseen influence, depending on who one asks, Johnson attacked Bono with a 5-inch pocket knife. 

The assault was brutal and unrelenting. Bono suffered multiple stab wounds and succumbed to his injuries despite the best efforts of the responding medical personnel.

The Arrest and Initial Reactions

The news of the murder sent shockwaves through the community. Brookfield, a town unaccustomed to such violent crimes, was left reeling. 

However, the police acted swiftly, and Johnson was arrested. 

His weapon, still at the scene, was damning evidence. Johnson was indicted on a charge of first-degree murder, marking the beginning of a legal saga that would captivate the nation.

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Johnson’s arrest and subsequent indictment were met with a mix of disbelief and horror, both within the local community and beyond. 

Here was a young man, with no history of violence, accused of committing a heinous crime. The question on everyone’s lips was simple: why? What could drive a seemingly ordinary young man to such a violent act?

Demonic Possession?

The answer, as proposed by Johnson’s defense, was as shocking as the crime itself. 

In a move that would make legal history, Johnson’s attorney, Martin Minella, announced that they would be pursuing a defense of demonic possession

According to Minella, Johnson was not in control of his actions at the time of the murder. Instead, he was under the influence of malevolent entities that had taken possession of his body.

This defense strategy was unprecedented. 

Never before had a court in the United States been asked to consider demonic possession a viable defense for a crime. 

The concept was, and still is, a contentious one. 

It challenges our understanding of personal responsibility and the nature of criminal culpability. It also blurs the natural and supernatural line, forcing the court to venture into uncharted territory.

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The defense’s claim hinged on the alleged experiences of David Glatzel, Johnson’s girlfriend’s younger brother. 

According to the defense, David had been the subject of multiple exorcisms in the months leading up to the murder. These exorcisms, they claimed, were performed in response to a series of disturbing events that suggested demons possessed David.

In an act of desperation or perhaps misguided bravery, Johnson had allegedly invited the demons plaguing David to possess him instead. 

Therefore, his lawyers argued that this was when Johnson became a victim himself, a puppet controlled by demonic forces. These same forces, they claimed, were responsible for the violent act Johnson was accused of committing.

The introduction of this defense strategy marked a turning point in the case. 

What had started as a straightforward murder trial was now a battleground for a larger debate about the nature of evil, the existence of the supernatural, and the extent of personal responsibility. 

The stage was set for a trial that would shock America.

The Glatzel Family and the Supernatural

In the months leading up to the murder, the Glatzel family found themselves in the throes of a terrifying ordeal. 

Their youngest member, David Glatzel, was allegedly plagued by disturbing visions and physical manifestations of a supernatural nature. 

Desperate and frightened, the family sought help from various sources, ultimately crossing paths with Ed and Lorraine Warren, renowned paranormal investigators.

David’s experiences began innocuously enough.

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He reported seeing an old man, his skin appearing burnt and his shirt torn at the elbow, who issued a chilling warning: “Beware.” 

However, these visions soon escalated in intensity. 

David described being visited by a “beast” who spoke in Latin and threatened to steal his soul. 

The family reported inexplicable phenomena in their home, including objects moving on their own and David exhibiting strange behavior, such as growling, hissing, and speaking in unknown voices.

Ed and Lorraine Warren’s Involvement in the Case

The Warrens, self-proclaimed demonologists, were no strangers to the supernatural. 

In fact, the tow had been involved in numerous high-profile paranormal investigations, including the infamous Amityville haunting, the Enfield poltergeist, the Perron family haunting, the Snedeker House poltergeist, and the mysterious Union Cemetery White Lady. 

When the Glatzel family contacted them, they took the case seriously and began a thorough investigation.

Their conclusion was as shocking as it was terrifying: David Glatzel was under the influence of multiple demonic entities. The Warrens claimed that David was possessed, a victim of malevolent forces beyond human comprehension. 

They also believed that an exorcism, a religious rite intended to drive out demonic entities, was necessary to save the boy.

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren
This photo taken on March 19, 1981, shows Ed and Lorraine Warren heading to Danbury Superior Court. It was an important day as a grand jury indicted Arne Cheyenne Johnson for the killing of Alan Bono on February 16, 1981, in Brookfield, Connecticut. Alan Bono was 40 years old at the time of his death. Image credit: Bettmann Archive.

