Convicted Cop Killer, Triple Murderer Dies in Prison at 74

RAIFORD, FL -- A man who murdered three people, including a Polk County sheriff's deputy, died an old man in prison despite being sentenced to death for his crimes.

According to evidence presented at his trial, Paul B. Johnson robbed and fatally shot a cab driver, William Evans, just after midnight on January 9, 1981 and set the taxi on fire. He then got a ride and shot Ray Beasley. When passenger Amy Reid ran to get help, Deputy Theron Burnham responded. Johnson shot him to death with his own weapon, which was never recovered. Johnson was captured the next day.

Johnson was sentenced to death in 1981, but died while receiving medical care at a hospital last week at age 74. He spent more than half his life behind bars but never faced execution.

Current Polk Sheriff Grady Judd says Burnham was his good friend. Judd was one of two deputies who took Johnson to jail. "The truth is, he should have been executed by the state a long time ago," Judd says in a statement. "Ultimately, there is one final judgement... I doubt that goes well for him." Judd says appeals and changes in sentencing guidelines allowed Johnson to turn a death sentence into a life sentence.

Photos: Polk Sheriff's Office

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