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Judge: No reduction in bond for murder suspect

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Posted: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:10 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Jade Ortego

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – A 21-year-old woman, suspected of involvement in the murder of Kimberly Quynhnhu Tran, was denied a reduction of her $100,000 bond despite presenting new information at a special hearing Monday.

The defendant, Bonnie Renee Johnson, shares capital murder charges with her husband, Oliver Julius Sowell, in connection with an April 2008 shooting in Killeen.

At the hearing, Johnson produced a letter from Sowell allegedly admitting guilt and stating that he threatened to kill her if she didn't participate.

On April 2, 2008, Tran was shot dead and another wounded in the 800 block of North Second Street in what has been described as an illegal gambling room.

Just before 10:30 p.m., a 20-year old Austin man answered a doorbell at the back door of the office to two people. A fight started, Tran went outside to help and gunshots were fired. Witnesses found Tran and the man wounded.

Tran was pronounced dead April 3 at Fort Hood's Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. The Austin man recovered.

According to the indictments, Johnson and Sowell are accused of shooting Tran while attempting to commit robbery.

Johnson and Sowell, 22, moved to Washington, D.C., in June 2008.

They were extradited to Bell County from Prince George's County, Md., when a vehicle they occupied crashed into the vehicle of a Maryland homicide detective on March 3.

Johnson told Judge Fancy Jezek of the 426th District Court that she gave a statement admitting guilt to Maryland police only because she feared for her life. Her husband, she said, forced her to participate or he would kill her.

Sowell had a similar hearing last week during which a bond reduction was also denied.

Johnson told the court that except for one friend stationed at Fort Hood, all her friends and family, including three children under 6 years old, are in Washington, D.C. She was in Killeen for three years while Sowell was in the military, she said.

"Out of state, no ties to the community ... if anything, ($100,000) is low," said First District Attorney Murff Bledsoe.

Capital murder is an offense punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Victor O'Brien contributed to this report.

Contact Jade Ortego at jortego@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553.

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