Charges filed in 2009 killing of driver hit by gunfire on Bruce R. Watkins Drive

09/13/2013 11:55 AM

09/14/2013 11:19 AM

Four years ago, a sobbing 14-year-old girl stood on a Kansas City street and pleaded with police to find the person who fatally shot her mother as they drove home from a Starlight Theatre show.

On Friday, the now 18-year-old young woman stood with authorities as they announced that a suspect had been charged.

“These charges are a long time in coming,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said. “It is never too late to bring justice to a family.”

A Jackson County grand jury indicted Calah D. Johnson, 32, on Friday on a charge of second-degree murder in the July 17, 2009, killing of Deanna L. Lieber, an attorney who served as general counsel for the Kansas Department of Education.

Johnson, who is serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for cocaine trafficking, also faces a count of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle.

Lieber, 45, of rural Lawrence, had just attended a Starlight show with her daughter and her mother-in-law. Lieber was driving on Bruce R. Watkins Drive at 59th Street when a bullet struck her in the neck.

Prosecutors said Friday that Lieber was the unintended victim of a bullet fired by the occupant of one car at occupants of another car as they drove toward the intersection where Lieber also was.

A red-light camera captured the incident. According to court records, detectives could see the window of Lieber’s vehicle shatter. Two other vehicles then were seen as they entered the intersection from 59th Street.

The cameras captured still images of the license plates of those two vehicles, according to court documents.

Detectives tracked down the vehicles’ owners, including a woman who said she had loaned Johnson, who was her boyfriend, her car on the night of the shooting.

“She said he even apologized because he had gotten a red-light ticket at the intersection,” according to the documents.

The owner of the other vehicle told police that she and her boyfriend were followed by another vehicle after a man with “light-colored eyes” acted in a threatening manner. The woman said that as they approached Watkins Drive, somebody in that vehicle started firing shots. According to federal court documents, Johnson is nicknamed “Green Eyes.”

Last year, a witness identified Johnson as the person who fired shots that night, according to court documents. And in July, another witness told police that Johnson had said that he “shot the schoolteacher in July 2009.”

Baker said Friday that the charges were the result of Kansas City police detectives “who were not willing to let it die.”