The Death of Pastor Kenneth Johnson

Suspects Claim a Drug Deal Gone Bad

Craig and Kelley
Jordan Craig and Steven Kelley. Police Mug Shots

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2014, the body of war veteran and associate minister Kenneth Johnson was found in a ditch in Chattanooga. Police said he had obvious signs and trauma and had been beaten to death.

The investigation led to a north Georgia couple who told police that Johnson's death was the result of a drug deal gone bad after Johnson demanded sexual favors from the woman in exchange for the drugs.

But, the couple did not get their stories straight.

Here are the latest developments in the Kenneth Johnson case:

Trial Date Set in Pastor's Death

Nov. 12, 2015 - A trial date has been set for a man and woman charged with the murder and aggravated battery of a Chattanooga pastor in November 2014. Steven Kelley and Jordan Craig will go on trial for the first-degree murder in the death of Kenneth Johnson on May 3, 2016, a judge ruled.

Johnson, an associate minister at Mount Canaan Baptist Church, was killed during a robbery, police said, after he met Craig, 27, and Kelley, 23, to try to offer help to the couple.

Court papers reveal that Kelley beat the pastor to death, left his body in a ditch off Blackford Street, and the couple then ransacked his car.

Police found Johnson's cell phone in the vehicle and traced text messages on it to Craig and Kelley, who has no prior arrest record, while Craig has a long record of arrests which include domestic aggravated assault, theft, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct charges.

A pretrial conference is schedule before Judge Tom Greenholtz on March 14.

Couple Charged in Minister's Death

Nov 12, 2014 - Police arrested a north Georgia couple in the death of a Chattanooga man who was found beaten to death in a ditch. Steven Kelley, 22, of Ringgold,and Jordan Craig, 26 of Flinstone, are both charged with first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery in the death of Kenneth Johnson, 59.

Police said when they found Johnson's body, they also recovered his cell phone on which they found a text message about meeting in an alley. Investigators called the number and found that the text message was sent from Craig.

Craig later told police that she arranged to meet with Johnson to purchase narcotics, but that he asked her to come alone. Suspicious, Craig said she brought along her boyfriend and dropped Kelley off near her scheduled meeting place with Johnson.

Johnson Wanted Sexual Favors

She told police that Johnson wanted sexual favors in exchange for the drugs. He asked to see her breasts and vagina, Craig told police. He asked if he could touch her, but she refused.

Craig told investigators that after Johnson propositioned her, Kelley approached the scene and Johnson attacked him. Kelley was only trying to protect her, she told police.

But, Kelley told investigators a different story, they said. Kelley told police that he hid in the backseat of the car as she met Johnson for the drug deal. He said he got out of the car when Johnson propositioned Craig and Johnson attacked him with a crowbar.

No Wounds, No Drugs Found

Investigators found no evidence that Kelley had been physically attacked.

He had a small scratch on his forehead, but no bruising on his body from being hit by a crowbar.

The police also found no evidence of any illegal drugs at the scene. They did report, however, that Johnson's vehicle had been ransacked and his keys taken.

Because of the conflicting stories, police decided to detain Craig and Kelley. The have since been charged with murder and are being held on $1 million bond each.

Congregation Shaken by Allegations

Johnson, an associate minister at the small, predominately black Mount Canaan Baptist Church, also volunteered with a prison outreach ministry where he used his experience as a former convict to help others. Members of his congregation said Johnson was known for helping others who were in need.

But, the small congregation was shaken by the accusations of a drug deal gone bad.

"We pray that the allegations are not true. But whatever the case, Kenneth Johnson was a real man. He was a man that impacted lives. He was my friend and we're supporting this family," said Pastor Dr. Ternae T. Jordan.

"We have no way of really knowing what happened because we weren't there. Only God knows what happened," said Minister Janice Smith. "We know Kenneth's family is not the only one that is hurting. But there are two other families somewhere in this city that are devastated also."