Charges filed, details revealed in Carter County murder

Thursday, June 25, 2009 ~ Updated 2:42 PM

VAN BUREN, Mo. -- An Ellsinore, Mo., woman was charged Wednesday with murdering her live-in boyfriend after the couple got into a verbal argument as she was preparing to leave for her father's funeral.

Barbara Ann Johnson, 51, was charged with the Class A felony of first-degree murder by Carter County Prosecuting Attorney Ernie Richardson.

The complaint on file with the court alleges on Tuesday Johnson, "after deliberation, knowingly caused the death of Harvey Edward Cookston by shooting him."

The charge stems from an investigation by the Carter County Sheriff's Department and Missouri State Highway Patrol and Troop G's Division of Drug and Crime Control.

Authorities learned of Cookston's death at about 11:15 a.m. Tuesday after Johnson went to a neighbor's house and told him what happened, asking him to accompany her back to her County Road 321 home. The neighbor, who lived about three miles away, subsequently called the sheriff's department.

It is believed the shooting occurred between 9 and 9:30 a.m., according to a sheriff's department spokesman.

According to Trooper A.D. Ladd's probable cause affidavit, she contacted Johnson at the scene.

Ladd said Johnson told her that she and her boyfriend had been in a "verbal argument (Tuesday) morning, while she was trying to leave to attend her father's funeral. I then asked her what happened, and she stated 'It was either me or him, and it was him.'"

Cookston, the spokesman said, allegedly wasn't going to let Johnson go to the funeral

Johnson, after being told of her rights and placed in Ladd's patrol car, also reported "'I think I shot him twice.'"

Cookston's body, according to Ladd, was found inside the residence.

Cookston, whose body reportedly was found in the kitchen, was pronounced dead at 12:20 p.m. by Carter County Corner Dennis McSpadden.

Johnson, who was transported to the Carter County Jail, later was interviewed by Patrol Sgt. W.W. Widemann and Cpl. E.W. Hackman.

During that interview, Ladd said, Johnson reported she and Cookston were "arguing it he living room when she walked into the bathroom with the intent of getting her pistol and shooting the victim.

"However, once in the bathroom she 'chickened out' and returned to the living room and they argued for about another five minutes when she decided to return to the bathroom and get her pistol."

Ladd said Johnson did return to the bathroom and retrieved her pistol from her purse.

Johnson, she said, then walked through the bedroom and into the living room, where she "cocked the pistol at the victim and pulled the trigger ... She then shot him a second time."

Johnson is being held in the Carter County Jail on $500,000 bond.

Pertinent addresses:

Van Buren, Mo.

Ellsinore, Mo.

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