A beloved Stone County woman found with her head detached was assaulted multiple times, the investigation shows.
Crime scene evidence shows signs of violence inside the home of 51-year-old Sherry Johnson, the Hattiesburg High guidance counselor whose torso was found in her back yard on Johnson Road early Wednesday evening, Stone County Sheriff’s Capt. Ray Boggs said Monday.
“We don’t know if she was killed in her home and taken outside or if more than one person was involved,” Boggs said.
A head found near her body is believed to be hers, but investigators said they are trying to obtain dental records to prove it is her head, he said. Her body was intact except for her head.
Stone County Coroner Wayne Flurry was able to identify Johnson from her torso.
Full autopsy results are pending, but she died of blunt force trauma to her head, he said. Evidence indicates she had been dead two or three days before deputies found her remains while responding to a relative's call to check on her.
Johnson also was assaulted multiple times.
The weapon used to detach her head has not been found, Boggs said.
Her 29-year-old son, Terrell Johnson, is being held with no bond on a first-degree murder charge.
“She loved her son,” Boggs said.
“Unconditionally,” added Sheriff’s Lt. Amanda Schonewitz.
Her son has said his mother left with friends to go on a cruise, Boggs said. Her close family, though, knew nothing about a cruise.
"I must have been to a hundred crime scenes in my career but never one like this," Boggs said. "It was heinous."
Sherry Johnson was last seen after going to church in Hattiesburg. She and a cousin usually go to church together. After church, she and someone had a question about the Bible and planned to get together later Sunday to research it, but that didn’t happen, he said.
Sherry Johnson had been a counselor at Hattiesburg High since 2014.
Before working in Hattiesburg, Sherry Johnson worked in the Harrison County School District from 2007 to 2014, said Trang Pham Bui, school district spokesperson. During that time, Johnson worked at North Gulfport Middle School, part of the county school district, from 2010 to 2014.
She also had worked at a school in Mobile.
Elder Darryl L. Williams Sr. and his wife, Katherine, were Johnson's next-door neighbors when Johnson and her son lived in Mobile through Terrell Johnson's middle school years. His wife and Sherry Johnson remained close friends and stayed in touch.
Terrell was around the same age as the Williamses' son. They played football together. They had sleepovers together.
"We were always at their house or they were at our house," Williams said.
The Johnsons moved to Stone County near Wiggins and Terrell Johnson joined the military after high school, Williams said.
Boggs described Sherry Johnson as "a really good lady. A really good mother, and really loved her family," Boggs said.
“We’re in the compassion mode along with continuing to investigate."
Boggs is related to the mother and son — they’re cousins.
“A sweet lady, a caring lady who always brought on a smile,” Boggs said.
She came from a tight-knit family, most of whom live on the same street. Johnson's sister and two of her brothers live near her on Johnson Road, Boggs said.
“We are trying to show compassion for the victim’s family,” Boggs said. “Everyone we interview tears up.”
Johnson comes from the type of family that follows "the old ways" of sitting outside on Sunday afternoon and talking, he said.
A family member grills out a lot and all the family gets together to eat, Boggs said.
"The family is still in disbelief," he said. "So are many people around the area who knew Sherry are in disbelief."
A date has not been set for a preliminary hearing.