The Exorcisms and Arne Johnson’s Alleged Possession

The exorcisms performed on David were intense affairs. Four local St. Joseph’s Catholic Church priests were involved, along with the Warrens. 

The rites were grueling, with David reportedly exhibiting violent reactions. He would kick, bite, spit, and utter terrible words. His family claimed that invisible hands would strangle him, his body contorting in ways that seemed impossible.

During these exorcisms, Arne Cheyenne Johnson was often present. 

In fact, according to witnesses, he was deeply involved in the attempts to free David from his alleged possession. 

And so, in a bizarre move that would later be central to his defense, Johnson reportedly challenged the demonic entities, inviting them to leave David and possess him instead.

According to the Glatzel family and the Warrens, Johnson’s challenge was accepted. 

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And soon after the exorcisms, as the Warrens and Johnson’s family reported, he exhibited apparent signs of demonic possession on multiple occasions. 

He would enter trance-like states, during which he would growl, hiss, and exhibit the same strange behavior that David had shown. These episodes were sporadic and unpredictable, adding a layer of fear and uncertainty to an already tense situation.

The alleged possession of Arne Johnson was a chilling development. 

It suggested that the supernatural forces at play were not confined to David Glatzel but could extend their influence to others. This claim would later form the basis of Johnson’s defense, marking a turning point in the case and setting the stage for a trial unlike any other.

The experiences of the Glatzel family and Arne Johnson challenged the boundaries of belief and understanding. 

They brought the supernatural into the spotlight, forcing a confrontation between the realms of the known and the unknown. 

As the trial approached, these events would be scrutinized, debated, and questioned, leaving a lasting impact on all those involved.

The trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson commenced later in 1981, capturing the attention of the nation and the world. 

The courtroom was abuzz with anticipation, curiosity, and a palpable sense of unease. The stage was set for a legal battle that would challenge the boundaries of law, belief, and understanding.

The prosecution presented a straightforward case arguing that in a fit of anger, Johnson had brutally murdered Alan Bono

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They pointed to the overwhelming physical evidence, the multiple eyewitness accounts, and even Johnson’s own admission at the scene. Their case was grounded in the tangible, the observable, and the undeniable.

The defense, however, ventured into uncharted territory. 

The Bizarre Defense Strategy and its Reception

Led by attorney Martin Minella, they presented a case that was as unprecedented as it was controversial, claiming that Johnson was not guilty by reason of demonic possession. 

According to Minella, at the time of the murder, Johnson was under the influence of demonic entities and was not in control of his actions.

As expected, this unusual defense strategy was met with skepticism and disbelief, both within the courtroom and beyond. 

During the legal proceedings, the honorable court was presented with a plethora of ideas and beliefs typically associated with religion and the supernatural. 

The highly-skilled defense team called upon several credible witnesses to testify about the supposed possession and exorcisms, including the Glatzel family and the well-known and reputable paranormal investigators, the Warrens.

The Warrens, in particular, provided compelling yet controversial testimony, discussing the exorcisms performed on David Glatzel, Johnson’s confrontation with the demons, and his subsequent possession. 

Despite being dismissed by skeptics, their testimony added an element of suspense and intrigue to the trial, leaving many in attendance on the edge of their seats. 

Overall, the court was presented with a complex and fascinating case, with the testimonies of the witnesses contributing to a nuanced understanding of the issues at hand.

Arne Cheyenne Johnson escorted at the courthouse
The Arne Cheyenne Johnson trial started on October 28, 1981. The jury deliberated for 15 hours over three days before convicting Johnson of first-degree manslaughter on November 24, 1981. He was sentenced to 10-20 years in prison but served only five. Image credit: AP.

The Verdict and Sentencing

However, despite the defense’s efforts, the court was not swayed. 

The judge ruled that demonic possession could not be proven in a court of law and was, therefore, inadmissible as a defense. This ruling was a significant blow to the defense, effectively dismantling their strategy.

With the demonic possession defense off the table, the trial proceeded along more conventional lines. 

The focus shifted back to the events of February 16, 1981, and the actions of Arne Johnson. The defense was left to argue that Johnson had acted in self-defense, an ultimately unsuccessful claim.

