Devout Mormon couple Tony and Katherine Butterfield were the epitome of unconditional love – devoted to each other and to their children, and dedicated to their religious faith.
And while they worked hard for their family, they also made sure there was plenty of fun along the way.
Tony, 31, and Katherine, 30, were a shining example of making the most of every day, and people aspired to the life they had carved out for themselves.
They lived in a suburban home in West Jordan, Utah, with their three children, aged four, two and six months.
They met while serving on missions for the Latter-day Saints, where they were assigned to spread the word of their faith. After their return, they soon married and started their family.
The couple had a successful garden landscaping business and renovated properties. Tony was an expert craftsman and Katherine helped out running the company.
Tony had earned the nickname “T-money” because he was always working hard and saving money to support his loved ones. And he’d already got his children doing little chores for money, to teach them good values.
But it wasn’t all work and no play for Tony, who was known for his goofy ways and was rarely heard to raise his voice.
Katherine, who had bright blue eyes and a huge smile, also brought happiness wherever she went. She would dance, sing and make sure her children were always busy making memories.
The couple were famed for hosting social events, ranging from games nights to their annual Halloween party.
But while Tony and Katherine were successful, it wasn’t about the money – they were driven by wanting the best for their family and security for their future. However, on the night of 17 April 2020, when Albert Enoch Johnson was driving to the Butterfields’ home, all he cared about was their wealth.
Johnson, 31, lived two miles away from the couple. He knew the Butterfields from trying unsuccessfully to get work with them, as he knew others who had. He needed money and with a gun by his side and a previous conviction for burglary, he had no qualms about demanding some cash.
Tony and Katherine were asleep when Johnson kicked down their front door, wearing a mask.
He confronted the couple with his gun, and home surveillance cameras captured him forcing Tony and Katherine out of bed and marching them downstairs in their pyjamas while their three children were sleeping in their rooms. Pointing the gun at Tony, Johnson told him that he “just wanted money”.
The terrified couple explained that they didn’t have much cash in the house and found all they could. Johnson was given $20 and two mobile phones and left, leaving Tony and Katherine deeply shaken.
As he escaped, Johnson cut through a neighbour’s garden and tossed the phones away. But when he got back to his car and took off his mask, he realised he’d dropped his car keys in the house – so he decided to go back.
When Johnson arrived at the Butterfields’ for the second time, just after 1am, Tony was standing on his doorstep. With Johnson no longer wearing his mask, Tony recognised him. He knew the man who had broken into his home and threatened his family.
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“Why, Albert, why?” Tony cried.
Johnson realised the mistake he’d made coming back.
Trying to defend his family and stop the invader coming back into his home, Tony grabbed a knife and attacked Johnson, who suffered a superficial stab wound to the chest.
As they fought in front of a hysterical Katherine, Johnson pulled out his gun and shot Tony in the head. Katherine started screaming and, fearful that neighbours would be alerted, Johnson shot her too, in the torso. He then grabbed his car keys and fled.
The neighbours had heard the gunshots and Katherine’s screams, and called 911. When officers arrived, they found Tony’s body in the back yard and Katherine was found just inside the doorway.
Both were dead.
Their children were thankfully unharmed, but their lives had changed forever…
Police found a bloody fingerprint on the front door and it was a match for Johnson. They went to arrest him but discovered he had already fled. He had returned home to his 29-year-old wife, Sina, at around 3am, taken a shower and changed his clothes. Johnson had told Sina that he’d hurt someone and “his life was over”.
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At first, Sina covered for him and helped to dispose of some evidence, including putting bloody clothing in a dumpster and cleaning blood from their home. Police arrested her for withholding “the whereabouts of the homicide suspect” and for falsifying her statement about what had happened.
With the community in shock in the wake of the killings, police held a press conference. “We do believe this was a home invasion,” they said, describing Tony and Katherine as innocent victims. “He was not a welcome guest there.”
The family released a statement describing Tony and Katherine as “incredible, Christ-like, kind, happy and loving parents, children, siblings and friends”. The double murder was one of the worst crimes the area had ever seen, and a donation page was set up on GoFundMe to raise money for their orphaned children.
On 22 April, police received tip-offs and Johnson was tracked down to Sacramento, California, where he was staying with people he knew. When officers moved in, he resisted arrest and suffered injuries as he was taken into custody.
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Johnson was returned to Utah, where he told police he had lashed out when Tony stabbed him, and he had targeted them because he “thought they had money”. He was charged with murder, robbery and firearms offences.
Three days later, Tony and Katherine were buried, and their service was live-streamed for the family, friends and church members who couldn’t attend due to Covid-19 restrictions. Tony was buried in a dark blue coffin, while Katherine was laid to rest in a light pink coffin.
The family stated they had no ill will towards the suspect, and that they had confidence justice would prevail.
“We invite all to live like Tony and Katherine,” the mourners were told. “Be the light, spread the light.”
In August, Sina Johnson was sentenced to probation on charges of obstruction of justice after covering for her husband.
Two months later, Johnson took a plea deal to avoid the death penalty. He pleaded guilty to murdering Tony and Katherine, as well as guilty to an earlier crime of robbing a convenience store in 2019.
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Johnson’s lawyer said his client was shocked by his own crime and felt remorse.
“Mr Johnson was not himself that night,” they said, adding that Johnson had been drinking and was acting impulsively. “To this day, he has a hard time believing he has done this.”
There were emotional victim impact statements that shared the pain of Tony and Katherine’s loved ones. Katherine’s sister Emily said Johnson had “torn up a beautiful family”. And Tony’s mother said her son and his wife “did not deserve to die that night”.
But they also spoke of their desire to forgive, as Tony and Katherine would have.
A shackled Johnson said, “I want to say thank you for praying for me. I am sorry.”
The judge told Johnson he appreciated his guilty plea, as it had saved Katherine and Tony’s families the distress of a lengthy trial. But he insisted the murders of the couple, who had been so loved and respected, deserved a fitting punishment.
“What you’ve done is the most serious crime that we have had to deal with in this state,” he told the convict. “These are wounds that will never heal.”
Johnson was handed two life sentences, with no chance of parole.
It was greed that drove Johnson to kill that night, and he targeted a couple who were all about giving.
Johnson’s dark impulses extinguished the light of a couple who only ever wanted to shine.
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