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Convicted killer faces death penalty trial in Sacramento

Bryan Cordell Johnson has already been convicted in one strangulation killing. On Friday, he was ordered to stand trial in a second – and faces the death penalty if he is found guilty in that one, prosecutors said.

Johnson, 49, is serving a 25-years-to-life term in prison for the November 2007 murder of Sofia Marta Marquez, 26, a transient whose body was found on an onramp to Highway 99 in south Sacramento.

Johnson has since been charged in the July 17, 2007, rape and murder of Robin Stephens, 42, in her Oak Hollow Drive apartment in Foothill Farms.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurie M. Earl issued the holding order Friday on Johnson after the testimony of sheriff’s Detective Brian Meux linked him to the strangulation of Stephens.

Meux cited the statements of several witnesses who told police that Johnson had made sexually suggestive remarks about Stephens in the days before she was slain and that he was seen near her apartment the night before her nude body was discovered in her residence.

“She was scared of him,” one witness told investigators that Stephens had told her before the killing, according to Meux’s testimony. Johnson, the witness said, “made a comment that he was going to creep through her window” and rape her, Meux testified.

Witnesses said that Johnson and Stephens had done crack cocaine together, according to Meux’s testimony.

Despite the witness statements investigators obtained in the period after Stephens’ death, they were not able to put together a case to conclusively pin responsibility on Johnson.

“We just didn’t have enough evidence to point toward a specific person,” Meux testified.

A DNA hit in July 2009 connected Johnson to the Marquez killing, sheriff’s officials said five years ago.

Deputy District Attorney Donell Slivka said Friday that Johnson’s genetic material was found underneath Marquez’s fingernails, although there was not enough evidence to add a sex count to the killing of the woman.

DNA from the Stephens case provided the link that tied Johnson to her sex killing, according to the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office.

Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

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