Prosecutors charge Seattle man in 1979 slaying of Lynnwood woman

EVERETT — Susan Schwarz likely was shot to death because she helped a friend.

A high school friend had confided in Schwarz that she was being abused by her husband. Schwarz helped the woman move into a shelter until she could leave the state with the couple’s young son.

Prosecutors allege that Gregory Duwayne Johnson resented Schwarz and blamed her for his marital problems. He called her a meddler. Prosecutors allege several months after his wife left him, Johnson slipped into Schwarz’s home while she was showering, tied her up and killed her.

Johnson was charged Thursday with murder, three decades after Schwarz was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds to the head.

Snohomish County cold case detectives arrested Johnson, 57, last month outside his Seattle apartment. They were contacted by a prison inmate who saw Schwarz’s picture on the queen of hearts card in the county’s first-ever deck of cold case playing cards. The man told investigators that Johnson admitted to him that he killed Schwarz on Oct. 22, 1979, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul wrote in court papers.

Detectives also tracked down a woman who admitted that she was in the house when Schwarz, 24, was shot. The woman, who was 18 at the time of the killing, was dating Johnson. She told detectives he beat her and she had been afraid to leave him.

She admitted that she often acted as the lookout when Johnson broke into homes. On the day that Schwarz was killed, Johnson told her they were going to the house of a person who owed him money.

The woman told detectives that Johnson grabbed a woman out of the shower and pistol whipped her. He wrestled the woman to the ground and tied her hands behind her back, court papers said. She begged for her life.

The witness said Johnson shot Schwarz in the head. That’s when he noticed the teen standing there. He fired a second shot and then asked the teen to check to see if the woman had a pulse. She said Johnson ordered her back to the car so he could clean up.

The witness, who is not named in charging documents, is not being treated as a suspect. She remains fearful of Johnson, who threatened to harm her and her family if she ever went to police, court papers said.

Johnson has been a suspect in the case since the beginning.

He was questioned about a week after the killing. He allegedly told investigators that he’d been fishing with his brother in Edmonds the day of the shooting. Detectives questioned him again in 1986 while he was serving time for a robbery.

That’s when he reportedly told police he dropped his brother and two other men outside a house on the day Schwarz was killed. He implicated his brother in the slaying.

Cold case detectives spoke with Johnson after interviewing the eyewitness. He initially denied knowing anything about the homicide. After detectives reminded him of what he’d told police in 1986, Johnson reiterated the story he gave back then.

Johnson has prior convictions for burglary and drugs.

This is the first charge filed in a cold case since detectives created the playing cards.

Earlier this month, sheriff’s detectives identified a suspect in the 1995 homicide of Patti Berry and the disappearance of Tracey Brazzel. They say forensic evidence links convicted sex offender Danny Giles to both cases. Giles currently is serving time in prison for an unrelated case. No charges have been filed against him.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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