MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Edward Johnson, an inmate at the Stillwater prison, pleaded guilty Thursday morning to murdering corrections officer Joseph Gomm in 2018.
At a pre-trial hearing, Johnson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the July 2018 beating in which he attacked Gomm with a hammer in the prison workshop. Gomm, 45, died at the scene; he was not armed.
On Friday morning while under oath, Johnson admitted he checked out a hammer and struck Gomm two times, with the intent of killing him.
"Today marks another step in the long healing process for those impacted by this senseless act, and it reminds us of the bravery and commitment of all Corrections Officers serving the State of Minnesota. My thoughts are with the family of Joseph Gomm and his colleagues at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater," Gov. Tim Walz said.
In Minnesota, a first-degree murder conviction is punishable by life in prison. Johnson, 44, is currently serving a sentence for having his ex-girlfriend murdered in 2020.
"Nothing the criminal justice system can do would bring back Correctional Officer Joseph Gomm. Mr. Gomm was a kindhearted, beloved man whose life was needlessly cut short. The Washington County Attorney's Office continues to express its condolences to the Gomm family, as well as Mr. Gomm's friends and colleagues at the Department of Corrections. We are pleased that Mr. Johnson has pleaded guilty and will remain in prison for the rest of his life," Assistant Washington County Attorney Nick Hydukovich said.
The family decided to forgo victim impact statements. Johnson was immediately sentenced to life in prison, and the other two counts of premeditated murder and second-degree assault were dismissed.
"Edward Johnson's plea and sentencing for the murder of DOC Corrections Officer Joseph Gomm is bittersweet -- though it brings a fitting end to the judicial process, it does not relieve the very real pain and loss experienced by Joe's immediate family, friends, and co-workers," Department of Corrections commissioner Paul Schnell said. "Officer Gomm was an honorable public servant not because of how he died, but because of the way he lived – his memory and sacrifice should be forever honored."
"I was holding my breath until [Johnson] said he pleaded guilty," said Angie Wood, Gomm's sister.
Audrey Cone, also a sister, says she never thought she would hear Johnson admit he intended to murder Gomm.
For Wood, Cone and their husbands, the guilty plea and immediate sentencing brings relief, closure and a return to a life without hearings and trial preparation.
"We're basically emotional pinballs going back and forth," said Chris Cone, Gomm's brother-in-law. "Every day it's a new direction."
Audrey says after the sentencing she heard a Carrie Underwood song on the radio called "See You Again."
"It was just like Joe was looking down on us saying thank you for fighting for me," she said. "It was a good relief that Joe knows we're not giving up on him and he'll always be remembered. He'll never be forgotten."
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