The verdict came as a shock to those who had followed the case. 

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Arne Cheyenne Johnson was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison, although he would serve only five years of this sentence.

The trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson was a landmark case, not for its outcome, but for the questions it raised and the boundaries it pushed. 

The Aftermath

The conclusion of the Arne Cheyenne Johnson trial marked the end of a legal saga, but it was far from the end of the story. 

The individuals involved, the community, and the public at large were left to grapple with the implications of the case and its unprecedented defense strategy.

For Johnson, the trial’s aftermath was a time of adjustment and reflection. 

After serving five years of his sentence, he was released from prison. He went on to marry Debbie Glatzel and, by all accounts, has led a quiet life since his release. 

However, the shadow of his past continues to loom large, a constant reminder of a chapter of his life marked by tragedy and the supernatural.

The Glatzel family and the Warrens also faced significant changes in the wake of the trial. 

The Glatzels, once a private family, found themselves in the public eye. Their claims of demonic possession and involvement in the trial attracted both support and criticism. 

On the other hand, the Warrens, already well-known figures in the world of paranormal investigation, saw their profile rise even further as the Johnson case added to their reputation, cementing their status as leading figures in the field.

Arne Johnson case in newspapers
Newspapers reported the case as the first in the United States where the defense sought to prove innocence based on demonic possession. The trial attracted global media attention, earning notoriety due to its unique defense and the subsequent media blitz led by the Warrens and their agents.

Overwhelming Media and Public Attention

The public reaction to the trial was a mix of fascination, skepticism, and outright disbelief. 

However, the case also sparked a renewed interest in the supernatural, with many drawn to the chilling narrative and the questions it raised about the nature of evil and the unseen forces that may exist beyond our understanding.

The media attention surrounding the case was intense. 

The trial, famously known as “The Devil Made Me Do It” case, received a lot of attention from national and international news outlets, and it has become a part of popular culture. 

It inspired many books and movies, such as Gerald Brittle’s “The Devil in Connecticut,” which the Warrens helped create. 

The case was recently featured in “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” the third movie in the Conjuring series. 

For me, it’s fascinating to see how the Arne Cheyenne Johnson trial continues to captivate and intrigue people, reminding us of the unknown and supernatural.

With its unique defense strategy and chilling narrative, the Arne Cheyenne Johnson case had far-reaching implications, both within the legal system and in society.

From a legal perspective, the case challenged the boundaries of criminal defense. 

The introduction of demonic possession as a defense was unprecedented and controversial. It forced the court to grapple with concepts traditionally confined to religion and the supernatural. 

While the defense was ultimately deemed inadmissible, the case sparked discussions about the nature of personal responsibility and how external influences, supernatural or otherwise, could be considered in a court of law.

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The case also highlighted the tension between the legal system’s reliance on empirical evidence and the subjective nature of religious and supernatural beliefs. 

It raised questions about the role of the court in adjudicating matters of belief and the extent to which the legal system can and should accommodate such beliefs.

Ultimately, The Arne Cheyenne Johnson case captured the public’s imagination, fueling a fascination with the paranormal. 

It prompted discussions about the existence of demons, the efficacy of exorcisms, and the potential influence of supernatural forces on human behavior. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Arne Johnson?

Arne Cheyenne Johnson is an American man known for his involvement in the first court case in the U.S., where the defense sought to prove innocence based on the defendant’s claim of demonic possession. Johnson was accused of killing his landlord, Alan Bono, in 1981.

What was the outcome of the Arne Johnson murder case?

Arne Johnson was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter for the death of Alan Bono. The court did not accept the defense’s argument of demonic possession. Johnson was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison but served only five years of his sentence.

How did the Arne Johnson case impact the legal system?

The Arne Johnson case challenged the legal system by introducing the concept of demonic possession as a defense. Although the court did not accept this defense, the case sparked discussions about the nature of personal responsibility and how external influences, supernatural or otherwise, could be considered in a court of law.

What were the circumstances surrounding the Arne Johnson murder?

The murder occurred on February 16, 1981, following an argument between Arne Johnson and Alan Bono. Johnson, allegedly possessed by demons, attacked Bono with a 5-inch pocket knife, leading to Bono’s death. The defense claimed that Johnson was not in control of his actions due to his demonic possession.