Lexington police file arrest warrant for murder of Alex Johnson, who disappeared in December

jmadden@herald-leader.comJanuary 21, 2014 

Lexington police have filed an arrest warrant for murder and have charged another man with kidnapping in the case of Alex Johnson, a Lexington man who has been missing since December.

Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said the missing-person case has been completed, and it is being converted to a homicide investigation.

No body has been found, but detectives issued an arrest warrant Monday. Roberts said the warrant charges someone with murder, but there could be additional charges. She would not release an identity.

"Doing so could compromise the investigation," Roberts said.

But Steven O'Daniel, a spokesman for Johnson's family, said police are looking for a man named Mark Taylor of Lexington.

In addition to the murder warrant, police arrested Timothy Ballard, charging him with complicity to kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

O'Daniel said the family had heard of Taylor and Ballard only in the last three weeks.

Court documents say Ballard, 42, assisted in the unlawful restraint and transport of Johnson and disposed of evidence. The offense is listed for Dec. 20, according to court documents.

Asked whether others could be arrested, Roberts — identifying only Ballard — said: "Those are the people who are personally connected to the homicide," but "there is more than meets the eye."

The investigation remains active.

Court documents say Ballard pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday during an arraignment. He was being held in the Fayette County Detention Center on a $253,000 bond. His next court date is scheduled for Jan. 29.

Ballard has been in Lexington since 2009 on parole from Alabama, Kentucky Department of Corrections spokesperson Lisa Lamb said in an email. He was released on parole Feb. 2, 2009, from Alabama after serving 17 years of a 25-year sentence for first-degree robbery.

Johnson, 32, a chef at the University of Kentucky, disappeared Dec. 20. His girlfriend said he ended a phone call with her by saying he needed to answer the door at his home on North Hanover Avenue.

Relatives became concerned when Johnson didn't return their calls or follow through with plans he had made with friends for that night. He also didn't attend a meeting at work the next day.

On Tuesday, Lee and Judy Johnson of Bowling Green, Alex's parents, released a statement through O'Daniel, a family friend.

The statement said the Johnson family "would like to thank all of Alex's friends, the Lexington police, the local media, and the people of Lexington who have helped and supported us in our search to find Alex. Please continue to keep him and us in your thoughts and prayers as we try to find him. We ask that you please respect our privacy as we continue to search for Alex."

Shortly after Johnson's disappearance, residents were concerned that the neighborhood wasn't safe. Roberts said people should know that Johnson's slaying "wasn't random." She stopped short of saying that Johnson and the murder suspect were friends.

"They knew each other," Roberts said. "I think it's important for people to realize this wasn't a stranger."

Justin Madden: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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