Back in March 2015, when we first told you about the arrest of Lucas Johnson for the murder of Edward Zimmerman, authorities portrayed it as a marijuana murder.
And indeed, more than a dozen cannabis plants were stolen from Zimmerman's home.
But now that Johnson has pleaded guilty to the crime and received a sentence measured in decades, it appears that the marijuana may have been tangential to the actual motive.
In addition, shocking details about what took place have emerged. Among them: Zimmerman's nude body was found wrapped in plastic and left in a chicken coop.
As we noted in our previous coverage, the first report on the case from Steamboat Today, published on March 3 of last year, focused on the disappearance of Zimmerman, seen in this family photo shared with the paper:
Even at that early stage, however, law enforcement doubted that he'd simply taken off of his own free will.
Zimmerman's sister, Robin Mizerak, told the paper that he was reported missing the previous Saturday, February 28, after he didn't show up for work shifts at his main job, as a server at Three Peaks Grill, for two days straight.
She noted that while his dog was at his home on Yellow Jacket Drive, near the community of Stagecoach, Zimmerman was nowhere to be found.
She added that fifteen of Zimmerman's marijuana plants had been taken, with an additional twenty knocked over — one reason that agents with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations were treating his place as a crime scene.
Here's an interactive graphic from Steamboat Today showing the location of Zimmerman's residence.
Then, on the 3rd, Johnson was arrested in Phippsburg on suspicion of car theft.
By Thursday, a first-degree-murder charge had been added to Johnson's rap sheet.
In addition, his wife, Kristen Johnson, was taken into custody on a conspiracy-to-commit-first-degree-murder count, plus one pertaining to child abuse.
At that point, authorities weren't saying if they'd located Zimmerman's body. But on Friday, March 6, they revealed that remains found in an initially undisclosed spot had been identified as Zimmerman's.
That location turned out to be a chicken coop outside Zimmerman's home. His body was naked and wrapped in plastic fastened with black duct tape.
Meanwhile, more information emerged about Lucas Johnson's criminal past. In 2006, he was arrested in Florida for possession of at least twenty grams of marijuana, resulting in this photo...
Around eight years later, in Georgia circa April 2014, WMGT revealed that Johnson had been busted following a traffic stop.
Found in the vehicle, according to the station, was "a small amount of heroin, two to three pounds of marijuana and $100,130.00 in cash."
Here's his booking photo from that escapade:
The station also made mention of drug-related beefs in Kansas and New York in addition to the Florida offense.
On top of that, Steamboat Today noted an aggravated-assault charge out of Utah.
Meanwhile, Zimmerman's family launched a GoFundMe campaign to pay for his funeral expenses. The page's introduction read:
Our dear friend Ed Zimmerman lost his life in a very tragic way. He was a kind loving father, the most giving man, who loved everyone he knew in the community. We are asking for prayers and your support for the family at this time, any donations to the Zimmerman family for funeral cost would be greatly appreciated. Thank you all for your support for the Zimmerman family.
The following November, Kristen Johnson entered a guilty plea to far lesser charges than the ones on which she was initially booked — false reporting to authorities and obstruction of a peace officer — and was sentenced to six months in jail, which she had already served. Her attorney, Tina Tussey, told Steamboat Today that Johnson knew nothing about the murder, but admitted to "cleaning out a car that could have contained evidence" and "not telling authorities who her husband had been with" when "she actually knew."
Tussey added that Lucas Johnson had been helping Zimmerman grow marijuana, which the latter was using for medical purposes. But he stopped working for him a few weeks before Zimmerman disappeared.
According to a friend, the break had taken place after a disagreement over money.
The case seemed headed for trial — but last week, Johnson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and attempted escape from Routt County Jail. His sentence, handed out yesterday: 34 years behind bars.
We send our sincere condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Edward Zimmerman.
Look below to see a brief WMGT report from last year, followed by booking photos for both Kristen and Lucas Johnson.
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