Slain Texas CO laid to rest

With a bagpipe playing Amazing Grace, a crowd of family members and officers said goodbye to Marianne Johnson


By Bill Hanna
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

ABILENE, Texas — With a bagpipe playing Amazing Grace, a crowd of family members and law enforcement officers said goodbye Friday to corrections officer Marianne Johnson, who was attacked on July 16 while working at the French Robertson Unit in Abilene.

Inside First Baptist Church in Mansfield, Johnson was remembered as a devoted mother and grandmother.

Senior warden Ronald Fox said Johnson had a constant smile on her face and was popular among her co-workers at the state prison.

“She had a special way about her,” Fox said. “She was a person who deeply cared and liked others. She will be greatly missed.”

The funeral was the latest in Dallas-Fort Worth for those who work in law enforcement, following services for the five Dallas officers killed July 7 by a sniper. Johnson was attacked by a prison inmate, authorities say.

During the somber service, a color guard lined the front walls of the church and many corrections officers, dressed in their gray uniforms, quietly wiped away tears.

Johnson, 55 was found unresponsive at about 3 a.m. July 16 in the kitchen area of the prison and was later transported to Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene, where she was pronounced dead.

Dillion Gage Compton, 21, an inmate who was assigned to the kitchen area, is accused of attacking Johnson as she entered a storage area near the kitchen, according to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice news release.

Compton was previously convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 14 in Dallas County and was sent to prison on Dec. 13, 2011. He has been transferred from the French Robertson Unit to an undisclosed maximum-security TDCJ unit.

The French Robertson Unit is an all-male inmate prison and has a maximum capacity of 2,984 inmates. The prison has 510 corrections officers and 106 non-security personnel.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Office of the Inspector General will present a case against Compton to the Taylor County district attorney once its investigation is complete.

In photos shown during the funeral service, Johnson was shown smiling with her four grandchildren and decked out in Green Bay Packers and Texas Rangers T-shirts. The Packers and Rangers were her two favorite sports teams.

Johnson was born in Stockton, Calif., and graduated from Tracy High School, just outside of Stockton.

She would later move to Texas, which she fell in love with, said Kyle Walker, interim pastor at First Baptist Church in Mansfield.

“Her sister said it wasn’t long before she picked up the Texas accent,” Walker said.

The pastor described Johnson as outgoing and quick to make friends.

“She would do anything she could to help others in need, especially having a sensitivity for the elderly,” Walker said. “Marianne loved people. She loved people unconditionally. As her sister said, ‘She had a big heart and a big smile.’”

Her son, Nick Johnson, also praised his mother.

“Nick said she was the best mom he could have ever asked for,” Walker said.

The pastor said Johnson was aware of the danger of working inside a prison.

“No doubt Marianne knew the risk that she exposed herself to, that the job entailed, and yet she did it anyway to serve and protect the public from the danger that she willingly exposed herself to,” Walker said. “Is that not the definition of a hero?”

Walker also took a moment to praise the prison guards and law enforcement officers attending the funeral.

“By the way, for all of you in uniform and law enforcement of any form, can I just say thank you for your service?” Walker said. “I realize the day and time we live in now is especially difficult as you serve. That the world may seem arrayed against you when you go out and put your life on the line, but can I stand here as a pastor, as a member of this church, this community and this state and say the freedom we enjoy each and every day, the comforts that we have, is due to your service.”

Johnson was buried Friday at Skyvue Memorial Gardens in Mansfield.

Copyright 2016 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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