EVERETT — Duc Dong walked into a Broadway mini mart just before closing time on a Monday night in 2019 to buy some green tea. He walked out empty-handed, instead mentally carrying a memory that will haunt him forever.
Dong walked in on a bloody scene. The market’s owner, Jae An, 58, was lying motionless on the floor of the mini mart. He had been stabbed to death.
A Snohomish County Superior Court jury will decide if Michealob Johnson, 27, of Everett, is guilty of aggravated first-degree murder for the killing of An in the spring of 2019. Defense attorneys will argue Johnson should be convicted of a lesser charge.
Corrections officers escorted the Everett man into a courtroom late Friday morning and removed his handcuffs. The defendant — wearing a navy blue button-up shirt and green pants — took a seat between his two defense attorneys. Long dark-brown hair, eyeglasses and a mask obscured much of his face.
In her opening statement, defense attorney Amy Jones pointed to the defendant’s abusive upbringing to explain his actions. She said the defendant suffered from complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
“There is no question that Mr. An was killed that night, and that is Michealob’s fault,” Jones said to the jury. “But he is not guilty in premeditating the murder and death of Mr. An.”
Deputy prosecutor Cheryl Johnson argued the defendant’s statements during interviews with law enforcement showed his actions were premeditated.
“I know that every day I wake up, I want to destroy or kill something,” Johnson quoted the defendant as she spoke aloud in court. “… He told us. He showed us. He made a choice to murder Mr. An.”
The defendant had shopped at the mini mart at 6901 Broadway about a half-dozen times in the past, according to his statements during a police interview.
On April 22, 2019, he hatched a plan to rob the store in order to pay his rent, according to court papers. He put on a clear poncho and blue latex gloves before he climbed out his bedroom window so his roommates wouldn’t know he was missing. Armed with three knives, he walked a few blocks to the mini mart. He arrived around 10 p.m., he told detectives.
He went inside the store, picked up a bottle of water and set it on the counter.
High-quality security footage showed An asked Johnson if that was all he wanted.
“Yeah, just the water,” the defendant replied on the audio and video recording.
The defendant was enraged by that smile, he reported during a recorded interview with law enforcement.
“How can anyone smile when someone else’s life is being so permanently (expletive) over at this moment,” the defendant reportedly said. “I got pissed and that’s when I went from trying to rob to just jamming the dagger into his throat.”
Security footage showed Johnson attacked An and never demanded cash.
The killer confessed to his roommates back at home. They called the police.
An lived with his wife and kids down the street from the food mart. Five days after An’s death, over 100 people attended a candlelight vigil to share memories of the man.
“Jae and his wife have been nothing but kindness,” Paul Stoot Sr., a friend of An, said to the crowd at the vigil. “Nothing but common everyday citizens, trying to support themselves and make an earnest living.”
Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; email@example.com; Twitter: @reporterellen